In Pro Football Focus' NFL Roster Power Rankings, the Kansas City Chiefs came in at number four. How did the defending Super Bowl champions end up off the medal stand, and where do they need to improve? PFF broke it down.
First, the strengths. As a team that lost very few elements of its title-winning roster, there are plenty of places where the Chiefs should feel stable, but PFF notes that the clearest strength is the most obvious one:
Biggest strength: The Chiefs have the best quarterback in the NFL, and I don't think there are many people out there arguing that point. It's the out-of-structure plays that capture the headlines for Patrick Mahomes. He is, of course, very good at those, as his 24 big-time throws (eight more than any other quarterback) outside the pocket since 2018 will attest, but he also does the little things well. From manipulating defenders with his eyes to making the right reads from a clean pocket, there isn't much to nitpick with his game. That makes the Chiefs one of the favorites to defend their Super Bowl title in 2020.
This breakdown is accurate all the way through. Mahomes' highlight plays aren't even always his best ones. While those eye-popping scrambling throws deserve to be seen in primetime, Mahomes does everything else impossibly well. (Sorry to the few people who may not agree.)
Biggest weakness: Kansas City did just win the Super Bowl with this cast of cornerbacks (plus Kendall Fuller, who left for Washington in free agency), but that doesn't make it any more of a strength. Bashaud Breeland did a decent job of limiting production with just 29 receptions allowed on the season, but his coverage grade of 51.3 indicates that it came with a fair amount of luck. The reception total also doesn't consider his 12 penalties on the season — tied for most at the cornerback position. A potential suspension following an offseason arrest for Breeland makes that starting spot even shakier.
No arguments here. As the Chiefs show that they intend to double-down on Charvarius Ward, the rest of the position still leaves me nervous. Even with the chance that fourth-round pick L'Jarius Sneed gets on the field early, we'll be spending a lot of our offseason talking about the corners.
X factor for 2020: The linebacking corps has been a problem for the Chiefs, but 2020 second-round pick Willie Gay Jr. adds an immediate dose of athleticism and coverage ability to the unit. Beside blowing the athletic testing out of the water at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Gay has shown instincts in coverage in his limited action at Mississippi State; his 93.9 coverage grade on 294 career coverage snaps in college speaks to that. He could provide a nice spark to the defense as a rookie.
Gay's coverage abilities (and PFF's grading of it) is one of the greatest reasons for optimism for the defense to take another step forward. Obviously, if the Chris Jones contract situation meets an unpleasant end, the defense will have another battle to fight. But if everything else holds, Gay could help launch Steve Spagnuolo's defense up another notch.