Thanks, in part, to an offseason strategy centered around retaining in-house talent, Kansas City may very well have the most roster continuity in the league when Week 1 rolls around. While the Chiefs have set themselves up to return as many as 20 of 22 of their 2019 starters, there are still training camp competitions to be had and roster cuts to be made later this summer.
Even with months to go until the games count, Pro Football Focus has made an early attempt to project the starting lineups for all 32 teams. Here are the Chiefs’ starting 22 according to PFF.
2020 Offensive Projected Starters
Despite 133 total yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV victory, seventh-year RB Damien Williams takes a back seat to 2020 first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire in PFF’s estimation. Considering the rookie runner’s game has drawn early comparisons to Brian Westbrook and Darren Sproles, it might not be long until we see Edwards-Helaire deployed as Andy Reid’s new feature weapon.
The second notable change involves second-year WR Mecole Hardman sliding into the No. 3 receiver slot over Demarcus Robinson, who saw twice as many starts (10) in 2019 than the second-round pick (5). After a Pro Bowl rookie campaign that included 538 receiving yards, six touchdowns and a dazzling 104-yard kickoff return, Hardman is on many radars as an even bigger breakout candidate heading into next season.
Teammate Tyreek Hill, who was on pace for a third consecutive 1,000-yard season before missing a month of action early in 2019, recently told reporters that he believes Hardman is “definitely a 1,000-yard receiver every year with the targets.”
2020 Defensive Projected Starters
The defensive side of the ball brings the biggest surprise of the group: second-round pick Willie Gay Jr. unseating Damien Wilson as the starting linebacker opposite Anthony Hitchens. While the linebacker corps was among Kansas City’s most glaring weaknesses a season ago, Wilson started every game in his first season with the Chiefs, posting a career-best 81 total tackles and 1.5 sacks during the regular season.
PFF notes that Gay’s coverage ability could make him an immediate upgrade over either of the established veterans.
Wilson and Hitchens (their two leaders in snaps last season) maxed out at a 50.4 overall grade (Wilson). There is no reason that Gay shouldn’t immediately become the best linebacker on that defense with his freakish athleticism and natural instincts he showed in coverage at Mississippi State, albeit in a small sample.
Another rookie to keep an eye on in Kansas City is fourth-rounder L’Jarius Sneed, who could very well find himself on a fast track to starting snaps should veteran CB Bashaud Breeland start the season under suspension. The 28-year-old Breeland, who signed a new 1-year, $4.5 million deal with the team on April 9, was arrested in his home state of South Carolina less than three weeks later and now faces five charges including resisting arrest and possession of an open container.
NFL Network’s Tom Peliserro reported on April 29 that the seventh-year cornerback was already facing a four-game suspension for a separate violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy prior to the arrest.