2019 NFL Offseason: Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs (Last Year: 12-4)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Carlos Hyde, DE Frank Clark, DE/OLB Alex Okafor, ILB Damien Wilson, CB Bashaud Breeland, S Tyrann Mathieu.
Early Draft Picks:
WR/KR Mecole Hardman, S Juan Thornhill, DT Khalen Saunders. Chiefs Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Spencer Ware, WR Kelvin Benjamin, C Mitch Morse, DE/DT Allen Bailey, DE/OLB Dee Ford, DE/OLB Justin Houston, CB Steven Nelson, S Eric Berry.

2019 Kansas City Chiefs Offense:
Andy Reid is an amazing coach when it comes to developing quarterbacks. He has transformed pedestrian signal-callers into capable ones (A.J. Feeley), capable players into good quarterbacks (Alex Smith, Jeff Garcia), and good ones into Pro Bowlers (Donovan McNabb). Reid had never worked with a dynamic talent like Patrick Mahomes prior to selecting him No. 10 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. The results followed the trajectory of Reid’s other quarterbacks. Mahomes won the MVP award in 2018 despite being a first-year starter. Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards, a ridiculous 50 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. He completed 66 percent of his passes and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt. He also was a potent threat as a rusher.

Mahomes won MVP mostly due to his superb talent and coaching, but it also helped that he had stellar weapons to work with. Travis Kelce, in the wake of Rob Gronkowski’s regression, emerged as the best tight end in the NFL. Tyreek Hill was a prolific threat, catching 87 passes for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns. Meanwhile, running back Kareem Hunt served as a dangerous threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. With all of these weapons, the Chiefs scored 30 or more points 13 times last year, including the playoffs.

There is bad news, of course, in the wake of two of the prominent play-makers getting into off-the-field trouble. Hunt was seen hitting a woman on video, prompting his release. Hill also got into trouble this offseason, as an audio recording surfaced of him allegedly incriminating himself of child abuse. There’s a chance Hill could be released or suspended, which begs the question, who will replace his supreme level of production? (Update: A longer video has been released, showing no evidence of wrongdoing on Hill’s part, so he will not be suspended.)

The Chiefs still have Sammy Watkins, who had some quality performances last year, including an eight-catch, 107-yard, two-touchdown outing against the Broncos in Week 8. Watkins, however, continued to battle injuries, missing the final third of the regular season with a foot problem. He cannot be relied upon to remain healthy, which is why Kansas City used its initial pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on speedy receiver Mecole Hardman. The Georgia product can go the distance whenever he touches the ball, but he’s raw, given that he didn’t play wide receiver in high school.

As for Hunt’s replacement, Damien Williams did a good job as a runner late last year. Williams didn’t match Hunt’s production as a receiver out of the backfield, but he rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown in a divisional-round playoff victory over the Colts.

The Chiefs ultimately lost in the AFC Championship, thanks to a lost coin flip and one of their defenders being offside during a play in which Tom Brady threw an interception. However, the offensive line didn’t do the team any favors, as it struggled to protect Mahomes throughout the evening. The interior was the problem, as the Chiefs were forced into playing two bad guards, Andrew Wylie and Cam Erving, thanks to the injury to Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. The 28-year-old missed every game following Week 5 because of a leg injury, but is expected to be 100 percent this upcoming season. Duvernay-Tardif and the winner of the Wylie/Erving battle will sandwich new center Austin Reiter, who will replace the Buffalo-bound Mitch Morse. Reiter started four games in 2018 when Morse was hurt and did a solid job.

Meanwhile, the tackles will continue to be Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Fisher should once again be a mediocre performer, while Schwartz is the best blocker on Kansas City’s front.

2019 Kansas City Chiefs Defense:
The Chiefs have completely reconstructed their defense, and understandably so. The team has been woefully inept on this side of the ball over the past couple of seasons, ranking dead last in rush defense efficiency in 2018. The only thing Kansas City did well was apply pressure on the quarterback, yet both of its starting edge rushers from last year, Dee Ford and Justin Houston, are both gone.

The plan for Kansas City is to move to a 4-3, run by new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Most notably connected with the Giants (defensive coordinator, 2007-08, 2015-17) and Rams (head coach (2009-11), Spagnuolo’s defenses have produced mixed results over the years. The Chiefs needed to give Spagnuolo talent to work with, and they managed to find a couple of interesting chess pieces for their new coach.

The Chiefs were able to replace one of their dynamic edge rushers with Frank Clark, who was acquired for the No. 29 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Clark is a risk for his off-the-field shenanigans, but he’s a prolific talent. Clark registered 13 sacks for the Seahawks last year. He’s only 26, so the sky is the limit for him if he stays out of trouble. Clark will start across from Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah or Breeland Speaks. The former two were acquired this offseason. Okafor played very well in 2017 before tearing his Achilles. He wasn’t as effective this past year, but should be able to rebound. Ogbah is a poor pass rusher, but can play well versus the run. Speaks, meanwhile, was a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, so perhaps he’ll be able to have a breakout campaign.

Another big name the Chiefs acquired this offseason was Tyrann Mathieu. A play-maker in the secondary, Mathieu can play numerous positions. He’ll most likely slot in at safety, replacing Eric Berry, who had a sad end to his Kansas City career. Mathieu will be a big upgrade, but the Chiefs don’t have another proven player at the position. The team will be hoping for second-round rookie Juan Thornhill to develop quickly.

As for the rest of the secondary, things are very bleak for Kansas City at cornerback. Slot corner Kendall Fuller is a solid player, but he’s the only proven commodity the Chiefs have at the position. They signed Bashaud Breeland this offseason, which was a desperation move, considering how poorly he has played in recent seasons. Someone named Charvarius Ward performed decently at the end of the 2018 campaign, but that may have been a fluke. Ward is 23, so perhaps he has some potential.

The secondary will need the front seven to pressure opposing quarterbacks frequently. Clark must step up, but it helps that opponents won’t be able to double team him as much as they’d like because of Chris Jones’ presence. Jones is one of the top interior defensive linemen in the NFL, logging 15.5 sacks last year, which was an insane number for a player at his position. Jones will play alongside the mediocre Xavier Williams and Derrick Nnadi, though third-round rookie Khalen Saunders has the potential to overtake either of them.

Kansas City will be hoping for Saunders to develop quickly, as the linebackers will need some protection from the defensive line. The linebacking corps looked bleak following the draft because the Chiefs weren’t able to address that area. Instead, they traded with the Jets for Darron Lee. The former first-round pick was a bust in his first two seasons, but finally performed well in 2018. Lee should start with two of Dorian O’Daniel, Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens. The latter name is most interesting, as he was a colossal failure after signing a 5-year, $45 million contract last spring. However, Hitchens was miscast as a 3-4 linebacker. He may perform better in Spagnuolo’s 4-3.

2019 Kansas City Chiefs Schedule and Intangibles:
The Chiefs needed to bring back the Arrowhead magic that existed prior to 2007. Since that year, Kansas City was a dreadful 20-37 as a host heading into the 2014 campaign. However, Kansas City is now 32-12 at Arrowhead over the past five seasons. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, two of those losses were the defeats against the Titans in the opening round of the playoffs in 2017 and the loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship.

Andy Reid had poor special-teams units in Philadelphia after John Harbaugh left for Baltimore. That was not the case the past six years for the Chiefs, as they combined for 11 return touchdowns. They scored five during the past three seasons, thanks to Tyreek Hill. Of course, someone will need to step up in this regard if Hill is cut or suspended. Enter second-round rookie, Mecole Hardman.

Harrison Butker was very accurate in field goals last year, hitting 24-of-27 tries, though he was just 2-of-4 from beyond 50. He missed four extra points, however.

Punter Dustin Colquitt is a master at pinning the opposition inside the 20. He was 14th in net average last year.

The Chiefs have an easy schedule to start, as only one of their first four opponents made the playoffs in 2018 (Ravens), and that matchup is at home. Things get much more difficult later, as four of Kansas City’s final six games are against the Chargers (twice), Bears (road) and Patriots (road).

2019 Kansas City Chiefs Rookies:
Go here for the Chiefs Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2019 Kansas City Chiefs Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Kansas City Chiefs Analysis: The Chiefs have some problems, namely the off-the-field issues of their two stars, the transition into a new defense and their inability to stop the run. However, Kansas City is still a legitimate Super Bowl contender, thanks to Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. It would be a surprise if the team didn’t at least make a return trip to the playoffs. If the defense performs much better than expected, the Chiefs could go the distance.

Projection: 13-3 (1st in AFC West)

2018 Projection: 11-5. 2018 Actual Result: 12-4.
2017 Projection: 11-5. 2017 Actual Result: 10-6.
2016 Projection: 10-6. 2016 Actual Result: 12-4.

2019 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2019 NFL Season Previews

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: Kansas City’s defense was a mess last year, and now it’s even worse because the team’s top two edge rushers from 2018 are gone. The Chiefs are moving to a 4-3 defense, meaning they must find lots of new personnel for that scheme. Offensive line and running back must also be addressed, but most of Kansas City’s draft choices must be used on defensive players.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The pre-draft goals were written before the Tyreek Hill audio tape was brought to light. As a result of it being made public, the Chiefs felt as though they needed to find a replacement for the troubled receiver. The problem is that they both reached and needlessly traded up for Mecole Hardman. Not only could they have waited for Hardman at the end of the second round; they probably could have obtained him in the third frame! This was an extremely poor decision that reeked of panic.

The Hardman blunder was awful, but the Chiefs did well otherwise. Both safety Juan Thornhill and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders provided good value after that on Day 2. It was disappointing to see Kansas City fail to address both defensive end (beyond Frank Clark) and cornerback, but with so many needs, they just couldn’t afford to do everything.

This should be considered an underwhelming draft for the Chiefs. It’s never a good thing when a team panics, especially with its first pick. Unfortunately circumstances prompted the desperation decision, however.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

56. Mecole Hardman, WR/KR, Georgia D- Grade
This isn’t nearly as bad as Cincinnati’s pick, but why in the world did the Chiefs trade up for Mecole Hardman. He would have been available for them at the end of the second round. Hardman has great speed and athleticism, and he’s going to help on special teams, but he’s a raw project who should have been chosen in the fourth round. I don’t think this pick would’ve been horrible at Kansas City’s natural selection, but there was no reason to trade up for him whatsoever!

63. Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia A- Grade
The Chiefs could’ve obtained Mecole Hardman at this spot. Instead, they’re actually picking a player at a solid value slot with this choice. Juan Thornhill is a versatile defensive back who has put together good tape. I didn’t think it was out of the question that Thornhill would be selected in the opening round, so this is later than I expected him to go. The Chiefs are likely upgrading a big position of weakness with this pick.

84. Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois A Grade
Khalen Saunders is very athletic and strong. He thrived in the Senior Bowl, making a name for himself by winning against talented Division I-A guards in the Senior Bowl practices. He’s a bit of a raw prospect, but his upside is immense. He’s a terrific pick here, as he easily could’ve been chosen in the second round.

201. Rashad Fenton, CB, South Carolina C Grade
The Chiefs used their first pick on Day 3 on a player who should’ve been picked up by a team after Day 3. Rashad Fenton had some positive moments at South Caroina, but there were many lowlights as well. Fenton was frequently penalized and didn’t look like much of a pro. He also tested poorly at the combine, so this doesn’t seem like a very good pick.

214. Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State B+ Grade
It makes sense that the Chiefs would select a running back after what happened with Kareem Hunt last year. Damien Williams did well in relief as a runner, but the Chiefs had to find a receiving back to complement him. It’ll be interesting to see how Darwin Thompson evolves into the offense, but he can catch the ball very well, so it seems as though he’ll be able to carve out a nice role.

216. Nick Allegretti, G, Illinois C Grade
Nick Allegretti wasn’t in my top 500, and I have zero notes on him. I’ve looked around, and I can’t find any information on him outside of basic information. This is a reach, but it’s also the seventh round, so it’s not a big deal.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
An inch and a coin toss. That’s what it took for the Chiefs to lose in the AFC Championship. Dee Ford’s offsides penalty negated Tom Brady’s interception, while the coin toss landed on heads, and the league MVP never maintained possession in overtime.

Offseason Moves:
  • Chiefs sign CB Bashaud Breeland
  • Chiefs sign DE/OLB Alex Okafor
  • Chiefs cut S Eric Berry
  • 49ers acquire DE Dee Ford from Chiefs for 2020 2nd-round pick
  • Chiefs sign ILB Damien Wilson
  • Chiefs sign S Tyrann Mathieu
  • Chiefs sign RB Carlos Hyde

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Cornerbacks: It’s obvious that the Chiefs need to make some major repairs on defense. They’ll need two new cornerbacks if free agent-to-be Steven Nelson departs; one if he re-signs. Kansas City won’t have anyone at cornerback besides Kendall Fuller if Nelson leaves. Signed Bashaud Breeland

    2. Two Inside Linebackers: Here’s another position of major weakness in Kansas City’s stop unit. The linebacking corps was a colossal liability, so that will need to change. There should be some nice targets available at the end of each of the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.

    3. Rush Linebacker: The Chiefs cut Justin Houston, while Dee Ford is a free agent. Signed Alex Okafor

    4. Safety: The Chiefs attempted to trade for Earl Thomas before he got hurt last year. They obviously think they need help at safety, and they would be correct. Perhaps they’ll go after Thomas this offseason. Signed Tyrann Mathieu

    5. Defensive End: Chris Jones is a spectacular defensive lineman, but the Chiefs don’t have much else up front. They could use another potent pass-rushing threat on the line.

    6. Nose Tackle: Kansas City had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last year. A monstrous, run-stuffing nose tackle would go a long way in helping fix that.

    7. Guard: Kansas City boasted a solid offensive line last year, but there was one hole in the unit, which was at one of the guard spots. The front office should bring in an upgrade to join Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

    8. Running Back: The Chiefs should consider better running back options than Damien Williams and Spencer Ware in the wake of Kareem Hunt’s release. Signed Carlos Hyde

    9. Center: Here’s another offensive line concern. Mitch Morse is a very skilled center, but he also happens to be an impending free agent.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Texans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Chiefs (3 years, $42 million)

      Tyrann Mathieu was once an other-worldly player for the Cardinals. He hasn’t been quite the same since suffering a torn ACL a few years ago. However, he played very well in 2018 and should be able to improve as he continues to be removed from his knee injury.

    2. Carlos Hyde, RB, Jaguars. Age: 28.
      Signed with Chiefs (1 year, $2.8 million)

      Carlos Hyde won the Most Unimportant Player of the Year Award in 2018, so he’s lucky to be getting a two-star rating in free agency. Hyde was absolutely useless for both the Browns and Jaguars last year, but he’s still just 28 and has some talent, so perhaps he can rebound.

    3. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Packers. Age: 27. — Signed with Chiefs
    4. Damien Wilson, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Signed with Chiefs

    Kansas City Chiefs Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Franchised by Chiefs

      Dee Ford is a late bloomer. He struggled early in his career, but had a breakout season in 2018, notching 13 sacks. He wasn’t very good in run support, which is why he isn’t rated higher than four stars.

    2. Steven Nelson, CB, Chiefs. Age: 25.
      Signed with Steelers (3 years, $25.5 million)

      Steven Nelson was Kansas City’s best outside cornerback last year. That’s not saying much, but Nelson played on a high level. He has improved each season, and at just 25, the sky’s the limit for him.

    3. Mitch Morse, C, Chiefs. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bills

      Mitch Morse is a very talented center, especially in pass protection. He’s also just 27 (in April), so he has a bright future ahead of him. The one issue is that he hasn’t stayed healthy; he’s missed 12 total games in the past two years. If it weren’t for his durability, he’d be rated as a four-star player.

    4. Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Signed with Colts (2 years, $24 million)

      Justin Houston is a huge name, but he’s been a declining player in recent years. Thanks to injuries – he has played more than 12 games just once since 2014 – he has failed to register double-digit sacks in the past four years. Houston could rebound, but he turned 30 recently, so there’s a chance he could just continue to have injury-plagued seasons.

    5. Eric Berry, S, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Eric Berry was once known as one of the top safeties in the NFL. Unfortunately, between cancer and Achilles/foot issues, Berry has regressed. He struggled late last year, so the Chiefs have decided to move on with another safety. The good news is that a doctor said Berry will not need surgery, so he’ll have a chance to bounce back next year. He’s 30, but it’s not out of the question that he could return to playing on a Pro Bowl level.

    6. Anthony Sherman, FB, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with Chiefs

      Anthony Sherman blocks well in the running game and can catch passes out of the backfield. He’s also a quality special-teamer.

    7. Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs. Age: 27.
      Signed with Colts (1 year, $1.3 million)

      It’s easy to forget that Spencer Ware was a decent starting running back prior to the Kareem Hunt draft pick. Ware nearly rushed for 1,000 yards in 2016, but missed all of 2017 with a knee injury.

    8. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      The Chiefs took a flier on Kelvin Benjamin, but he has failed to produce despite Sammy Watkins’ injury. Benjamin still has potential as a former first-round pick, but time is running out.

    9. Allen Bailey, DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Allen Bailey has been a decent starting defensive end for the Chiefs over the years. He has no weaknesses, but isn’t great at anything either.

    10. Ron Parker, S, Chiefs. Age: 32.
    11. Orlando Scandrick, CB, Chiefs. Age: 32.
    12. Chris Conley, WR, Chiefs. Age: 26. — Signed with Jaguars
    13. Jordan Devey, G/C, Chiefs. Age: 31.
    14. De’Anthony Thomas, RB/ST, Chiefs. Age: 26.
    15. Demetrius Harris, TE, Chiefs. Age: 28. — Signed with Browns
    16. Jordan Lucas (RFA), S, Chiefs. Age: 26. — Tendered by Chiefs
    17. Jeff Allen, G, Chiefs. Age: 29.
    18. Terrance Smith (RFA), ILB, Chiefs. Age: 26.
    19. Charcandrick West, RB, Chiefs. Age: 28.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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