NFL Rumors: What Chiefs Saw in Rookie Starter That No Other Team Did

Getty Offensive guard Trey Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs lines up against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of the NFL preseason game at State Farm Stadium on August 20, 2021.

One of the biggest storylines of the summer in Kansas City has been the development of the Chiefs’ offensive line. The team has five new starters along the unit, three of which are first-year players.

One of the rookies along the starting offensive line, starting right guard Trey Smith, has earned a lot of attention and praise this summer for making such a tremendous jump based on where he was drafted in April. And one NFL insider provided insight this week into why Kansas City has one of the biggest steals of the 2021 NFL draft on its roster in Smith.

Smith’s Blood Clot Issue Overlooked

The MMQB’s Albert Breer wrote about Smith — who was drafted in the sixth round this April by the Chiefs — and explained how Kansas City saw something in Smith that no other team in the NFL did, which lead to the defending AFC champions getting a first or second-round talent on day three of the draft.

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“And while there are good stories involving Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, rookie center Creed Humphrey and virtual rookie Lucas Niang (a 2020 third-rounder who opted out of last season), sixth-round pick Trey Smith is one you’re going to want to watch closely,” Breer wrote. “Smith’s illness due to blood clots has been well-documented and plays into why he’s quickly become an NFL starter.

“As the Chiefs saw it, the Tennessee product’s ’19 tape was that of a top-50 or so prospect. His ’20 tape wasn’t nearly as good, but, as Kansas City dug into his file, the team found that was largely a result of his inability to practice last year, resulting from medication he was taking for the blood clots. And if he was able to come off the medication and practice in ’21, they figured he could become the first- or second-round player they thought he was before, which is exactly how things have played out. On top of that, by all accounts, Smith is a first-class kid, which stands as a nice bonus to the fact that he’s playing like the kind of prospect he’s been when healthy.”

Chiefs Offensive Line Revamped

The first big move this offseason for the Chiefs was signing former New England Patriots All-Pro guard Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80 million deal. Then in April, they made a big trade to acquire tackle Orlando Brown Jr. Fast forward to September, and three rookies are in line to be starters along the offensive line in Week 1. That’s unusual, to say the least. Teams may typically experience a different face or two in the starting unit over the course of one offseason. But four new faces, and another (Lucas Niang, a 2020 rookie opt-out) that didn’t touch the football field in 2020, is rare.

However, despite not having a ton of chemistry heading into the preseason, the new-look unit, specifically, the rookies, shined.

On a total of 44 pass-blocking snaps this preseason, rookie second-round pick, center Creed 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% of the team’s offensive snaps during the preseason, according to PFF. That goes to show that, despite having three players that have played a total of zero regular season snaps heading into the 2021 season, there shouldn’t be pessimism from those who think a lack of experience will negatively impact what this revamped offensive line in Kansas City can do.

The Chiefs will get their first crack at proving the naysayers wrong in the regular-season opener when they face the Cleveland Browns, who have one of the top defensive fronts in the NFL which is lead by two former first overall picks in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. It is only then that we will see if Kansas City’s starting offensive line play during the preseason was a mirage or something that’s here to stay.


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