Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Accoring to a new PFF ranking, Kansas City has turned its line around in a single offseason.
On Wednesday, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus published a team-by-team ranking of the NFL’s offensive lines. Written by PFF analyst Steve Palazzolo, the article placed the Kansas City Chiefs’ revamped offensive line in seventh place — behind the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
The biggest story of the offseason in Kansas City was the overhaul of the offensive line. The Chiefs finished 11th in our final offensive line rankings for 2020, but that was prior to their injuries and rough finish to the season in the Super Bowl.
The overhaul started with the releases of long-time tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, who formed one of the best duos in the league. The Chiefs traded for Ravens starting tackle Orlando Brown Jr., essentially giving up a first-rounder in a big exchange of picks. Brown has been a top tackle since being drafted in the third round in 2018, grading out at 77.8 overall in 2020, good for 26th among tackles. He’s improved every year and done his best work in pass protection, though there’s a big change in scheme coming from Baltimore’s run-heavy attack.
Mike Remmers returns at right tackle, where he posted a solid 71.3 grade during the 2020 regular season, good for 41st among tackles. While that performance is in line with much of Remmers’ career, he also endured two subpar seasons in 2018 and 2019, so he’s a mid-level option at the position.
The other big splash by the Chiefs was signing left guard Joe Thuney to a monster contract in free agency. Thuney has developed into one of the NFL’s best guards, ranking in the top 10 in each of the past three years.
Right guard will be a battle between Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out in 2020, and the unretired Kyle Long, who we last saw grade at just 38.0 on 250 snaps in 2019. Duvernay-Tardif ranked 50th out of 87 qualifiers in 2019 in PFF grade, while Long was one of the better guards in the league throughout much of his career before injuries hurt his performances in 2018 and 2019.
The Chiefs brought in Austin Blythe to play center after he recorded a 70.3 grade for the Rams last season, 10th-best among centers. He’ll battle second-round pick Creed Humphrey, a three-year starter at Oklahoma who finished with the eighth-best grade in the nation last year.
Kansas City has also built up impressive depth, drafting guard Trey Smith in the sixth round this year and tackle Lucas Niang in the third round in 2020. Niang could be in the mix at right tackle.
After completely re-shaping their offensive line, the Chiefs now field one of the best combinations of high-upside starters and depth in the NFL.
This ranking is pretty consistent with other rankings we’ve seen from other sources: among the league’s best teams, but not among the top two or three. Considering that the final makeup of the line is anyone’s guess, that’s a remarkable achievement for Chiefs general manager Brett Veach: in just one offseason, taking a unit that put in a cringeworthy performance during the league’s most-visible game and bringing it into the top 10.
But none of that will mean anything unless the line actually performs at something close to that level.
Palazzolo gives the Chiefs a bit of a break here; it stands to reason that if he believed the Chiefs would have more rookies in the starting lineup, he’d be ranking the unit a bit lower. But like many other national analysts, Palazzolo seems to be figuring it’s more likely that Kansas City will lean towards established veterans as starters — although, unlike some others, he’s at least considering the possibility that some of the team’s rookies may fight their way into the Week 1 starting lineup.
Still, he’s grasped the essential truth of what the Chiefs have done: they’ve built a unit that should perform very well in 2021 — and have the depth to maintain that performance through the rigors of the league’s new 17-game season.