The Kansas City Chiefs made a ton of improvements this offseason, putting them in line to be one of the best teams in the NFL once again during the 2021 season. But that hasn’t stopped one ESPN expert from disrespecting them in his first power rankings of the 2021 regular season by putting the defending AFC champions behind another AFC team that they beat during the playoffs earlier this year — the Cleveland Browns.
Browns (2) Ranked Ahead of Chiefs (4)
ESPN writer and analyst Mike Clay dished out his first power rankings of the 2021 season, leaving Chiefs Kingdom scratching their heads at Clay’s decision to rank Kansas City as the fourth-best team in the league and Cleveland as the second-best team in the league, just behind the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
ALL the latest Chiefs news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Chiefs newsletter here!
Here is what Clay wrote about the Chiefs, which explains his reasoning behind putting Kansas City behind the Bucs, Browns, and Packers, respectively:
“With Patrick Mahomes under center and Andy Reid calling the shots, the defending AFC champions are primed for a run at their third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl,” Clay explained. “The path won’t be without roadblocks, however. The offseason saw a near-complete offensive line overhaul — including the additions of stars Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney — but also a move to three projected starters with a combined zero regular-season snaps.
“Depth at the offensive skill positions is a concern, and the defense is arguably bottom 10 in the league on paper. The team finished 22nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last season and didn’t improve much on paper during the offseason.”
Meanwhile, this is what Clay wrote about Cleveland:
“The Browns were one of the league’s breakout teams last season and — after a strong offseason — I suspect they’ll make another big leap in 2021,” Clay wrote. “I wrote at length about why I feel the Browns are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but, in a nutshell, this is a well-coached team with an ascending quarterback, elite offensive line and a defense that was transformed from a weakness to a strength after an aggressive offseason.
“Top to bottom, the Browns have arguably the AFC’s best roster on paper, which is saying a lot with the Ravens, Chiefs and Bills also in the conference.”
The Disrespect is Real
Clay’s concerns regarding the Chiefs’ roster are a bit unmerited. Yes, the Chiefs have three projected players along the offensive line with zero NFL snaps to date in rookies Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, and 2020 opt-out Lucas Niang. But the preseason will tell you that the lack of career snaps shouldn’t undermine the talent those three players have. For example, during the preseason on a total of 44 pass-blocking snaps, Humphrey allowed zero pressures, per PFF. Both Humphrey and Smith also finished top 10 among rookie offensive linemen in overall offensive grade for players that played a minimum of 20 percent of the team’s offensive snaps during the preseason, according to PFF.
The addition of defensive tackle Jarran Reed this offseason, the ability of Chris Jones to now play as an edge rusher, improvement from their depth players, and adding to it through the draft has Kansas City’s defensive line taking a leap forward in 2021. Add in that rookie second-round pick, linebacker Nick Bolton has impressed this summer, along with the veteran leadership in the secondary, and the Chiefs’ defense should be at least a top 20 defense this season, if not better.
Ultimately, Kansas City’s regular-season opener against the Browns at Arrowhead Stadium will give a glimpse into how accurate Clay’s power rankings are. But at the moment, they seem a bit farfetched.
- Chiefs Journeyman Among Best Feel-Good Stories on NFL Cutdown Day
- Chiefs Sign Former Chargers Draft Pick to Practice Squad: Report
- Talented Free Agent Wide Receiver ‘Hoping’ to Play for Chiefs