Every year, ESPN rolls out an offseason position-by-position ranking of the NFL’s best players. But this one isn’t based on the opinion of one of its writers — or even a poll of them. Instead, it’s based on the votes made by a group of more than 80 league executives, coaches, scouts and players.
These lists aren’t intended to be either a projection or a career retrospective. Voters are asked to identify the top players in each position right now.
One of these position rankings is being released every day through July 18. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Nick Bolton and Chris Jones were named among the league’s top 10 at their positions. No Kansas City players were mentioned in the top-10 edge rushers article last Monday — but the next day, the cornerback ranking had two Chiefs in the fine print. Justin Reid got some votes, but no Kansas City players were identified among the league’s top safeties on Wednesday. ESPN shifted to offensive players on Thursday, naming Travis Kelce as the league’s top tight end.
Friday’s listing of running backs didn’t include any of Kansas City’s players. On Saturday, we learned that new right tackle Jawaan Taylor received some votes (just like former left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.), but neither even made it into the honorable mentions among offensive tackles. On Sunday, however, all three of the team’s interior offensive linemen received recognition.
2. Joe Thuney, G, Kansas City Chiefs
Highest ranking: 1
Lowest ranking: Unranked
Last year’s ranking: 4
Thuney has been a steadying presence for Kansas City since signing a five-year, $80 million deal two offseasons ago. The second-team All-Pro led all linemen with a 98.9 pass block win rate. He has missed two games in seven seasons with Kansas City and New England, where he was also excellent.
“The Chiefs are loaded with offensive linemen, but Thuney is the most valuable because he rarely makes a mistake, savvy, doesn’t commit penalties, holds up in the run or the pass,” an AFC executive said. “Not an overwhelming athlete but just really good.”
8. Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs
Highest ranking: 3
Lowest ranking: Unranked
Last year’s ranking: Honorable mention
Kansas City’s revamped offensive line has a core player at center. Many evaluators agree Humphrey, whose 98.1% pass block win rate led all centers last season, has the makings of a star.
“He’s really not beholden to any system — you could put him in any offense, and he would thrive,” a Pro Bowl offensive player said. “It was good to see that [in 2022] he had to handle more, saw less three-man fronts with Tyreek Hill gone, and he handled it great.”
Honorable mention — Trey Smith, G, Kansas City Chiefs: Smith played 987 offensive snaps and posted a 95.9% pass block win rate for the Super Bowl LVII champions. “Powerful. He’s a top-10 player at his position,” a veteran Pro Bowl player said. “Only knock on him is what’s a knock for a lot of powerful guys: He tries to make the big splash hit, and that gets him off balance.”
No one should be surprised that when ESPN got to the running backs and offensive tackles, few Chiefs would be mentioned. While there are reasons to have some confidence that the arrow is pointed up for both position groups, each of them is essentially in flux.
But the rankings for interior offensive linemen tell us something else we already knew: the Chiefs have the league’s best group of three.
Thuney will turn 31 in the coming season, making the turn into the home stretch of what could end up being a Hall of Fame career. Kansas City’s Super Bowl LVII victory gave Thuney two things: his fourth championship ring, along with revenge against the Philadelphia Eagles, who defeated Thuney’s New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. He still has three seasons remaining on his Chiefs’ contract.
Meanwhile, both Humphrey and Smith are well on their way to similar careers — and have two years remaining on their rookie deals.
So while Kansas City is still searching for answers on both ends of the offensive line, the players in between are playing a big role in driving the team’s success — and will be here for a while.