Rookie: Chiefs LB Nick Bolton
Main competition: Anthony Hitchens
As the back-to-back AFC representative in the Super Bowl and a club that’s advanced to the AFC title in three-straight seasons, Kansas City is now a barbeque mecca and home to the team to beat in the American Football Conference.
The Chiefs defense is naturally in the background because of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. However, there’s correlation between Kansas City’s defense being at its best and the Chiefs actually winning — not just getting to — the Super Bowl. When Mahomes won his Super Bowl, his defense finished 14th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Mahomes’ two years as a starter in which he didn’t ride a booze-filled float through downtown Kansas City after the season, the Chiefs defense finished outside the top 20 in that comprehensive metric.
And Kansas City’s collection of linebackers has been not of Super Bowl-caliber during the Mahomes era, a distinction marked by the free agent flop of the incumbent Hitchens, Bolton’s primary competition.
While Bolton didn’t test particularly well at the Missouri pro day, his 4.60 time in the 40 proves he moves pretty well for the linebacker spot. In college, he maximized his physical traits due to exquisite football IQ, block-shedding capabilities, and reliable tackling. Most importantly, he flashed in coverage. The latter area is where there’s plenty of room for him to separate from the more experienced Hitchens this summer.
RIGHT SIDE OF O-LINE
Kyle Long vs. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif vs. Andrew Wylie vs. Mike Remmers vs. Lucas Niang vs. Creed Humphrey
The Chiefs completely revamped their offensive line — and they had to, after watching Patrick Mahomes run for his life in Super Bowl LV. I loved the signing of Joe Thuney to play left guard and the trade for left tackle Orlando Brown. But if Remmers is still the Chiefs’ starting right tackle, there’s a big problem. There could be a decent solution here, depending on what the rookie Humphrey brings to the table. He could impress enough to start at center or guard, which then could shift some players around. Having worked with Andy Reid in Philadelphia, I know he loves to develop linemen and likes versatility within the unit. I’m sure he’s working through some of that now, trying to figure out the best three possible players he can trot out at center, right guard and right tackle to protect the franchise.
Where do Kansas City players rank in PFN’s Top 100?
100) Joe Thuney, Guard
A year after the Chiefs suffer massive injuries to their offensive line resulting in a Super Bowl defeat, Kansas City cut both tackles to make room for new acquisitions. One of those acquisitions was Thuney. The really great thing about Thuney’s game is that he’s not missed a contest in his five-year NFL career.
33) Tyrann Mathieu, Cornerback
Some regard Mathieu as the best safety in the league. His versatility is his calling card. He rushes the passer, covers the slot, defends the run, and plays the back half equally well.
Will more top free agents get signed?
Several veterans remain on the market, including OT Mitchell Schwartz, LB K.J. Wright, LB Justin Houston, OT Russell Okung, CB Richard Sherman, DL Olivier Vernon, and RB Le’Veon Bell.
As training camps get underway and teams have better ideas of their needs, some of these names will come off the board. Wright’s availability is especially surprising. The 32-year-old finished as Pro Football Focus’s seventh-highest-graded linebacker (75.7) last season, posting the seventh-highest coverage grade (79.2) among his position.
Kansas City Chiefs
(WR) Current ADP: 162 overall (WR56)It was just less than a year ago when fantasy managers were drafting Hardman as a borderline WR3 in fantasy, but they missed something. He was rumored to have been taken off special teams, but soon thereafter, the Chiefs put him back on, which was always going to hinder his ability to be a full-time receiver. Does that change in 2021 now that Sammy Watkins is officially gone? If Hardman is kept on special teams duties, sleeper names to watch are Byron Pringle and Cornell Powell. Should Hardman become a full-time receiver and play most of the snaps, he’ll be a breakout player in 2021.
Around the NFL
They have to be the leader in the clubhouse, right? Rodgers is cool with Colorado. They have a legit defense and some interesting pieces on offense. It worked for Peyton Manning near the end. John Elway can facilitate. It hasn’t been just all smoke between these sides this offseason. That seems like a great fit from a lifestyle and football standpoint and the QB of the future is not on this roster now.
Man oh man. Rodgers and Sean Payton would be something, wouldn’t it? They have look-see QBs for now, but having Rodgers come in a year after Drew Brees retires with a veteran team and taking them to the Promised Land? A-Rod at Jazz Fest? That seems like a decent fit, too. Great OL. Can run the heck out of the ball. Play a lot of games in great weather or a dome. Same division as Tom Brady. Hmm.
On the Ravens’ team podcast “The Lounge,” Jackson said he has a personal reason to change his jersey number, although he has to achieve something in order to make the switch. “If we win the Super Bowl, I’m going to No. 1,” Jackson said. “I want the No. 1. That’s my first number ever. My dad told me, ‘Get No. 1 because that’s the best. You’re the best.’ And it always stuck with me.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians took issue Tuesday with the suggestion that his team was somehow violating league COVID-19 protocols by not wearing wristbands to identify which players have received the vaccine.
“If I give you some information, at least know the f—ing rules before you put it in the press. Red and yellow bands — they don’t have to wear them at practice,” Arians said before taking the question. “That’s for indoors. I’ve gotta read s- that we should be fined for red and yellow bands because they ain’t got them on at practice. That’s bulls-. If you’re gonna report s-, make sure it’s f—ing right.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Hardman thus enters camp with the best chance of his career to come out of camp as a starter.
“No, no pressure,” Hardman replied when he was asked about competing to be the team’s No. 2 receiver. “Just come in and do my job and do what I need to do and just get better as the days go by. So basically, just day by day getting better and hopefully that’s enough to put me where I need to be. But just come in and be a dog and do what I need to do so that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
Hardman knows he is not the only player vying for more opportunity with Watkins out of the mix.
“It’s up to us three — me, D-Rob (Demarcus Robinson) and (Byron) Pringle — to fill in that void the best way we can,” he said. “If that’s all of us splitting time or one getting more playing (time) than the others, we just doing know how it’s going to go. That’s up to Coach — and how they decide to do that. But all we know that is we are going to go ahead and work and give our best and whatever role is given to us, we are going to do that role the best that we can.”