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3 underrated Chiefs players heading into the 2023 season

These are players flying under the radar compared to how they could impact the team in 2023.

NFL: NOV 13 Jaguars at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The glow of the Super Bowl LVII victory will still be present on any player dawning the red and gold for the Kansas City Chiefs as the 2023 season begins. It’ll feel like every player is a fan favorite.

But there is still room for players to be underappreciated among the 53 individuals that will make up this year’s team. Some have built their underrated role here, yet others fly under the radar because they are new. I wanted to highlight three Chiefs players that are underrated heading into 2023:

Defensive end Mike Danna

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Chiefs’ room of defensive ends has been fortified with offseason acquisitions like Charles Omenihu and first-round draft pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah, but adding these types of players may make veteran Mike Danna’s role even more important in 2023.

When you break down the group, Danna is the only one with more than one year of experience in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system. The two offseason additions are obviously in their first year, while the leader of the group — defensive end George Karlaftis — is only in his second year.

This could lead to Danna joining Karlaftis in the starting lineup, even if Danna ends up playing less than the other ends throughout the game. Danna’s consistency as a run defender could bring more stability to that early-down group than the rookie or Omenihu, who is not known for his play as a traditional defensive end.

On top of that, Danna has shown flashes of being an impactful pass rusher, using a high motor and powerful moves. He racked up five sacks in the regular season last year. In a contract year, Danna has the motivation to have his best season yet, which could make this group of versatile, disruptive defensive linemen even deeper.

Wide receiver Richie James

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Richies James is the only newcomer in this article who I underrated.

I initially dismissed the signing of wide receiver Richie James this offseason, believing he’d have a long shot at making the roster in a deep receiver room.

For most of the Mahomes era, the Chiefs have naturally had a player capable of returning kicks and punts on the active roster. Wide receivers Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle are no longer here. Running back Isiah Pacheco and wide receiver Kadarius Toney helped out last year, but their elevation in the starting lineup should disqualify them from contributing here.

That leaves the returning role vacant, and I believe the most sensible solution is for Richie James to make the roster and take that role. He has returned 75 punts in his NFL career, plus 47 kickoffs. He had one kickoff return touchdown during his rookie season in 2018.

That’s how James solidifies his spot on the 53-man roster; where he is underrated is on offense, as I think he could step up and become a playmaker. He has a similar style of play as Toney and could be used in some of the same ways if he were to get banged up. He caught 57 passes for 569 yards and four scores in 2022 with the New York Giants; that kind of offensive production didn’t happen accidentally.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

In the final year of his rookie contract, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has as low of expectations as he has ever had coming into a season. Injuries, other players’ performances and stretches of ineffectiveness have made the former first-round pick an overlooked name.

That considered, Edwards-Helaire can flip that narrative quickly if he continues making an impact in the ways he was last year when healthy. The team has figured out that Pacheco is the superior back on early downs in their typical style of rushing attack. That’s great, but Edwards-Helaire may still be the more effective player situationally — like in the red zone.

All six of Edwards-Helaire’s touchdowns in 2022 occurred in the red zone: three on the ground and three through the air.

On top of that, some of Edwards-Helaire’s best highlights come when he is a pass-catcher — getting the ball in space against off-ball defenders rather than trying to maneuver a box of linemen and linebackers. These plays show that, and that’s why there’s still room for Edwards-Helaire to be an asset to the Chiefs’ offense.

Pacheco has been recovering from surgery this offseason, while the veteran Jerick McKinnon has not taken on-field repetitions. Edwards-Helaire and undrafted rookie Deneric Prince have had to carry the load, which only gives more reason for Edwards-Helaire to be a legitimate part of the unit’s success.

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