Editor’s note: For the next two weeks (June 29 - July 10), it’s NFL Rivalry Week at SB Nation. We’ll have articles taking a look at the Kansas City Chiefs’ most hated opponents.
As the reigning and defending Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs stand to get every opposing team’s best shot next season. There is inherently added motivation in trying to take down the one team in the league that can inarguably call itself the best.
That feeling should be intensified in the AFC West division, which the Chiefs have dominated since 2015. The Chiefs have gone 27-3 (.900) against divisional opponents since that season, the best winning percentage by any team against their own division in a five-year span in the Super Bowl Era (1970-present).
The Chiefs are once again the AFC West favorite in 2020, but their foes have each taken steps to improve this offseason. The moves made in an attempt to catch up with Kansas City’s offense have been notable, and there are some high-quality players hanging around what is becoming a more competitive division.
In this post, we’ll explore a hypothetical — if the Chiefs could add one player from each AFC West team, which direction would they go in?
Denver Broncos: WR Jerry Jeudy
Ask someone to name which player he or she would pluck from the Denver Broncos, and it would not be all that surprising to hear Von Miller. Miller is still a force to be reckoned with.
The problem for this exercise is Miller is 31 (and I can add a younger, more productive EDGE player with the next team). He is also coming off his first single-digit-sack season since 2013.
Cornerback AJ Bouye is tempting, but I have confidence that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has enough pieces there based on what the Chiefs were able to accomplish last year, along with Brett Veach’s free-agency additions and the two late draft picks.
Instead, give me rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who is 10 years younger than Miller and has already mastered a pro-level route tree. 2020 is likely to be Sammy Watkins’ final year in Kansas City.
Jeudy would equate to a near-perfect replacement across from Tyreek Hill.
Los Angeles Chargers: DE Joey Bosa
Much unlike the Denver Broncos, there is little to debate here.
Alex Okafor is ready to have a rebound season for Kansas City at left defensive end, but his extended injury time in 2019 showed how important it is to have great depth at every position.
After Mahomes (and perhaps Miller and/or Travis Kelce), Bosa, 24, is probably the next-best player in the entire division. Bosa registered more than 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons, and after an injury-riddled 2018, came back to have 11.5 sacks and 31 quarterback hits, including four on Mahomes, in 2019.
Bosa and Frank Clark would mean serious problems for opposing quarterbacks in ever feeling comfortable.
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Cory Littleton
While I was a fan of what I have seen from second-year safety Johnathan Abram in his one regular-season game before losing nearly his entire season to a torn rotator cuff and labrum, the Chiefs are in good shape at safety. Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill are among the best duos in the league, and the depth of Daniel Sorensen and Armani Watts is strong enough.
The Chiefs’ weakest position is at linebacker, and Cory Littleton, who spent four years with the Los Angeles Rams, was available as a free agent this offseason.
If the Chiefs were in a better position with their salary cap, Littleton might have made sense, but he instead signed with Las Vegas on a three-year, $36 million deal. As evidenced by Tuesday night’s developments, the Chiefs couldn’t have afforded that.
The Chiefs would have counted on Littleton’s athleticism as a plug-in player at weak-side linebacker, and if they had secured him, they would have had more time to develop rookie Willie Gay Jr., who may need to be called upon earlier than the Chiefs want if injuries strike.
They also might have gone in an entirely different direction with their second-round draft pick, as Littleton is still only 26. He would be my pick from the Raiders.
When it comes to this list...
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