OT · Age 32
PROJECTED WIN SHARE: 0.71 wins
At the end of the 2020 regular season, Pro Football Focus ranked Pittsburgh’s offensive line No. 17 overall. In run blocking alone, the unit graded out as the second-worst in the league. As a Chief last season, Schwartz ranked 29th overall among offensive tackles (min. 300 snaps played), though he missed much of the season with a balky back.
Now, layering in a bit more context, the 2020 Steelers’ game plan leaned heavily on short, quick passes, while the threat of the run was low. This meant defenses had an edge when facing Ben Roethlisberger, especially later in the season. Pittsburgh needed to find a way to disguise play type better. This explains the first-round investment in Najee Harris, who brings some much-needed juice to a Pittsburgh run game that ranked dead last in 2020. But this offseason, the Steelers lost four longtime starters on the offensive line: Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler. Consequently, PFF has the O-line rated 29th heading into the 2021 season. Schwartz could provide the experience and ability necessary to change Pittsburgh’s potential to earn first downs and touchdowns, allowing Harris to enjoy a smoother transition from college to the NFL.
Obviously, the medicals on Schwartz’s back — which forced him to miss 10 games last season, including the Super Bowl — are critical here.
The Small-Market Chiefs are an NFL Treasure
There’s a reason the city of Los Angeles has two teams along with New York. As good as the Green Bay Packers have been, there is no chance a Wisconsin second team comes into the NFL. Still, branding is everything. And the Packers remain an important asset to the NFL. If anything, the existence of a small-town American team promotes a certain type of purity.
Small Town Big Dreams
A small-town feel with enough support to field a team for nearly a century. Plenty of fans, even prefer the Packers over big market teams unless the fan is a Chicago Bears fan. But there is truth to this. The idea of people lining up every Sunday to pack Lambeau Field feels right. The respect of fans from across the country can relate to a natural feeling of connection from the average person. And the Packers are one of the only teams owned by their own fans in Green Bay. And there hasn’t been much competition from another midwestern city until now.
The Kansas City Chiefs are quickly becoming the fresh midwestern face with local support. And make no mistake, this is great for business for the NFL. The only real obstacle for the Chiefs — to become one of the modern dynasties is winning of course first. As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, winning is nearly almost 100% guaranteed.
Kansas City Chiefs: LT Orlando Brown Jr.
The Chiefs made a huge addition by trading away a few picks for young left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. The former right tackle moved over to the left side for the Ravens last year when Ronnie Stanley went down with an ankle injury, and he found success there. He has always maintained that, like his father, he is a left tackle, and he has a chance to really take off with one of the best teams in the NFL. Maybe Brown isn’t “underrated” enough to make this list, but we believe he is going to be more of a household name this time next year.
2) AFC West
Denver Broncos: Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr
Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert
Mahomes is the best quarterback in the game bar none. It’s crazy to think that, of his three seasons as an NFL starting quarterback, 2020 ranks as his worst. I’m laughing as I type that. That’s just how it goes when you win league MVP in Year 1 and Super Bowl MVP in Year 2. But yeah, the guy still posted a 38:6 TD-to-INT ratio and made it right back to Super Bowl Sunday, so “worst” is a relative term there. Herbert is fresh off one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history — I’d call it the best at the quarterback position. Despite playing behind an offensive line that Pro Football Focus ranked dead last at season’s end, the Oregon product set a rookie record with 31 touchdown passes while completing 66.6 percent of his passes with a 98.3 passer rating. With the arm, the athletic ability, the size, Herbert’s the total package. Scary to think he’s only going to get better. Speaking of which, the Raiders’ quarterback just continues to improve, despite what some people seem to think. I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Derek Carr fan club for years, and last season was quite satisfying, as the seven-year veteran set career-highs in passing yards (4,103) and passer rating (101.4). Carr’s legit. Bag it, haters.
Simmons is going to have a short reign as the highest-paid safety. Tyrann Mathieu recently expressed optimism about signing an extension. The $14 million-per-year contract he signed in 2019 free agency to join the Chiefs put him at the top of market. Since he has earned All-Pro honors in both of his seasons with the Chiefs, a new deal should do the same. Jamal Adams is looking to be paid like a top defensive player rather than a safety. Regardless of whether Adams can defy positional pay constraints, he is practically assured of the Seahawks making him highest-paid safety after giving up multiple draft choices, including two first-round picks, to acquire him from the Jets last preseason.
Nick Bolton, Linebacker
With a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs decided to bolster their defense, bringing in Nick Bolton from Missouri. Bolton was considered by many to be a first-round talent, and to get him in the second round could prove to be a legitimate steal for this Chiefs defense in 2021, and beyond.
Looking at the defense for Kansas City, there are plenty of new faces, but with everything going on with Frank Clark, there could be more coming. However, Bolton is a guy who has enough talent to come in and start right away as a rookie, and that would give the Chiefs a solid middle linebacker for the foreseeable future.
We all know what the Chiefs can do on the offensive side of the ball, but it is additions like Bolton that could make them a formidable force on defense as well. Andy Reid and company are doing everything they can to bring another title to Kansas City, and Bolton will be a leader on this defense for years to come.
Around the NFL
Free-agent cornerback Richard Sherman was booked at 6:08 a.m. local time Wednesday at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle and is being investigated for burglary domestic violence, according to public records.
Records state he was denied bail, but a spokesman for the Redmond (Washington) Police Department told ESPN that is standard procedure for suspects of domestic violence until they can appear before a judge.
The spokesman, who would not confirm the name of the person taken into custody, said a 911 call from the residence was received at 2 a.m. PT. The person calling said that an adult male family member who did not live at the residence was attempting to force his way into the home.
6. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 12
Age: 24 | Last year’s ranking: 1
Barkley broke a tie with McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott for last year’s top spot because he had the most No. 1 votes by a wide margin.
He still found his way atop a few ballots this year, but his recovery from a torn ACL is a concern. Having a big 2021 is hardly a slam dunk, at least early on, as running backs often need time to regain explosion. And Barkley wasn’t impressive in limited action in 2020, with 34 yards on 19 carries and an average of 0.84 yards per rush after first contact, worst among the top 10 on this list.
He is still an eye-test guy for many: Watch him play, how defenses assign four or five defenders to his every move, and you’ll understand.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Matt: Right guard
I could make a case for a number of positions here, including linebacker, cornerback, wide receiver and even tight end. But all eyes are on — and should be on — the offensive line. Given that the left side and center are set, there are a number of ways in which the right side could end up.
Entering camp, I think the right guard spot is Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s to lose. But the fact that rookie Trey Smith drew as much praise and buzz as he did — without even hitting anyone yet — says that he’s got the mental side of the game ahead of schedule. Once he’s able to combine that with what he does best, he’s got a real shot at being a factor in the battle at right guard.
There’s a similar situation is at right tackle, where the Chiefs are likely to give Mike Remmers the first chance to start. But before camp is over, still-rookie Lucas Niang might have something to say about it.
A tweet to make you think
So, we've been saying Kelce wrong this whole time?? pic.twitter.com/4i8LbUWLZ1— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) July 14, 2021
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