It has become an annual tradition during the quiet part of the offseason; we make lists and rankings about everything just to have something to argue about — but also to wrap our heads around this Kansas City Chiefs roster and what to expect.
My friend and Out of Structure co-host Ron Kopp, Jr. did it last year, and it makes for an interesting comparison point after putting this year’s roster in my Market Movers spreadsheet. The turnover in the Chiefs roster is evident when looking at each level of the rankings. Brett Veach and team had to replace two of the top players on the roster (Hill, Mathieu) and a number of other contributors and depth pieces. The results are to be determined at this point, so the best we can do is project these rankings based on what we’ve seen from them in the past.
So, without further ado, below are the projected 20th to 17th best Chiefs players heading into the 2022 NFL season. We’ll do four each week until we reveal the shocking (not shocking) number-one overall player on the roster.
20. Safety Justin Reid
The first of five new Chiefs to appear in the top twenty rankings, and he might already be underrated.
Justin Reid will be a huge factor in the new look Chiefs defense, with his intelligence, speed and versatility he’s a great fit to pick up where Tyrann Mathieu left off. A lot will be asked of Reid, who was the team’s biggest free agent splurge in an offseason without many splashy additions.
Look for Reid to immediately become the starter along with Juan Thornhill, but also to move around the defensive backfield. He’ll have a chance to quickly establish himself as a leader, and if the production matches his talent, he could quickly work his way up the Market Movers ranks and prove to be a great value.
19. Wide Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster
Juju might have been the free agent that got the fan base the most excited, largely because it was a couple of years in the making.
An ideal fit for the “big slot” or “X” wide receiver roles, Smith-Schuster is coming off of a down year where he was limited by injury. But, he gets a dramatic upgrade in the quarterback throwing him the ball, and there’s hope that — now healthy — he can get back to his previous level of play.
The potential is there for Juju to be the Chiefs number one wide receiver, and to get back over 1,000 yards and potentially in to double digit touchdowns in this offense. However, there is another receiver getting more buzz as the top guy, and thus he’ll appear higher in the rankings... for now.
18. Defensive End George Karlaftis
The first appearance of a rookie in these rankings is one of the guys on this roster under the most pressure to perform. Karlaftis, the first round pick, was the only significant addition to a defense end-position group that needed a significant overhaul. The Chiefs will be counting on Karlaftis to exceed our low expectations and make an impact right away.
George is reportedly preparing to play at a lower weight, hopefully resulting in a quicker, more explosive version of himself that can move up these rankings in a hurry.
17. Defensive Tackle Derrick Nnadi
On a list full of newcomers, Derrick Nnadi represents a steady presence in the middle of the Chiefs defense.
He’s a consistent force against the run, and consistently limited as a pass rusher (though he did log a career-high three sacks in 2021). He’s even consistent on our list, as he came in at #17 in last year’s rankings as well. Many thought he wouldn’t be back this season, but another one-year contract for Nnadi, and the Chiefs retain the big guy in the middle for 2022.
He’ll rotate with Taylor Stallworth instead of Jarran Reed this season, so there could potentially be more snaps available for Nnadi to take it up a notch. But, even if he remains what he’s been, Derrick Nnadi is a key cog in Spagnoulo’s machine.