The Professor’s 2021 NFL Preview: AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs

TheProfessor_NFL Preview_Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs

Team Projection

TeamPoints ForPoints AgainstGames FavoredPythagorean Expected Wins

After their Super Bowl victory, league observers marveled at Kansas City’s ability to keep their roster together. That formula worked out fairly well, as the Chiefs won another AFC Title, but in a reminder that nothing lasts long in the NFL, they’ve undergone a significant reboot going into 2021.

It’s possible that all five starting offensive linemen won’t have been on last year’s roster. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was acquired from the Baltimore Ravens, left guard Joe Thuney signed from the Patriots, center Austin Blythe signed from the Rams, right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out to put his medical training to use against COVID, and Kyle Long, a former guard with the physical tools to potentially play right tackle, was retired. They also added center Creed Humphrey with one of their second-round picks, so while holdovers such as Mike Remmers may end up in the starting lineup, there will be a lot of new faces protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

As Mahomes is back, it’s fair to expect a smooth transition. The young star played at an elite level up until the Super Bowl despite a slew of injuries on the offensive line and a toe injury that required surgery and limited his mobility. Mahomes will have his top weapons back in tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, along with the solid Demarcus Robinson and burner Mecole Hardman to complement them, and the potential for running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to have a healthier, more consistent season in his second year. With the offensive coaching staff intact, there’s no reason to expect the Chiefs offense will stop putting up elite production.

The defense will have some turnover, but the critical pieces return. Defensive tackle Chris Jones and safety Tyrann Mathieu are the cornerstones. Kansas City re-signed safety Daniel Sorensen, which will allow defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to continue utilizing his favored three safety sets with Mathieu, Sorenson, and Juan Thornhill. L’Jarius Sneed is set to step into a full-time starting role in his second season, and could be an upgrade on Bashaud Breeland, while Charvarius Ward is penciled in as a plus starter on the other corner. They’ve also acquired former first-round pick Mike Hughes from Minnesota, and Rashad Fenton has provided solid play in the slot when called on, so the secondary shouldn’t be an issue.

Up front, they’ve had turnover at linebacker, where second round pick Nick Bolton joins last year’s second rounder, Willie Gay, and veteran Anthony Hitchens. The Chiefs will hope that the Gay-Bolton duo provides an upgrade on last year’s perfomance. On the defensive line, the loss of defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon may be overlooked. The massive Kpassagnon brought some pass rush production on top of being difficult to move on the edge on run downs, and while he’s not a dynamic player, he did fill an important role on last year’s unit. Defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton flashed some potential to add pass rush to his strong run game presence late last year, particularly in his strong showing in the AFC Championship game, and nose tackle Derrick Nnadi is a solid presence on base downs next to Jones. Kansas City also brought on another former Seahawk, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who will join his old teammate Frank Clark on this line. It’s been a few years since we saw the best out of that pair, but at their best, they are big-time impact players. The team around him looks different, but in a way, it will likely benefit Mahomes and the Chiefs to move past that first title roster. Given the lifespan of NFL careers, it’s fairly likely that every player on this roster, save perhaps their most recent draft picks, will have retired by the time Mahomes hits the halfway point of his career. While he’ll always remember his first title fondly, Mahomes is set up to have a lot of kicks at the can, and the roster and scheme around him will need to shift and evolve with the times.

QB Passing Projections

Patrick Mahomes217427.9630.10.688.335251.240.58.823.68

QB Rushing Projections

Patrick Mahomes21771.24.353102.917.719.123.68

Skill Projections, Rushing

Tyreek HillWR7178.17.0056.
Clyde Edwards-HelaireRB6217175.14.43776.16.143.440.610.22
Darrel WilliamsRB1271799.34.04401.33.924.626.16.99
Jerick McKinnonRB1991749.94.23210.71.812.312.13.56

Skill Projections, Receiving

Tyreek HillWR71764.290.416.001446.410.522.425.915.31
Travis KelceTE111770.2104.212.871340.811.723.628.815.07
Clyde Edwards-HelaireRB621762.341.07.32300.11.510.53.610.22
Darrel WilliamsRB1271776.330.58.63263.
Mecole HardmanWR1311767.937.615.73591.55.68.813.76.54
Demarcus RobinsonWR1601762.535.511.75416.
Cornell PowellWR1651777.034.011.61394.
Jerick McKinnonRB1991768.522.37.70171.
Byron PringleWR2371777.020.111.60233.
Blake BellTE3261762.212.57.4392.

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.