On Monday, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus continued with its offseason series ranking NFL players. PFF’s Michael Renner was tasked with writing up the league’s defensive back units.
Renner used five tiers for his rankings: Where Do Offenses Even Attack? (tier 1), Minor Question Marks (tier 2), Ascending Units (tier 3), Serious Flaws (tier 4) and Too Much Uncertainty (tier 5).
The Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive backs fell into the Minor Question Marks tier (tier 2), ranking 14th of 32. Let’s go to Renner’s commentary:
14. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
CB: L’Jarius Sneed, CB: Rashad Fenton, NCB: Trent McDuffie, S: Juan Thornhill, S: Justin Reid
While he’s been overshadowed by bigger names on the Chiefs’ roster, L’Jarius Sneed deserves some credit for his play since entering the NFL He’s had arguably the best start to his career of any cornerback from the 2020 draft class. While being asked to move between outside and slot cornerback, depending on where he’s needed, he’s been excellent through two seasons. He made the second-most defensive stops of any cornerback in the league last year.
Renner’s point about Sneed hits home, as there have been times throughout his young career when he’s looked like a Pro Bowler. Sneed was taken on Day 3 in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft — and he could be considered general manager Brett Veach’s best draft pick since taking over the head position ahead of the 2018 draft. Other names, such as Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith, are worth considering here, too.
Renner lists rookie Trent McDuffie at the nickel, but I’m not sure that will definitely be the case. Sneed has been wildly effective outside and sliding in for subpackages. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s tendency to ease younger players in tells me he would likely stick with Sneed in that role, letting McDuffie handle a starting outside position exclusively.
Fenton missed offseason activities as he rehabbed a shoulder issue, but the expectation is he should be good to go for training camp. The Chiefs believe they got a bargain for Justin Reid, who will take the place of safety Tyrann Mathieu, and Juan Thornhill has guaranteed he will have an All-Pro season.
If that last part plays out as true — Reid successfully replacing Mathieu as Thornhill breaks out as an All-Pro — this unit will be better than 14th; it will be top 10. But Renner’s notion is right...for now.
There are minor question marks surrounding a very young unit.
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