Due to some recent additions, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker room has the potential to be one of the best in the entire NFL in the near future.
The headliners among the linebackers include 2021 second-round pick Nick Bolton, who was the Mackie Hill Rookie of the Year Award winner last season in Kansas City. Then the Chiefs drafted Leo Chanel in the fourth round this year, and he’s one of the most athletic prospects to ever come into the league from the linebacker position based on his relative athletic score (9.99).
However, a player that the Chiefs drafted at the linebacker position before either of those players is being considered the “most underrated” player on Kansas City’s entire roster.
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Monson: Gay is KC’s ‘Most Underrated’
Sam Monson of PFF named each NFL team’s “most underrated” player heading into the 2022 season, and selected third-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr. as Kansas City’s nomination.
“The Chiefs took some time to adjust their defensive personnel last season and pivot away from underperforming players toward younger, more capable ones,” Monson wrote on May 12. “Nick Bolton drew immediate praise as a rookie, but Gay has found it tougher to get his share of the limelight. His play hasn’t always been consistent, but he has excellent range and movement skills and allowed a solid 87.3 passer rating when targeted in 2021, some 20 points lower than the average pass thrown into a linebacker’s coverage.”
Putting the PFF grading aside, Gay recorded a career-high 48 combined tackles, and had four passes defensed and two interceptions during the 2021 season, according to Pro Football Reference. Gay bested his rookie stat line despite playing in four fewer games than he did during his rookie season (16), although he did play a much higher percentage of defensive snaps in 2021 (57%) than he did in 2020 (25%).
Veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens being cut this offseason will leave more opportunity on the table for the likes of Gay and Bolton, who earned a high snap count than Gay on defense during the 2021 season (60%), per Pro Football Reference. However, Gay will also have to compete with Chanel for more opportunities, as Bolton will likely wear the green dot on defense for Kansas City for at least 2022. That puts Bolton in line for the most snaps among the linebackers next season.
Twitter Reacts to Gay as “Most Underrated”
Twitter users reacted to Gay being named Kansas City’s “most underrated” player.
“Maybe to the rest of the league, #ChiefsKingdom knows what he can do. He’s going to shine this year,” one user wrote.
“willie and bolton will be the best LB duo in the league in 2 years,” one Twitter user wrote.
“…love it…the ‘cagey veteran’ of the defense,” another user wrote.
“Adding chenal is going to make gay so explosive,” another user wrote.