With organized team activities and mandatory minicamp looming, the Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason roster now stands at a full 90 players. Tinkering with the roster will continue to happen — and veteran additions are still possible — but we can start thinking about what the team will look like when players report to Missouri Western State University at the end of July. In particular, the offense appears to be all but set in stone.
After winning Super Bowl LIV, the Chiefs prioritized continuity for the 2020 season — bringing back virtually the entire offense. A year later, Kansas City completely overhauled the offensive line, while leaving most other position groups relatively intact.
This offseason, however, has seen much higher turnover — particularly among running backs and wide receivers. Now that the team is officially through trying to “Run it Back,” let’s break down the continuity at each position and how any vacated snaps can be filled, starting with the offensive side of the ball.
Snap percentages are based on regular-season totals published by Pro Football Reference.
100% of 2021 snaps are returning.
Even after heavy roster turnover, many oddsmakers still name Kansas City as a strong contender to win Super Bowl LVII. The reason for that faith is that the Chiefs still have the best player on the planet under center: Patrick Mahomes. The sixth-year veteran will have his work cut out for him while learning to play with new receivers, but most analysts expect a smooth transition to the next phase of his career.
At the start of free agency, the Chiefs brought back Chad Henne as Mahomes’ backup. In 2021, the veteran finished the Week 7 loss to the Tennessee Titans after Mahomes was injured — and also finished three blowout victories. In the coming season, he is presumed to once again be the first option off the bench — unless he is dramatically outplayed in the preseason by former Texas and SMU quarterback Shane Buechele, whom the team aggressively protected on 2021’s active roster.
43% of 2021 snaps are returning.
An underrated task for head coach Andy Reid and his staff will be to replace the snaps and role vacated by free agent Darrel Williams, who now seems unlikely to return. Williams played almost half of the team’s offensive snaps last season, accumulating over 1000 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns. Expect to see the Chiefs give Clyde Edwards-Helaire the bulk of Williams’ role in the passing game, while featuring free-agent signing Ronald Jones on early downs.
Down the stretch in 2021, Derrick Gore carved out a role for himself. He will battle with seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco to be the third back behind Edwards-Helaire and Jones. With a 4.37 40-yard dash time, Pacheco could also be a candidate to fill the change-of-pace role that Jerrick McKinnon held late last season. Undrafted free agent Jerrion Ealy from Mississippi could also challenge for a role.
Fullback Michael Burton returns to the team for this season and will likely see his role and usage unchanged.
27.5% of 2021 snaps are returning.
Mecole Hardman accounts for the bulk of returning snaps. He will be joined by former Pittsburgh Steelers 1000-yard receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, former Green Bay Packers deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling and 2022 second-round draft pick Skyy Moore. The Chiefs are banking on the idea that a group of receivers with a higher floor will mitigate the loss of Hill’s elite talent.
Josh Gordon and Daurice Fountain are the other two receivers who are returning from 2021. Gordon had a relatively high snap count that was incompatible with a player who only caught five passes — and Fountain played only two offensive snaps. Former Clemson standout Justyn Ross will compete with Gordon for the “X” receiver role — although a lack of special-teams value may push both off the roster altogether.
With special-teams standout Marcus Kemp still unsigned, Fountain, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Justin Watson and 2021 fifth-round selection Cornell Powell will be competing to turn special-teams ability into a reserve receiver role.
>99% of 2021 snaps are returning
The Chiefs entered the 2021 season with four tight ends on the 53-man roster. All remain with the team. Someday, Travis Kelce will start slowing down — but early in the season, he is likely to see heavy use as the new receivers become accustomed to playing with Mahomes. Kelce will likely be the most immediate beneficiary of the Hill’s vacated snaps — which will probably lead to another monster season.
Blake Bell is set to return to his blocking role, while Noah Gray will attempt to carve out a bigger role behind Kelce after an acceptable (but underwhelming) rookie season. After tearing his Achilles in Week 6 of 2021, Reid is optimistic that Jody Fortson will return soon. The biggest question is not who the tight ends will be, but whether Kansas City will have roster space to keep all four for a second season.
97% of 2021 snaps are returning.
We can probably just say “mission accomplished” for last offseason’s rebuild of the offensive line. The Chiefs entered the season with new starters at all five positions. At least four can be penciled in for 2022: Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith.
The bulk of vacated snaps were from backup tackle Mike Remmers, who played in four games before missing much of the season with back and knee injuries. It remains to be seen if 2021 starter Lucas Niang will return from injury in time to win his job back. If Niang cannot take the full season’s worth of snaps at right tackle, the Chiefs signed Geron Christian in free agency and drafted Darian Kinnard — in addition to bringing back versatile backup Andrew Wylie.
Next time, we’ll examine returning snap percentages for the Kansas City defense.