The Kansas City Chiefs just wrapped a franchise-best 14-2 season. That record was good for first place in the AFC and gave them a first-round bye this weekend as the 2021 playoffs began.
The Chiefs achieved all of this while having to defend their Super Bowl title, getting everyone’s best shot week-in and week-out.
There were some spectacular individual efforts that deserve to be highlighted from the regular season. Since the Chiefs won’t be entertaining us this weekend, let’s hand out some awards to the top performers from the Chiefs' 2020 regular season.
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
There’s no doubt about this one. The quarterback, team captain and all-around swell individual continues to build his ever-growing legacy. He has been a top-three NFL MVP candidate all season, so it was a no-brainer to give Mahomes this award. He finished the 2020 season as the first quarterback in NFL history to have over 5,000 total yards (4,740 passing yards, 308 rushing yards), 40 total touchdowns (38 passing, two rushing) and fewer than seven turnovers (six interceptions, zero fumbles lost).
Mahomes racked up all of those stats while still being able to rest during the last game of the season, as the Chiefs locked up their first-round bye with a win in Week 16. This guy continues to impress not just Chiefs Kingdom but everyone on the national scene as well. I predict that we will get to see Mahomes hold up another Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl MVP in February as well.
Co-Offensive Players of the Year: Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill
Travis Kelce just wrapped up one of the best individual tight end seasons in NFL history. He broke the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,416 yards and recorded 11 touchdowns as well. Whenever the Chiefs needed a big first down, Kelce was there. If there was any doubt before this season, he cemented his status as a future Hall-of-Famer this season.
While Tyreek Hill may not have set any records this season, his production may have been just as insane as Kelce’s. Finishing the season with 1,276 yards receiving, 123 yards rushing and 17 total touchdowns (15 receiving, two rushing), it seems like Hill’s season may be getting somewhat overlooked. He even led the league in yards per touch, gaining an impressive 14 yards on average every time he touched the ball. Like Mahomes, all of the production for both of these guys came in just 15 games, as the starters rested in Week 17. Both first-team AP All-Pros for 2020, Kelce and Hill are an incredible duo.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu
Since arriving on the scene in Kansas City, Tyrann Mathieu has taken his role as team captain very seriously. Helping change the culture on defense was a big part of the reason the Chiefs brought the Honey Badger to Kansas City, and his 2020 season was a nice continuation of the 2019 campaign. He finished the season with a team-best nine passes defended and six interceptions including one pick-six. Unlike last season, Mathieu was selected to the Pro Bowl this year and is a first-team AP All-Pro safety as well.
Honorable mention: Daniel Sorenson
This guy has taken a lot of heat from Chiefs fans over the years, and this season was his best yet. He led the team in total tackles (91) and his solo tackle total (68) was 24 better than the next-closest Chief. He added three interceptions and a pick-six to his resume as well. Chiefs fans should be ready to see more big plays from “Dirty Dan” during this playoff run.
Comeback Player of the Year: Juan Thornhill
When Juan Thornhill went down with an ACL injury in Week 17 last season, just before the Chiefs' Super Bowl run, Chiefs fans were very upset. Thornhill had a breakout rookie campaign and it looked like he and Mathieu could be forming the top safety duo in the league. After a strange offseason filled with COVID-19 protocols and no preseason games to test his knee, Thornhill was thrown into the fire. He played in every regular-season game, and while his stats didn’t jump off the page this year, he got out there and competed. My prediction is Thornhill will bounce back in the production category in year three and the Chiefs' defense will be better off for it.
Most Improved Player: Nick Allegretti
Thrust into a starting role after a series of injuries decimated the Chiefs' offensive line, Allegretti made the most of his newfound opportunities in 2020. Of the 693 offensive snaps played this season, he only allowed one sack. He showed enough to give himself the opportunity to be a part of the offensive line moving forward and that is why he deserves this award.
Rookie of the Year: L’Jarius Sneed
If you haven’t heard, I’m not sure where you’ve been. There is a need for Sneed in Kansas City. The Chiefs found a Swiss Army knife secondary piece in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Sneed started the season as a starting cornerback on the outside and had an interception in his first two games before suffering a fractured collarbone while going for his third interception in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. Despite the injury, Sneed was able to return to game action after the Chiefs’ bye in Week 11 in a winning effort against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Sneed was asked to play more in the slot after coming off the injured reserve and has excelled in the role. Sneed, who also played safety in college at Louisiana Tech, could be cut from a similar cloth as Mathieu. To borrow a phrase from head coach Andy Reid, "that would be a beautiful thing."
Honorable mentions: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tershawn Wharton
Clyde Edwards-Helaire produced 803 yards rushing, 4.4 yards per attempt and four rushing touchdowns to go along with 297 yards receiving and a receiving touchdown in his rookie season. It's not a bad debut season to end up with 1,100 total yards and five touchdowns while missing a few games at the end of the year due to injury.
Tershawn Wharton was an undrafted free-agent rookie who came out of nowhere to play all 16 games for Kansas City. He ended up with two sacks, five tackles for loss and multiple quarterback pressures. He looks like a natural fit on this defensive line and could wreak havoc with Chris Jones over the next three to four seasons as he grows into his role on the team and becomes more comfortable in the league.
Who would you give these awards to? You’ll have time to think it over while enjoying this wild card weekend stress-free. Then the time begins to prepare your hearts and minds for the build-up leading to the divisional round. The Kansas City Chiefs will be hosting another playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium and your team MVP will be ready to lead the way and conquer whichever team they end up playing.