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Top 20 Chiefs players for the 2022 season: 12-9

Our countdown of Kansas City’s best players reaches into the top 10.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It has become a tradition during the quiet part of the offseason: we make lists and rankings about everything so we’ll have something to discuss — but also to wrap our heads around what to expect from this Kansas City Chiefs roster.

My friend (and Out of Structure podcast co-host Ron Kopp Jr.) did it last year — and after putting this year’s roster into my Market Movers database, it makes for an interesting comparison point.

We kicked off this year’s top 20 rankings with one steady, familiar name and three newcomers. Then, we moved up the list, covering some young players with upside.

Now, we enter the top 10 with some potentially controversial rankings. Nos. 12 through 9 include two players with a lot to prove this season — and two more who represent the new-look mauling offensive line.

12. Defensive end Frank Clark

NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The guy who has been (or should have been) the Chiefs’ premier pass rusher slides out of the top 10 after a disappointing 2021 campaign. Given that his pressure numbers (29) were similar to Von Miller, Randy Gregory and others, there is hope that Clark could bounce back healthier and get back to near double-digit sacks. If Clark is once again able to be the “closer” — rather than just be “close but not quite” — he’ll be the best EDGE defender on this team. But we all hope he will have strong competition from rookie defensive end George Karlaftis — and perhaps someone who is not yet on the roster, such as Chicago Bears defensive end Robert Quinn. Or Clark could continue to slide down these rankings for good reasons (because others step up) or for bad ones (because he doesn’t bounce back).

11. Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs OTA Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

If you believe the offseason hype, he is Kansas City’s No. 1 wide receiver. This season, Valdes-Scantling has the opportunity to take his career to a whole new level. He’s got the speed, the size (and now, the rapport with quarterback Patrick Mahomes) to be an all-around threat; the snaps and targets will be available to him — or whichever receiver can make the most of them. For now, Valdes-Scantling is riding the wave from the limited reports we get prior to training camp. In 2022, he could climb the rankings — proving himself to be a bargain on the contract he signed — or we might learn we’ve been sleeping on players like Juju Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman or Skyy Moore. But given what we now know, he’s already near the top 10.

10. Right guard Trey Smith

NFL: AFC Wild Card Playoffs-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NFL Draft proved to be a gold mine for Kansas City; the team found high-quality players from the top to the bottom. Smith is one player who might be more beloved than the rest — not only because he was selected later in the draft, but also because he has the nastiest highlight reel. Even if his game hasn’t yet become perfectly well-rounded, Smith has already put himself in the conversation about the league’s top guards. His physicality and demeanor make him a fan favorite — and now, he’s part of one of the team’s biggest strengths: the interior offensive line. For Smith, the arrow is pointed up. For the defenders who must face him, it’s pointed down.

9. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

NFL: JAN 30 AFC Conference Championship - Bengals at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The subject of most of this week’s news reports lands in our top 10. Regardless of what his contract numbers are (or should be), there’s no doubt that Brown — as Mahomes’ blind-side protector — is a critically important part of the roster. He’s a massive individual who has proven to be durable, reliable and steadily improving — and he’s still very young. The huge contract offer the Chiefs reportedly had on the table made it clear the team believes he offers a ton of value. Playing on the franchise tag this year (and possibly next), he’s guaranteed to make good money — and the Chiefs are guaranteed to have the left side of the offensive line remain intact. We’ll have to see how the two sides feel about it when they resume their talks in 2023.