Countdown

Countdown

FOX Football Gameday Host

Sparks is the Afternoon Drive host on 101 The FOX and an all-around sports FAN that brings years of Gameday coverage experience! Having talked football with the best of the best from Sports Talk Legends to Vegas Odds Makers he will be the MAN to get your SPARK ignited and make sure you're READY for GAMEDAY!

Sparks

FOX Football Gameday Host

Sparks is the Afternoon Drive host on 101 The FOX and an all-around sports FAN that brings years of Gameday coverage experience! Having talked football with the best of the best from Sports Talk Legends to Vegas Odds Makers he will be the MAN to get your SPARK ignited and make sure you’re READY for GAMEDAY!

Kendall Gammon

Countdown to Kickoff Host

Kendall is a 15-year NFL veteran Pro-Bowl Long Snapper known for his years of broadcasting with 101 The Fox on Gameday. Kendall and the team will discuss what happened, what’s next and what to expect with special guests and expert analysis from around the league as we get ready for kickoff.

Dani Welniak

KCTV5 News Sports Anchor

Dani Welniak is a former pro footballer herself sporting her own Women’s Championship Super Bowl ring. Her experience on the field gives her a strong understanding of gameday strategy. Listen every week as she breaks down the defense and what KC must do to contain the opponents offense.

BJ Kissel

NFL Insider

Every gameday we will check in with Local Sports Expert BJ Kissel to discuss Who’s Hot, Who’s Not, and go in depth about what the Kansas City Offense and Special Teams need to do on gameday. Check out his KC Sports Network Podcast for more weekly updates!

Steve Gorman

Rock N Roll Reporter

Every week we will catch up with Former Fox Sports guest broadcaster and Black Crowes Rock N Roll drummer to make their picks for the biggest games of the week.

2022 Schedule

PRESEASON    
Week 1 8/13 at Chicago Bears 12:00 p.m. KSHB    
Week 2 8/20 Washington Commanders 3:00 p.m. KSHB    
Week 3 8/25 Green Bay Packers 7:00 p.m. KSHB    
REGULAR SEASON    
Week 1 9/11       at Arizona Cardinals                    3:25 pm CBS    
Week 2 9/15       Los Angeles Chargers              7:15 pm Prime Video    
Week 3 9/25       at Indianapolis Colts                  12:00 pm CBS    
Week 4 10/2       at Tampa Bay Buccaneers          7:20 pm NBC    
Week 5 10/10      Las Vegas Raiders                   7:15 pm ESPN    
Week 6 10/16      Buffalo Bills                              3:25 pm CBS    
Week 7 10/23      at San Francisco 49ers              3:25 pm FOX    
Week 8 10/30      BYE WEEK      
Week 9 11/6       Tennessee Titans                       7:20 pm NBC    
Week 10 11/13      Jacksonville Jaguars              12:00 pm CBS    
Week 11 11/20      at Los Angeles Chargers            3:25 pm CBS    
Week 12 11/27      Los Angeles Rams                   3:25 pm FOX    
Week 13 12/4       at Cincinnati Bengals                  3:25 pm CBS    
Week 14 12/11      at Denver Bronco                       7:20 pm NBC    
Week 15 12/18      at Houston Texans                   12:00 pm CBS    
Week 16 12/24      Seattle Seahawks                   12:00 pm FOX    
Week 17 1/1        Denver Broncos                       12:00 pm CBS    
Week 18 1/7 or 8    at Las Vegas Raiders                 TBD TBD    
  Home games listed in bold        
All times are listed in central time. Find tickets at chiefs.com/tickets

 

2021 Schedule
PRESEASON
W 19 – 16 8/20 at San Francisco 49ers 7:30pm KSHB
W 17 – 10 8/20 at Arizona Cardinals 7:00pm ESPN
W 28 – 25 8/27 vs Minnesota Vikings 7:00pm KSHB
REGULAR SEASON
Week 1 9/12 vs Cleveland Browns                       3:25pm                 CBS
Week 2 9/19 at Baltimore Ravens                         7:20pm                    NBC
Week 3 9/26 vs Los Angeles Chargers                  Noon                    CBS
Week 4 10/3 at Philadelphia Eagles                       Noon                       CBS
Week 5 10/10 vs Buffalo Bills                                   7:20pm                 NBC
Week 6 10/17 at Washington Football Team            Noon                       CBS
Week 7 10/24 at Tennessee Titans                           Noon                       CBS
Week 8 11/1 vs New York Giants                            7:15pm                 ESPN
Week 9 11/7 vs Green Bay Packers                       3:25pm                  FOX
Week 10 11/14 at Las Vegas Raiders                         7:20pm                     NBC
Week 11 11/21 vs Dallas Cowboys                             3:25pm                  FOX
Week 12 /// BYE WEEK                                            ///                            ///
Week 13 12/5 vs Denver Broncos                             Noon                      CBS
Week 14 12/12 vs Las Vegas Raiders                         Noon                      CBS
Week 15 12/16 at Los Angeles Chargers                    7:20pm        FOX/NFLN/AMAZON
Week 16 12/26 vs Pittsburgh Steelers                        3:25pm                  CBS
Week 17 1/2 at Cincinnati Bengals                           Noon                       CBS
Week 18 1/9 at Denver Broncos                             3:25pm                      CBS

Local Coverage

TUNE IN ON GAMEDAY

Join us on Gameday for team coverage on Fox Football Gameday with a 3 Hour Pre-Game Broadcast hosted by Fox afternoon Drive Host Sparks. Get all the News around the league, updates on College Sports, Fantasy Football and more! All leading up the the Countdown to Kickoff with with our Gameday experts Kendall Gammon, Dani Welniak, and BJ Kissel!

RED REPORTS

101 The FOX Slacker morning Show 

Listen to the Slacker Morning show every week at 7:30am as we check in with BJ Kissel for a FRIDAY RED REPORT to get Teed UP for GAMEDAY! Then get the recap of the previous game every Monday with the Fox Football Gameday Wrap-up. PLUS get Slacker’s FOX Fantasy Football Update on Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30am with Fantasy Football Guru Adam Copeland.

101 THE FOX FOOTBALL GAMEDAY

CHIEFS NEWS

How Ronald Jones II Can Fix the Chiefs’ Biggest Offensive Weakness

The Chiefs were dead last in yards after contact in 2021-22. A specialist in physical running, will Ronald Jones II solve that glaring problem?

If you still owned the cleats from your high school football days and were free from work and family responsibilities on Sundays, you might’ve been good enough to suit up and move the chains behind the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line last season. 

Only the Philadelphia Eagles were better at creating yards before contact than the 2021-22 Chiefs, though it’s arguable that the Chiefs’ running backs — to take a page out of Andy Reid’s book — left a ton of meat on that prime rib.

Doubly important, no team even came close to seeing light boxes and two-high safeties as often as Kansas City did, often a recipe that creates opportunities for running backs to eat. With a dead-last rank in both yards after contact (616) and yards after contact per rush (1.4), the need for a powerful runner to take advantage of that represented a gaping hole.

Enter Ronald Jones II, a player capable of running around, into and through said gaping holes.

On paper, Jones’s fit with the Chiefs looks to be hand-in-glove. The league’s worst team in generating yards post-contact just signed a player that ranked No. 1 in that stat in 2020 (3.0) and finished at the No. 14 spot in 2019. If there’s a noticeable trait in Jones’s film, it’s that he’s a powerful, gritty runner — unwilling to cede to defenders when there’s a spot he’s attempting to get to.

Of course, merely having a change-of-pace runner capable of bleeding the clock and making the Chiefs more physical won’t guarantee that his number will be called. As noted, back in January’s AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs owned an 18-point advantage and in the 14 plays with that lead, they ran nine passing plays and five rushing plays.

On the flip side, Jones was one of just 21 ball carriers to amass 30-plus first down runs in each of 2019 and 2020. This is something the Chiefs brass likely had in mind when they offered him the one-year, $1.5 million (plus incentives) deal. And, despite being supremely talented, it wasn’t too long ago that Pro Football Focus hit on how Clyde Edwards-Helaire hasn’t been able to strike gold on those favorable opportunities as frequently as he could or should. To illustrate those opportunities in further detail:

Ask Jones, and he’ll tell you that he envisions the Chiefs’ offense having a 1-2-3 punch, adding the returning Jerick McKinnon into the equation. The Chiefs are already one of the NFL’s premier early-down teams, so it should be intriguing to see how Jones fits in. This never applies more than it does particularly along the interior, where the Chiefs have the tenth-ranked run-blocking guard, the top run-blocking center and a fifth-round reinforcement in Darian Kinnard. The fit could be optimal.

Jones hasn’t historically offered a ton as a receiver and if there were ever a reason why he’d end up in Reid’s doghouse, it’d certainly be his struggle to keep the football in hand. Despite having Tom Brady as his signal-caller for each of the last three seasons, Buccaneers quarterbacks have never recorded a 90.0 quarterback passer rating or better when targeting Jones. 

There’s also work to be done for Jones picking up blitzes as a pass protector, something Seth Keysor noted a few months back in his Chief in the North Newsletter. Jones’s drop rate and six fumbles lost (the fifth-most since 2019) speak to the negatives.

On the flip side, Jones did note in his June 15 presser that the Chiefs’ coaching staff had him lining up out wide. If there’s a coaching staff that can coax something out of him as a receiving back, this would certainly be the one. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Reid and Eric Bieniemy find ways to flare Jones out where he can use that feisty, gritty style out in space and where he’s evading corners and safeties at the third level as opposed to in the trenches.

Regardless of how the receiving role plays out, Jones has done enough to have his number called upon confidently by this coaching staff in a by-committee, hot-hand type of backfield. Even during the dog days as Tampa Bay’s No. 2 back where Leonard Fournette commanded the ship, Bruce Arians still declared that it would take “something extraordinary” to get rid of Jones.

Historically, that’s how things have gone in Kansas City. Dating back to Reid’s first year in 2013, the Chiefs have had 11 different backs reach 500-plus scrimmage yards — the fifth-best mark in the NFL. There’s a place for Jones to play a role in keeping that trend going, and it should showcase itself in the box score. With No. 2 on the field breaking tackles and making plays with extra effort, perhaps the Chiefs can bid farewell to second-and-7, and say hello to second-and-5.

Recent Mock Trade Has Chiefs Acquiring Pro Bowl Pass Rusher

A late-offseason idea proposes the opportunity for the Chiefs to add some serious help on defense.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ roster has filled out quite nicely over the course of the 2022 offseason, but there’s still one flaw that has existed for a while now and still has yet to be entirely patched up: defensive end.

While defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit was able to generate pressure at a decent rate last season, it couldn’t finish the job by way of sacks. The Chiefs’ defense ranked 29th in the NFL in that department last season, and that glaring inability to bring down opposing quarterbacks became a front-and-center focal point for the world to watch get exposed in both the Divisional Round and AFC Championship playoff games at the end of the 2021 campaign. Heading into the offseason, general manager Brett Veach was tasked with rebuilding a unit that desperately needed an injection of talent.

Although Veach did hold up his end of the bargain, he only did so partially. The Chiefs lost defensive end Melvin Ingram to the free agent market and replaced his roster spot with first-round pick George Karlaftis from Purdue. Frank Clark was retained after the team restructured his contract, making it to where Kansas City invested minimally in him compared to what it would’ve cost to cut him outright. Still, even after bringing Clark back and adding Karlaftis into the fold, more work likely needs to be done in order to make the Chiefs’ front four a formidable unit from a pass-rushing standpoint. 

In a recent article, Bleacher Report came up with a list of hypothetical trade ideas that would “transform the league” this season. Of the five packages, one of them featured the Chiefs shipping a 2023 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick to the Chicago Bears in exchange for defensive end/linebacker Robert Quinn. Here’s a bit of what Kristopher Knox wrote as far as the reasoning is concerned:

If Quinn is eager to leave Chicago, the rebuilding Bears would be wise to get something valuable in return and make the move. They already dealt Khalil Mack this offseason, so it’s not as if they’re averse to moving top players.

The problem is that Quinn has a base salary of $12.8 million in 2022 and $12.7 million in dead money remaining on his contract. The Chiefs, who have $11 million in cap space, would have to clear some room to absorb Quinn’s salary.This could be done by signing offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to a contract extension before the July 15 franchise-tag deadline.

In this hypothetical deal, Kansas City would get another proven playmaker for its front seven, while Chicago would get future draft chips with which to aid its ongoing rebuild.

This is far from the first time that Quinn’s name has been thrown around in trade-related discussions, and it surely won’t be the last. He’s a quality pass-rushing threat at a premier position and if he’s even remotely close to being available for contending teams, it makes total sense for one (or more) to pursue him. After all, he did amass a whopping 18.5 sacks last year and also notched 11.5 in 2019. 2020 season aside, Quinn has been a legitimate weapon for defenses in recent years. He’d instantly improve the Chiefs’ pass rush at a mostly reasonable cost and has cap hits under $20M in both 2023 and 2024 as well. 

On the other hand, Quinn is not an 18.5-sack player on a yearly basis. Prior to 2019, the last time he’d reached 10 or more was 2014. At age 32, it reasons to wonder how much the three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro has left in the tank. Veach overhauled the Chiefs’ roster in an effort to add a lot of youth into the fold, and trading draft capital for Quinn would be doing the opposite of that. The juice very well could be worth the squeeze, but it’s something to consider nonetheless.

In regards to compensation, Kansas City has a near-surplus of projected picks to work with in the 2023 NFL Draft. Losing a pair of them — especially given that this scenario calls for one of them to be a Day Three selection — wouldn’t be the end of the world if it secured a multi-year starter. With this being all but certainly Clark’s final year as a Chief at his current price point, replacing him with a somewhat more affordable (compared to Clark’s original contract) option could be an avenue for both short and long-term improvement. Will the Chiefs end up actually pulling the trigger on a Quinn trade with the Bears? Only time will tell.

Expect Fireworks in Abundance From the Chiefs This Season

Despite a retooling of sorts, don’t expect the Chiefs’ explosiveness to go away all of a sudden.

A lot has been made of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason. While so many teams in the AFC — and even the AFC West — have gotten better, Kansas City has undergone a transformational phase and could be due to experience some growing pains over the course of the 2022 season. 

Don’t let that trick you into thinking that the Chiefs won’t unleash a ton of Fourth of July-esque fireworks this year, though.

The bar is set high, making for huge shoes to fill for the 2022 Andy Reid offense to fill. As Rich Hribar and Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis noted, the NFL’s top unit from a season ago also led the league in points per drive, touchdowns per drive, yards per drive and plays per drive. That level of sheer dominance came amidst what seemed to be a “down” year, as quarterback Patrick Mahomes and star receiving weapons Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill all experienced less-than-normal spurts of play during the season.

Gone is Hill, as well as depth pieces Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle. In their places are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Skyy Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Chiefs’ wideout room is deeper than it was a season ago, which should give Mahomes more options to work with when things break down in regards to the original structure of plays. 

Defenses stifled Kansas City at times with two-high safety coverages in 2021, either forcing Reid’s hand to make the team run the ball or forcing Mahomes’s hand to hit his check-downs on underneath passes. With more weapons at their disposal, the Chiefs may unlock the ability to do just about everything when they have the ball. Their consistency will need to be developed over time, although the sheer numbers game of having three or four players capable of getting open versus merely two projects to be a benefit in a vacuum.

Furthermore, the Chiefs’ running back room very well could be an improved unit from what the team trotted out last year. Behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon and Derrick Gore return and will serve as tremendous competition throughout training camp (and possibly into the season, re: McKinnon). Elsewhere, free agent acquisition Ronald Jones and seventh-round draft pick Isiah Pacheco provide dynamic skill sets and athletic profiles alike. Whatever group Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy settle on will bring multiple elements to this year’s offense.

The fireworks won’t stop there. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has seen even more changes this offseason, losing longtime starters such as Tyrann Mathieu, Anthony Hitchens and Charvarius Ward. Not only did general manager Brett Veach opt for a youth movement at the second and third levels of the defense, but he opted for ferocity and athleticism as well. Players such as Leo Chenal and Bryan Cook were two of the hardest hitters in the 2022 NFL Draft and can also get going in a hurry. Up front, first-round pick George Karlaftis plays with an obvious mean streak and has room to get back to his old athletic form now that he’s shed some weight.

From a splash-play standpoint, both sides of the Chiefs’ attack (and, really, even special teams) figure to add several points to the board via explosive plays. Reid’s high-flying offense could make a return to its deep-ball roots and with younger and more versatile athletes, Spagnuolo’s group should be fun as well. Even if Kansas City takes a step back in the record department this season, there should be very little doubt about what’s in store. Expect fireworks in abundance from the Chiefs in 2022. 

Trey Smith Has Already Overachieved His Draft Slot, So What’s Next?

The Chiefs got a sixth-round steal when they selected Trey Smith in the 2021 NFL Draft. In year two, can Smith ascend to another level?

In the spring of 2021, the Kansas City Chiefs were just coming off a Super Bowl appearance that saw quarterback Patrick Mahomes running for his life on nearly every passing play. General manager Brett Veach knew something needed to change, and he was prepared to use as many resources in the offseason as necessary to overhaul and upgrade the offensive line.

Part of the overhaul came with some tough cuts. The team parted ways with former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, who suffered an Achilles injury in the AFC Championship Game. Mitchell Schwartz, one of the best right tackles in the NFL, had been out most of the season with a back injury. He was released on the same day.

Center Austin Reiter was a free agent and looking for a larger contract than what the Chiefs wanted to offer. Mike Remmers was a nice veteran piece but not a long-term solution. Nick Allegretti and Andrew Wylie are good depth pieces, but the Chiefs needed more.

The Chiefs went out and grabbed New England Patriots free agent Joe Thuney, the best left guard available and one of the best in the league. They traded a first-round pick for Orlando Brown Jr. to be their left tackle. They drafted a new center, Creed Humphrey, in the second round. But the Chiefs’ best value on the rebuilt 2021 offensive line came in the sixth round of the same draft when they selected Tennessee guard Trey Smith.

Jan 23, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs guard Trey Smith (65) celebrates while leaving the field after the win over the Buffalo Bills during an AFC Divisional playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Smith had a solid career at Tennessee. He started all 12 games his freshman year and earned second-team All-SEC honors. In the offseason, it was discovered that he had a blood clot issue in his lungs that threatened to end his career during his sophomore year. Eventually, with the help of doctors and blood-thinning medication, Smith sat out for a while to heal before working his way back to the field a year later.

He was able to play out his full junior season with no issues, starting every game at left guard. He was named first-team All-SEC for his efforts. He decided to pass on the NFL draft in 2020 and play his senior season at Tennessee. Smith ended up as a first-team All-SEC member again and showed he was ready for the next level.

Despite being projected as an early second-round pick in some circles, many NFL teams were cautious of the blood clot issues that appeared during Smith’s sophomore year at Tennessee. Despite being cleared and playing two seasons without issue, he was told there is a chance the clots could come back. This scared many teams away.

The Chiefs were fortunate that he slid all the way to their sixth-round selection. He took the opportunity he was given and ran with it. He was asked to play right guard immediately and quickly became the starting right guard throughout camp and into the preseason. At that point, there was no doubt Smith would be the starter heading into the season.

Smith looked downright dominant at times. He is a physical freak and loves playing to the whistle. There were many times when Smith was caught driving players into the ground, legally, and making life miserable for opposing defensive linemen. He really stood out in the run game, blowing holes open for KC’s rotation of running backs.

He was adequate in pass protection, but that is one part of the game where Smith can grow and turn himself into one of the elite right guards in the game. He has the physical features and the mental capacity to take his game to another level.

Overall, Smith had a very strong rookie season and helped fortify a new-look offensive line in Kansas City. The o-line featuring Smith, Humphrey, Thuney and Brown will likely be the core unit for the next several years. The competition for the right tackle spot will be an intriguing one, but whoever wins the job will have a good teammate blocking next to him.

I believe if Smith continues to be a mauler in the running game and improves his pass protection throughout the early part of the season, we could see a nice second-year jump from the Chiefs’ right guard. While many teams didn’t want to take a chance on Smith, the Chiefs did, and it looks like it has paid off. 

The Past, Present and Future of Juan Thornhill Will Collide This Season

From looking like Brett Veach’s first great draft pick to losing his job to Daniel Sorensen, Juan Thornhill’s future with the Chiefs remains unknown.

Towards the end of his rookie season, Juan Thornhill looked like he was the first draft pick hit for Brett Veach as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Then Thornhill tore his ACL.

It’s regrettable timing for any player to sustain a serious injury late in their rookie year. The first few seasons for a player can truly make or break their career in the NFL, and significant injury early on can rob a player of much-needed valuable experience. Thornhill was no exception, as a player who had all the athleticism in the world but needed to work to become a more refined safety.

Nov 21, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill (22) on field against the Dallas Cowboys during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The timing of Thornhill’s injury was especially painful. Tearing it in Week 17 of the regular season ensured that the beginning of the following season would be in jeopardy and limit Thornhill’s work in offseason programs.

Thornhill did not miss the beginning of the 2020 campaign, however. This didn’t mean that he looked the same as his rookie year, however, as it was apparent that the injury was still affecting him. After the first half of 2020, the Chiefs limited Thornhill’s snaps in the latter portion of the year for reasons unknown. He flashed once in the AFC Championship Game that season but other than that, his play seemed to regress compared to his rookie year.

This all led to the lowest point of Thornhill’s career as a Chief.

Heading into the 2021 season, Thornhill didn’t even win the starting free safety job. Daniel Sorensen won the second safety job out of training camp to the dismay of many hoping that Thornhill would return to his rookie year form. While the decision to give the job to Sorensen quickly (and painfully) showed to be the incorrect decision, the fact it happened at all spurred questions about Thornhill and his future — a future that could’ve taken the shape of a budding Pro Bowler based on his rookie year.

There is an easy-to-buy explanation for Thornhill’s last few years of up-and-down play: Major injuries are tough to come back from in the NFL.

It’s simple to apply the logic that if a player can play on the field after recovering from a major injury, that player should be the same as he was pre-injury. With that said, this level of recovery is not as common as many believe. The reason fans do not hear all of the cases of players looking different after a major injury is that if a player is playing worse, they get less media attention. The only players that get major media attention by playing worse are those who were great before said injury.

An example of this injury-recovery phenomenon was Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers last year. Akers tore his Achilles in July before the 2021 season and returned for the Rams in the playoffs. While he certainly was able to literally return, Akers was flat-out bad on the field. Again, significant injuries in the NFL are not always simple to return from.

When Thornhill says he is “all the way back” or expects to be an All-Pro this year, it’s very possible that he hasn’t felt healthy until this offseason. A healthy Thornhill was one of the best athletes at safety in the NFL and had a great first year. If he returns to that form, Veach will have an interesting decision to make.

Mar 1, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansa City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach speaks to the media during the 2018 NFL Combine at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs’ premier free agent signing in the 2022 free agency period was safety Justin Reid. Reid was signed to fill the leadership role Tyrann Mathieu had in the locker room and is a young, athletic safety who can perform multiple roles on the defense. He also turned only 25 years old in February.

If Thornhill has a bounce-back year, will the Chiefs be willing to sign Thornhill with Reid already on the books? If the Chiefs are willing to sign him, how could Reid’s contract impact negotiations? Is Thornhill okay with being paid less than his teammate? Does it depend on how the two play this year? All of these questions need to be answered.

If Thornhill plays well, then a comparable player, contract and position to his situation is something similar to what Rayshawn Jenkins got from the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021. Jenkins secured a four-year, $35 million deal in free agency as a solid, but not top-tier safety. The top of the market for safeties is pretty depressed, with Pro Bowl-level Marcus Williams getting just $14M per year on a free agent contract from the Baltimore Ravens this offseason. 

With the salary cap exploding soon, Thornhill’s prospective extension with the Chiefs projects to land right around what Reid got — just one year later. If Kansas City doesn’t mind investing a substantial amount of money into that position group, then retaining Thornhill could really help out a defense that should be very young over the next few years. It’s tenable to give Thornhill an extension if players like Nick Bolton, Trent McDuffie, and George Karlaftis play up to their respective talent levels. Those cheap contracts allowing the Chiefs re-sign a player like Thornhill is the benefit of drafting well.

The future of Thornhill will depend on him and his play in 2022. The range of outcomes this year is vast, and that eventual outcome will determine what a new contract for him will look like. If he’s truly healthy now, it isn’t hard to buy into a career year for a player who once looked like he was Veach’s first slam-dunk draft pick.

The Chiefs’ Biggest Question for 2022 Isn’t What You’d Expect

Looking back on the Chiefs’ offseason and ahead to training camp, how is KC set up for 2022? Their biggest remaining question isn’t getting national headlines.

Now less than one month away from the beginning of training camp, the NFL offseason has slowed down and the dust has settled. For the Kansas City Chiefs, it was the most dramatic offseason in years, losing superstars like Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu before adding JuJu Smith-Schuster, Justin Reid and a host of others. Did things go according to plan for Kansas City?

Key Chiefs losses and additions

Key losses: Tyreek Hill, WR (trade); Tyrann Mathieu, S (FA); Melvin Ingram, EDGE (FA); Charvarius Ward, CB (FA); Anthony Hitchens, LB (release); Demarcus Robinson, WR (FA); Byron Pringle, WR (FA); Mike Hughes, CB (FA); Jarran Reed, DT (FA).

Key additions: Justin Reid, S (FA); JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (FA); Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR (FA); Ronald Jones, RB (FA); Trent McDuffie, CB (draft); George Karlaftis, EDGE (draft); Skyy Moore, WR (draft); Bryan Cook, S (draft).

Chiefs 2022 offseason grade

Offseason grade: B

It’s extremely difficult to give the Chiefs a single letter grade for their offseason of massive overhauls, as their report card won’t be fully complete for years to come. By moving on from Hill and Mathieu, the Chiefs disrupted their short-term stability. In return, they gained the assets needed to completely rebuild a younger, cheaper defense that should pay dividends down the line. Offensively, short-term free agents like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling were signed to keep the KC offense humming as the team steps into a new era without Hill as the Chiefs’ top wide receiver. A “B” grade reflects both sides of that coin; the Chiefs could have a bumpier 2022 season while building to new heights in 2023 and beyond.

KC’s biggest question still to be answered

How much and how quickly can KC’s young defense grow?

The Chiefs have some obvious questions with their pass-catchers, but most of those can be answered by simply having Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. Even without in-game experience with any of his top wide receivers other than Mecole Hardman, Mahomes can be trusted to grow into a groove with this no-less-than-solid group. The other side of the ball is much more uncertain. (Plus, the Chiefs still have Travis Kelce.)

Defensively, rookies like first-round picks Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis will be expected to start immediately at highly important positions where the Chiefs don’t have much depth behind them. At the second level, the Chiefs moved on from veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens and will now rely on linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. in the middle of the defense, despite that duo entering their second and third seasons, respectively. With cornerback Charvarius Ward leaving in free agency, the Chiefs lost their most consistent corner. At EDGE, they’re left relying on a last-chance year for Frank Clark and a rotation of role players across from Karlaftis. The Chiefs have built a young, cheap defensive foundation for years to come, but can they hold their own through the first half of the season, or will growing pains lose games?

For more coverage of the Kansas City Chiefs, follow @ArrowheadReport on Twitter and Chiefs Nation on Facebook.

Projecting the Chiefs’ 53-Man Roster: Pre-Training Camp Edition

The Chiefs may have the most depth they have had in years, but which 53 will they take with them when they head to Arizona in Week 1?

Training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs begins on Wednesday, July 27th, in St. Joesph, MO. Every year before Week 1 of the season, NFL teams are forced to cut their rosters down from 90 players to 53. 

Thus, the Chiefs are tasked with deciding who will take the field for them when they head to Arizona to face the Cardinals to open the year. There are a bunch of new faces in Kansas City and plenty of players battling for roster spots. Brett Veach, Andy Reid and the rest of the Chiefs’ staff will have to make tough calls as they push for another Super Bowl.

Here are my predictions for the Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster before the start of training camp.

Offense (25)

Quarterbacks (2)

1. Patrick Mahomes
2. Chad Henne

The quarterback spots are probably the easiest to predict on the roster. As the best quarterback in the world, Mahomes is an obvious mainstay. 2022 will be Henne’s fifth year in Kansas City. The Chiefs had the option to move on from him this offseason and insert Shane Buechele into the backup role, however, they brought Henne back. This signals that they were not ready to give the backup spot to Buechele just yet. The Chiefs put the practice squad protection on Buechele multiple times last year, but they cannot afford to carry three quarterbacks on the active roster.

Jan 8, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) attempts a pass in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Running Backs (3 + FB)

3. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
4. Ronald Jones
5. Isiah Pacheco
6. Michael Burton

Every year Reid has been in Kansas City, he has kept a fullback on the roster — making Burton’s spot pretty safe. The Chiefs will likely give Edwards-Helaire every opportunity to become the player they’d hoped for when they drafted him in the first round back in 2020. Behind him is where things get dicey. 

The Chiefs have a bunch of guys who are capable rotational pieces. They recently re-signed Jerick McKinnon, who came on strong towards the end of last season, although I don’t believe he will make the roster. The Chiefs prioritized signing Ronald Jones before that. Jones lacks pass-catching ability out of the backfield, which is where Pacheco comes in. Pacheco provides speed in the rushing and passing attack on top of being a core four special-teamer.

Dec 12, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) runs in for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receivers (6)

7. JuJu Smith-Schuster
8. Marquez Valdes-Scantling
9. Mecole Hardman
10. Skyy Moore
11. Justin Watson
12. Cornell Powell
IR. Justyn Ross

Compared to years past, this wide receiver room will look drastically different. The only major contributor from the recent past that is still in Kansas City is Mecole Hardman. He’s in a contract year and is expected to have a more significant role with the departure of Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs added Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling in free agency to provide a veteran presence. Skyy Moore is the last wide receiver one can comfortably say has a spot locked down. The Chiefs drafted Moore in the second round, likely hoping he would soon become the No. 1 guy. 

The fifth and sixth wide receivers are where the competition heats up. The Chiefs have a bunch of guys who can win those spots. If I wrote this two weeks ago, I would have said that Ross makes the roster. Since he was absent at minicamp, the Chiefs could stash him on injured reserve for the season. Watson has been getting a lot of hype from the local and national media, giving him the edge to make the roster. The Chiefs will probably want a guy who can play special teams for the final spot, and Powell can fill that role in his second season.

Jan 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (right) embrace following the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tight Ends (4)

13. Travis Kelce
14. Blake Bell
15. Noah Gray
16. Jody Fortson 

There isn’t any competition for the tight ends; it’s just a matter of the Chiefs deciding whether to keep three or four. Last season was the second year in a row that the Chiefs kept four, and that trend continues here. Kelce’s spot is a guarantee for the same reasons as Mahomes. This offseason, the Chiefs re-signed Bell to have a blocking tight end and someone who can run quarterback sneaks. Last offseason, the hype for Gray was high, and he showed flashes but wasn’t consistent enough to play significant snaps. With another offseason under his belt, he can take a step forward. Fortson may be the most curious case, as he is coming off an Achilles tear. However, he’s already back on the field and showed enough last year to make the team.

Jan 2, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Linemen (9)

17. Orlando Brown Jr.
18. Joe Thuney
19. Creed Humphrey
20. Trey Smith
21. Andrew Wylie
22. Geron Christian
23. Nick Allegretti
24. Austin Reiter
25. Darian Kinnard
PUP. Lucas Niang

The starting offensive line from last year (Brown, Thuney, Humphrey, Smith, Wylie) will be on the roster. Allegretti is in the final year of his contract and could be dangled in a preseason trade, but his versatility provides enough value as the sixth lineman to keep him around. Reiter started in two Super Bowls for the Chiefs but was let go before last season, then was brought back this offseason and will be kept as the backup center. Christian and Kinnard will have the chance to win the starting right tackle job and even if they don’t win it, they should provide quality depth. Niang tore his patellar tendon late last season. The injury typically has a long recovery time, which should have Niang starting the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).

Oct 17, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Kansas City Chiefs guard Joe Thuney (62) and Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (57) line up against the Washington Football Team at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Defense (25)

Defensive Linemen (10)

26. Chris Jones
27. Derrick Nnadi
28. Khalen Saunders
29. Taylor Stallworth
30. Tershawn Wharton
31. Frank Clark
32. Mike Danna
33. Joshua Kaindoh
34. Malik Herring
35. George Karlaftis

The defensive line is the weakest group on the roster. Outside of Jones, no one else can be relied on to be productive. After being drafted in the first round, Karlaftis should be the starting edge opposite Clark. Guys like Danna, Nnadi and Wharton have been solid rotational pieces for years, and Kaindoh could make a leap this year. He injured his ankle in the first few weeks of last season and should see more snaps moving forward. 

The Chiefs only signed one new defensive lineman this offseason: Stallworth, to provide depth from the interior. The two guys on the fringe of this group are Herring and Saunders. Saunders has been in Kansas City for a few years but hasn’t seen the field that much. Herring was brought in after the 2021 draft but due to a torn ACL, he was placed on injured reserve immediately after being signed. If the Chiefs decide to add another piece, Herring or Saunders’ spot may be in jeopardy, but they should make the roster for now.

Linebackers (5)

36. Willie Gay Jr.
37. Nick Bolton
38. Jermaine Carter Jr. 
39. Leo Chenal
40. Mike Rose

Currently, the Chiefs have a super young group of linebackers on the roster. Getting younger was their focus across the entire team, but it’s primarily seen at the linebacker position. Only two contributors from last year return in Bolton and Gay. They should be the linebacker tandem for the foreseeable future. During free agency, the Chiefs brought in Carter, who should provide starting snaps as the rookies get their feet wet. 

As for those rookies, Chenal and Rose were added during the draft process. Chenal was selected in the third round and could be the starting SAM linebacker when Week 1 rolls around. Rose went undrafted, but he has enough talent for the Chiefs to keep him as a developmental backup and core four special-teamer.

Oct 10, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (50) celebrates with outside linebacker Nick Bolton (54) after a play against the Buffalo Bills during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerbacks (6)

41. Rashad Fenton
42. L’Jarius Sneed
43. Trent McDuffie
44. Lonnie Johnson Jr.
45. Jaylen Watson
46. Joshua Williams

Similar to the linebackers, the cornerbacks are an extremely young group. Fenton and Sneed are the only familiar faces in this group. The Chiefs went cornerback-heavy in the draft by adding three. McDuffie is the obvious one to make the roster and as a first-round pick, he could be a starter from the jump. The other two, Williams and Watson, were taken on Day Three. There were a lot of positive reports about Williams coming out of minicamp and while Watson hasn’t been talked about enough, his skill set and ability to play special teams should give him a spot. Lastly, after the draft, the Chiefs traded for Johnson. Though they didn’t give much up to get him, he has experience, which is something this unit is lacking.

Safeties (4)

47. Juan Thornhill
48. Justin Reid
49. Bryan Cook
50. Nazeeh Johnson

The Chiefs have shown that they value the safety position. Since Steve Spagnuolo took over as defensive coordinator, Reid is their second significant free-agent investment at safety. Thornhill and Cook are second-round picks. Thornhill has spoken about having an All-Pro season, and the Chiefs have praised Cook’s ability to understand defenses. The last safety spot is tricky because of the need to play special teams. With their final pick in this year’s draft, the Chiefs took Johnson. He’s a freak athlete who can contribute on that front. Having Dave Toub’s vote of confidence should put Johnson over the top.

Special Teams (3)

51. Harrison Butker
52. Tommy Townsend
53. James Winchester

These three have been locked into their positions for a couple of years. Butker and Winchester are at the top of their positions across the league, so there is no reason to move on from them. Townsend has had an up and down first two years in Kansas City, but it seems that the Chiefs will give him another season to prove himself.

Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker (7) celebrates with punter Tommy Townsend (5) after kicking the point after touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For more coverage of the Kansas City Chiefs, follow @ArrowheadReport on Twitter and Chiefs Nation on Facebook.

Will the Chiefs’ Play-Callers Be Under More Pressure This Season?

With so many moving parts and new faces in the fold, should KC’s play-callers be feeling the heat?

If you found yourself running a bit behind schedule, setting the television up to enjoy Kansas City Chiefs football last season, chances are that Patrick Mahomes and his crew had already put some points on the board by the time you sat down and got comfortable.

Like an aggressive boxer getting a leg-up on a scorecard, no team shook off the cobwebs and punished defenses on its first few series as forcibly as Kansas City. Over a team’s first three drives, the Chiefs ranked No. 1 in plays (7.7), net yards (48.4) and score percentage (59.3%) while finishing top-three in avoiding punts, time of possession and point differential. 

Nov 1, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy look on from the sideline during the first half against the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It speaks volumes to the Chiefs’ offensive coaching staff and how dominant they’ve been during the “first 15,” the scripted, designed play calls to start a game — and even slightly beyond. Though, as we pivot from 2021-22 to 2022-23, it does offer up a juicy question.

Sloppiness and complacency crept their way into the Chiefs’ offense during those midway drives. It became a trend — almost like a microwaved Hot Pocket, as our own Joshua Brisco likened them to — to see the Chiefs kickstart games on a heatwave, cool throughout the middle, then regain their mojo towards the end. Given the seismic shift of this year’s receiving group (including the loss of a certain All-Pro receiver), as well as a potentially-different running back committee, one could wonder: Will there be added pressure and expectation on the play-callers to soften those blows this season?

A few months back, it felt interesting to at least briefly imagine how creative Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy could get with their play designs as they try to fill in Tyreek Hill’s impact and talent with more of a sum-of-parts approach in 2022-23. Hill played a considerable role in defenses shifting to more two-high coverage looks against Kansas City last season and while it’s unclear whether opponents will ease up on that defensive look without him in the lineup, the sheer idea of it and the creativity it would allow comes into play immediately.

At the very least, thinking big-picture, the margin for error feels thinner with the 2022-23 Chiefs. Many of their pass-catchers range somewhere between unproven and unspectacular outside of Travis Kelce. One of the ways that they could fix that: more drive-for-drive consistency.

So, what changes as the Chiefs hit that midpoint of the game? More often than not, they’ve opened up a lead, which perhaps explains both some complacency and a simple case of the defense needing to buckle down and get a stop with sharpened focus. Of the Chiefs’ 27 turnovers, 14 of them came during that aforementioned middle-of-the-game stretch. It included ill-advised throws, untimely drops, and … more untimely drops.

The Chiefs were tracked for 33 drops last season, good for the ninth-most in the NFL. The players they’ve added this offseason — along with the offense being due for a regression — could be key in helping the Chiefs become a more healthy per-drive team.

It promises to be exciting seeing who steps in behind Kelce as the team’s go-to third-down target for Mahomes. JuJu Smith-Schuster would be the easy choice, but Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling could be enticing threats. Valdes-Scantling quietly worked behind Davante Adams as one of the NFL’s third-down pass-catchers with the Green Bay Packers. Over the last two years, his 481 third-down yards rank No. 29 — reminder that there can only be 32 WR1s in the NFL — and out of 19 third-down catches, he turned 18 of them into first downs.

Hardman isn’t far behind, as he’s one of 74 pass-catchers with at least 300 third-down yards over that same time span despite 73 of those receivers having more receptions than him (17). As he continues to expand in both his role and route tree, that development feels important in how Kansas City avoids slight steps back from last year’s offense to this year’s version. 

For what they lack in a star wideout, the Chiefs will compensate through diverse route-runners and the benefit of rostering the game’s premier quarterback. That’s something that should make life easier for Reid and Bieniemy as they scheme and design these plays, as we see here:

Hardman, in particular, saw most of his touches — either through play design or through ability — on first and second downs, where his yards after the catch ability and shiftiness were key in helping avoid said third downs altogether. 

The moments he did turn his third-down catches into conversations tell quite a story though; take the 53-yarder against the Bengals for instance, where Mahomes eyes him from the jump, wholly knowing No. 17 will sneak to that unoccupied spot along the boundary for a catch. Or the third-and-3 snag against New York. There’s no overthinking: Hill and Hardman run a slant-flat-type concept, where he settles into the Giants’ soft zone, moving the chains. He should be equipped to elevate in that role in 2022-23.

All told, it’s important to remember that even with some of those hiccups in the middle of games, Kansas City was still No. 1 in points (2.81), plays per drive (7.17) and three-and-outs avoided (1.06%). As long as Mahomes is under center and Reid’s headset is functional, the Chiefs’ offense will always be a threat to be one of NFL history’s best.

With good regression on their unlucky drops, better execution in those middle-of-game drives and both the receivers and play-callers ramping their games to fill in that cheetah-sized void, the Chiefs would be positioned to be — surprisingly — what many experts aren’t projecting: the NFL’s best offense.

And if they accomplish that feat, you certainly might live to regret being late setting that television up and missing that opening touchdown drive.

Chiefs’ JuJu Smith-Schuster Named One of ‘Best Bargains’ in NFL

Smith-Schuster’s solid contract is a testament to the creativity of the Chiefs’ front office.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ financial decisions over the past few years were beginning to catch up with them this offseason, so general manager Brett Veach devised a plan.

The first step of his plan, at least at the wide receiver position, was to bring in JuJu Smith-Schuster after striking out on him the year prior. Next up: trade Tyreek Hill. Following those two major moves, Veach added additional talent via free agency (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) and the NFL Draft (Skyy Moore) to insulate the Chiefs’ Hill-less position room. 

According to some, the signing of Smith-Schuster will prove to be one of the best of any team’s past several months. 

Jan 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (right) embrace following the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports recently published a list of the best “bargain” NFL players at premium positions for the upcoming 2022 season. In addition to star quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Joe Burrow and even receivers like Justin Jefferson and DK Metcalf, Smith-Schuster’s name was listed as well. Benjamin praised the raw base amount of the deal ($3.25 million), citing it as something that could prove quite valuable to Kansas City in due time: 

The former Steelers standout has been an afterthought in a frenetic WR market the last two years, and it’s probably true he’s more of a steady option than spectacular one. But man oh man could Kansas City get bang for its buck with the still-young target machine teaming up with Patrick Mahomes in Andy Reid’s offense.

There’s a lot more to Smith-Schuster’s deal than appears on the surface, however. Back in March when the former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout signed with the Chiefs, Joshua Brisco of Arrowhead Report speculated that the contract’s incentives could be of the “not likely to be earned” (NLTBE) variety. Those incentives are based on the prior season’s production and — in Smith-Schuster’s case — the numbers weren’t pretty. 

As such, Veach and company included five “likely to be earned” per-game active roster bonus incentives while also incorporating non-cumulative incentives for catches, yards, playing time, deep playoff victories and even making this season’s Pro Bowl. Many of the stat-related mechanisms will escalate in payout with increased performance on the field. Not only did the Chiefs secure a relatively young player at a major position of need, but they did so while maintaining financial flexibility in both the short term and long term. 

Smith-Schuster’s 2022 cap hit is a measly $2.89M, a figure that he may prove to be worth just a quarter or a third of the way through the season. His incentive-laden contract allows him to control most of what he’ll max out at in terms of compensation and if the team-oriented playoff bonuses kick in, the Chiefs will gladly fork over that additional $1M ($500,000 each for AFC Championship Game win and Super Bowl win). The nature of the deal at its most basic point is a great one, regardless of whether he hits those incentive triggers throughout the year. As-is, the Smith-Schuster contract is a testament to the creativity of Veach and the rest of the Chiefs’ front office — and it makes for a worthy listing among the best bargains in the league.

Travis Kelce Lands Outside Top 5 in Recent All-Time TE List

According to some, the Chiefs’ superstar TE is partially benefitting from his surroundings.

The NFL offseason is still in full swing, as there are weeks remaining until teams begin reporting to training camp to gear up for the 2022 season. With that temporary void comes plenty of player ranking lists, and a recent one had a Kansas City Chiefs franchise legend slotted a bit lower than many would agree with. 

In an effort to commemorate the retirement of former New England Patriots and Tampa Buccaneers superstar Rob Gronkowski, Cody Benjamin and Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports put together a list of the top 10 tight ends of all time. Travis Kelce found himself among those in the group, but he didn’t land in the top five. He checked in at No. 6, just ahead of the likes of Mike Ditka, Jason Witten, Ozzie Newsome and John Mackey. Here’s what the duo had to say in regards to justifying their pick: 

Jan 2, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

He’s had the benefit of playing in a pass-happy NFL, and not only that, but for one of the league’s pass-happiest teams and coaches. But he’s also delivered time and again as the most trusted outlet for MVP QB Patrick Mahomes. A model of both durability and production, he enters 2022 having topped 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards in six straight seasons, and his career 70.8 catch percentage proves how reliable his hands have been for an annual Super Bowl contender.

Ranking ahead of Kelce were five players (in ascending order): Shannon Sharpe, Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow, Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez. It’s hard to disagree with Gonzalez taking the top spot, as he currently holds the historic tight end records for receiving yards and receptions while trailing only Gates in touchdowns. Gates is a very strong candidate to rank in the top three, as is Gronkowski. Sharpe is fourth in both yards and receptions. Winslow’s case can be made more on performance relative to era than on all-time stats. With that said, Kelce is no slouch.

Of every tight end to play in the NFL, Kelce is already sixth in receiving yards. Contrary to his counterparts, though, he’s still an active player and has played in just 127 games (Gronkowski played in 143). If Kelce were to play in 16 of the Chiefs’ 17 games this year and log another 1,000-yard campaign, he’d surpass Gronkowski and Sharpe on that list. From a per-game standpoint — yardage-wise — no one has been more productive than Kelce. He averages 70.9 yards per game, with the next player being Gronkowski down at 64.9. With 38 catches this season, Kelce can crack the top five ever in that regard. With six touchdowns, he’ll be tied for sixth place with Vernon Davis. 

All of this is without considering the unicorn nature of Kelce, who has blossomed into a do-it-all offensive weapon over the years. Not only can he line up as a traditional tight end as needed, but his ability to block and be split out wide and still thrive just as much is unparalleled. Even in the modern NFL, Kelce is the best at what he does due to possessing elite athleticism, route-running prowess and football IQ. He’s the first tight end to ever put up six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and he’s done it all while lining up wherever head coach Andy Reid wants him to be.

Keeping Kelce out of the top three right now is justified. His counting stats simply don’t put him in favorable company compared to someone like Gonzalez, Gates or even a couple of others. On the other hand, the eye test shows a future Hall of Famer and a player who won’t slow down much, even as his 33rd birthday arrives in October. Kelce has four seasons left on his current contract, providing him with plenty of time to continue doing damage and climbing up the historical leaderboards. Sixth isn’t a terrible spot to be in now, but that won’t be the case for much longer.

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