With the 2020 season far enough in the rearview mirror — and the Super Bowl loss collectively leaving us a bad taste — let’s take a look at which way the Kansas City Chiefs are trending going into another important offseason. We won’t focus too much on the one game, but rather keep our eyes focused on the 2021 season — and who might (and might not) be back in contributing roles.
Byron Pringle: The Chiefs need help at receiver; that much is clear. But we also think that Pringle is part of the solution. He’s a monster on special teams, as we saw in the Super Bowl with a big return and a shoestring tackle, which is of huge importance for receivers down the depth chart. He’s got strong hands, he can run after the catch and he can block. Assuming Mecole Hardman remains a gadget player, there are some openings on the depth chart. With Tyreek Hill as the elite No. 1 receive, we expect a new No. 2 WR, and Pringle could return and be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 receiver.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Some of the most successful offensive plays in the Super Bowl were when Edwards-Helaire got the ball against the Tampa Bay defense that focused on taking away the deep pass. The Chiefs should expect more of the two and three-deep safety looks next season and should do a better job countering with an effective run and pass game through their young running back.
Willie Gay Jr.: Other than the problems on the Chiefs’ offensive line, the biggest takeaway from the Super Bowl might have been the impact that athletic linebackers can have on the league’s best offenses. The Chiefs drafted a player with the athletic ability to be a game-changer at a position where they sorely lack speed. Gay’s rookie year only gave glimpses of what he could be, as injuries and coaches’ decisions kept him off of the field. There’s every reason to believe that 2021 will bring more opportunities for No. 50 to shine.
Others trending in the right direction: Juan Thornhill, L’Jarius Sneed, Tershawn Wharton, Derrick Nnadi, Anthony Hitchens
Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson: The Chiefs have to be looking for reliability and consistency at wide receiver. They need the go-to guy that can help move the chains when the focus is on Hill and Travis Kelce. Someone that can be on the field every week, make contested catches, run routes and get open. It doesn’t really look like Watkins and Robinson are those guys, so it’s quite possible neither of them will be back next season.
Anthony Sherman: As well-loved as he is, Sherman’s role has diminished (three offensive snaps in the Super Bowl, three carries for the whole season) to the point where it’s reasonable to wonder if he will even get a contract offer. Sherman is a free agent and 33 years old, and he has indicated he’d like to return to the Chiefs. He certainly does have special teams value, but you have to wonder if the Chiefs will look at the undrafted free agent class this year and find a younger player with some upside or tight end versatility to fill that spot.
Nick Keizer, Deon Yelder, and Ricky Seals-Jones: These three combined for 13 catches and 99 yards on the regular season in 2020. Their combined stats would have been the 68th best tight end in the league— tied with a guy who only played nine games. Many will be quick to point out that the Chiefs aren’t a two-tight end team, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need another passing option who can get open from time to time and block on a regular basis.
Others trending in the wrong direction: Mecole Hardman, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Khalen Saunders, Austin Reiter, Mike Remmers, Andrew Wylie
Value (Sleeper) picks
DeAndre Baker: It’s crazy to think that a guy could break his femur and still be counted as a player who can make an impact a few months later. But Baker seems to have proven enough in his brief debut to give the Chiefs some confidence that he is ready to be part of the solution next season.
Alex Brown: Brown tore his ACL in camp but was trending toward being a part of the roster this past season. Not likely to be a starter on defense but a speedy depth player who can be a centerpiece on special teams units, there should be a role for the third-year player going forward.
Lucas Niang: The consensus was that the Chiefs got a steal in the 2020 draft, getting the big tackle from TCU at the end of the third round. Niang is 6 feet 7 and 328 pounds, with the movement skills, football IQ and technique to be a high-end starter at right tackle. He had some injury concerns and eventually opted out of the season, so we have yet to see if the Chiefs were right about what Niang could be. Now is the time, with the Chiefs potentially having openings at both tackle spots — at least for the upcoming season.
Other deep sleepers for 2021: Prince Tega Wanogho, Antonio Callaway, Tajae Sharpe