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Chiefs sleepers to watch headed into the 2022 offseason

A three-part edition of Market Movers continues with a look at the ‘value picks’ headed into the offseason.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 season was a difficult one for the Kansas City Chiefs — with high highs and low lows.

This offseason is going to be one of change. General manager Brett Veach and his team will attempt to rebuild the defensive front with the same type of success they had in building the offensive line in 2021. Some familiar faces will be gone — which will create a leadership void — but hopefully, we’ll see some new energy in the team’s depth. At the same time, there are a few young players that didn’t quite make their mark in 2021, but could have the opportunity to step up in the upcoming season.

In this three-part edition of the Market Movers series, we’ve covered the team’s Bulls — and also the team’s Bears. Now let’s take a look at a few sleeper picks for the 2022 offseason.

Value (Sleeper) Picks

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jody Fortson: In all the talk about upgrading the offense for 2022, we may have been sleeping on a guy with tremendous upside who was just starting to find his role when he was injured in 2021. Fortson made a successful transition to tight end — and in very limited action, became a red zone monster. The big guy caught all five of his targets, accumulating two touchdowns before tearing his Achilles in Week 6. Perhaps the big red-zone, contested-catch receiver we’ve been hoping for has been here all along?

Noah Gray: It’s fair to say that Gray’s rookie season was a quiet one. He put up only 36 yards and one touchdown in 2021, struggling to break into the lineup as Blake Bell and Fortson made bigger impacts. But now that Bell is a free agent, there’s an opportunity for Gray to show he’s the all-around No. 2 tight end that Kansas City needs. Coming out of the draft, we thought there were big plans for Gray as a hybrid offensive weapon. While we haven’t yet seen that production — or those creative uses — Gray has been a remarkably effective blocker. That alone could let the team feel comfortable about moving on from Bell, giving Gray a shot at building his role. If Gray and Fortson were able to fill out the tight end room behind Kelce, it could be a fantastic development: a young, dynamic (and inexpensive) group that allows the Chiefs to devote resources elsewhere.

Joshua Kaindoh: EDGE is the No. 1 position we should expect the Chiefs to attack this offseason. They could be moving on from three of their top defensive ends, while investing heavily in a veteran through free agency or a trade — and maybe even use a top draft pick. They’ll be looking for more dynamic athletes — guys with upside who will fit defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system. It just so happens that Kaindoh checks all of those boxes. He was, however, expected to take some time to develop — and his timeline was interrupted by an injury that put him on the Reserve/Injured list in 2021. But going into 2022, Kaindoh will presumably be healthy and have a good understanding of the defense. That head start could set him up for a more substantial role — one where he serves as a rotational pass rusher and becomes part of the defense’s new wave.

Derrick Gore: Another position room that could undergo big changes due to some free agent departures is the often-underutilized group of running backs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire will return as the top back, but the rest of the committee could be moving on — other than Gore. As the youngest member of the group, Gore wasn’t a consistent performer, but did show the occasional ability to close out a game — and a penchant for big plays. Gore was the only player on the roster that logged a 50+ yard rush and a 50+ yard reception. The Chiefs now boast a powerful offensive line that could be among the best at the league in run blocking. They also are bringing back the coach that helped Kareem Hunt lead the league in rushing. There’s no reason they shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunities defenses give them, and create some of their own on the ground. But, that doesn’t mean they have to invest big in running backs. With Jerick McKinnon and Darrel Williams set to test free agency, perhaps Derrick Gore will get the opportunity to show that the 2022 running-back-by-committee should include him.

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