Chiefs earn C+ offseason grade from PFF

Eric Eager breaks down Kansas City's offseason performance, including a detailed look at free agency and the NFL draft.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

Chiefs earn C+ offseason grade from PFF

The 2015 Kansas City Chiefs finished the season with the seventh-highest overall grade in the NFL (+126.9), with an 11-game winning streak ensuring the third winning season (out of three) for head coach Andy Reid since his arrival in 2013. 2015 free agent pick up Jeremy Maclin helped make up for the season-ending injury to star running back Jamaal Charles, giving the Chiefs one bright spot on an offense which struggled through much of the season (-72.3 total grade, 23rd in the league).

The defense, however, was one of the league’s most menacing, led by the constant pressure of edge rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and the steadiness of the inspirational safety Eric Berry. Kansas City’s special teams continue to impress, grading as the league’s third-best collective unit in 2015.

Below is a compilation of Kansas City’s 2016 offseason transactions, including free-agency moves and draft picks:

Overall grade: C+

Free agency and trades

Key additions: T Mitchell Schwartz (86.6), WR Rod Streater (66.9), Stevie Brown (NA)

Key retentions: ILB Derrick Johnson (87.4), OLB Tamba Hali (87.6), DE Jaye Howard (81.6), Frank Zombo (52.7)

Key losses: G Jeff Allen (85.5), G Ben Grubbs (70.9), CB Sean Smith (83.8), S/CB Husain Abdullah (80.2), DT Mike DeVito (74.2), QB Chase Daniel (59.3), S Tyvon Branch (78.2), T Donald Stephenson (34.5)

The Chiefs had a daunting task in free agency, with an offensive line that needed improvement and defensive contributors Berry, Hali, Johnson, Howard, DeVito, Abdullah and Branch all pending free agents. While they were able to acquire the sixth-highest graded tackle from 2015 (Schwartz) from Cleveland, the losses of Allen and Grubbs leave incumbents Zach Fulton and Larry Duvernay-Tardif as the presumptive starting guards. Neither Fulton nor Duvernay-Tardif were impressive in their 1,244 collective snaps last season, with backup option Jah Reid performing even worse playing tackle last season — his 92.9 pass blocking efficiency was 13th-worst among qualifying players.

Chiefs Offensive Line

On defense, Kansas City was able to retain long-time stars in Berry at safety, and Johnson and Hali at linebacker, as well as the emerging Howard at defensive end. Johnson played fantastically in his return from injury in 2015, allowing a league-low 0.56 yards per coverage snap and a QB rating of just a 68.1 on throws into his coverage. Hali bounced back from (by his standards) a subpar 2014 by finishing third among 3-4 outside linebackers in total pressures (72) and ninth in pass rush productivity (11.8). His presence in 2016 is even more crucial to the Chiefs defense, given the uncertainty surrounding Houston’s recovery from offseason knee surgery and the slow development of 2014 first-round pick Dee Ford (46.3) – his presumptive heir apparent. Howard, who was the highest-graded player along the Chief’s defensive line last season, helps offset the loss of DeVito, who along with Abdullah and Branch represented depth players for whom the Chiefs have relied heavily during Reid’s tenure, with a total of seven straight positively-graded seasons among them.

Chiefs Base Defense

The loss of Smith — the second-highest graded cornerback in coverage in 2014 and a nice complement to the much-heralded Marcus Peters (73.3) in 2015 — will certainly stress secondary depth. While nothing was done to address the position in free agency, Kansas City was aggressive at the position in the 2016 NFL draft.

2016 NFL draft

Round 2, pick 37 (from JAX via BLT): Chris Jones, DT, Miss. St.
Round 3, pick 74 (from TB): Keivarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame
Round 4, pick 105 (from SF): Parker Ehinger, G, Cincinnati
Round 4, pick 106 (from CHI via TB): Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota
Round 4, pick 126 Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Round 5, pick 162 (from SEA) Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
Round 5, pick 165 Tyreek Hill, RB, West Alabama
Round 6, pick 178 (from DAL via SF) D. J. White, CB, Georgia Tech
Round 6, pick 203 Dadi Lhomme Nicolas, OLB, Virginia Tech

Despite trading out of the first round entirely, the Chiefs ended up with a first-round talent in the profoundly-disruptive Jones, who earned the second-highest pass rush grade amongst college interior linemen a year ago, as well and the second-highest pass rush productivity. At 6-5 and 308 pounds, Jones was also respectable against the run, with a run stop percentage of 8.3 finishing 18th among interior linemen in 2015. The Chiefs will look to Jones to not only contribute in 2016, but provide much-needed insurance in the event that Dontari Poe (77.8) leaves via free agency after 2016.


The selections of Russell, Murray and White help in the effort to offset the loss of Smith. While Russell allowed the 13th-most yards per coverage snap among qualifying collegiate cornerbacks in 2015, he did fare better press coverage, which the Chiefs prefer to zone coverage. Murray was much stingier in coverage in 2015, allowing just 0.88 yards per coverage snap, with just a 63.1 QB rating in his coverage (with no touchdowns allowed). White, like Russell and Murray, doesn’t come close to Smith’s length (6-3’), but like Smith he was better in 2014 than he was in 2015. All three should compete with former starter Marcus Cooper and the recuperating Phillip Gaines for playing time alongside Peters.

Ehinger, a tackle at Cincinnati, figures to compete for playing time at guard in 2016. He received a positive grade as both a pass blocker and a run blocker in both 2014 and 2015 for the Bearcats.


After three winning seasons in a row and a remarkable finish to the 2015 season, the perennially second-place Kansas City Chiefs will look to dethrone the five-time AFC West (and defending Super Bowl) champion Denver Broncos in 2016. To keep pace with much-improved Oakland Raiders, Kansas City will need to re-assimilate the recovering Jamaal Charles by finding an offensive line combination that will be sturdier than a season ago. Offensive coordinator Doug Peterson moved on to coach the Eagles in the offseason, leaving longtime Reid assistant Brad Childress and former quarterback coach Matt Nagy to co-coordinate the offense.  They’ll look for a bounce-back year from tight end Travis Kelce (who went from the third-highest graded TE in 2014 to 55th a year ago), which should help the passing game, while a healthy D’Anthony Thomas promises to add some juice in the slot and bolster an already solid special teams group.

While defense figures to continue to be the Chiefs’ calling card, the loss of Smith is a bit troubling, as they were a much different team when he served a three-game suspension to open 2015. An improvement in the second year for Peters, coupled with a positive contribution from at least one of the cornerbacks from the draft, would go a long way to complement the steady pressure expected from Houston and Hali, and help the Chiefs achieve their goals in 2016.






| Analyst

Eric Eager joined Pro Football Focus in 2015. He is currently working on a number of analytics projects, primarily focused on the NFL.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Somewhat surprised the Chiefs weren’t more aggressive in upgrading the offense which really isn’t that strong. Andy Reid employed a low risk ball safety approach to good effect last season but that put a lot of pressure on the defense to keep games close.

    • Eric

      I agree. I’m curious to see if the defense can hold up this season without Smith – it struggled to do so last year when he was out. Thanks for reading.

  • Mayham Clyde

    Gaines will have the opportunity to start in Peters #2 cb slot. Sean Smith who at 10 million dollars would have been a terrible signing for KC. Our secondary is much improved from last year because of the talent and competition they brought in. Cooper and Fleming are both trying to hold on to a position at safety and they were our 3rd and 4th corners last years when Gaines got hurt. We are in a much better situation then last year then with Berry comin off Lymphoma and not even knowing if he would start and now #1 corner Peters with a year under his belt Also Ron Parker plays a lot of #2 and slot corner which gives Sorenson a chance to play and ask Emmanual Sanders if Sorenson hit hard.


    Fs, Ss:

  • JonGia

    Once again we are going into the season with a questionable at best O-line. Every off-season the take-away was our O-line sucks – it simply can not pass protect – and every off-season Dorsey throws garbage at the flaws or ignores it entirely. Yes, signing Schwartz was nice – Stephenson shouldn’t have been on the field at all – but Fisher is average and has only played better (and I mean going from bad to average) after putting Allen next to him. Do not be surprised to see him struggle badly, and KC considers switching him and Schwartz. Allen is gone – the best most versatile O-linemen we had – again – walks. Fulton is bad. LDT is almost as bad. Morse is OK, but spending a 2nd on a C (with Kush on the bench for 2-seasons before being cut) was dumb. Most teams get their C’s 4th or after.

    KC’s QB doesn’t take chances – which leads to holding the ball too long sometimes – which leads to sacks. And that could lead to an injured QB behind a line that pass blocks this poorly…The loss of Smith and Houston possibly being out for sometime means the offense must step up, but if they STILL can’t pass block – the D will be on the field MUCH more and it’s not what it was last season. They won’t win games like they did last year.

    • Brandon

      Have u ever considered that holding the ball to long results in over exaggerated passing statistics. Doesn’t that make sense? The longer Smith holding the ball the longer Fish and company has to hold their blocks. Thus making the Oline look worse than they are. As for the OL ya it looks bad. Schwartz in 2013 , Hudson in 2014 and Allen in 2015 were all our highest graded lineman during their departure. All have also had injury concerns (including Allen who has missed a lot of time). Schwartz out weighs them with a better PFF grade than any of those lineman ever graded out, and a sparkling clean injury report. Morse was great where he was out. He was the number one lineman via offensive get the best rookie lineman in all of the draft in the second is a steal. You get an athlete that preforms well under a rookie contract.

      All in all tho this was a ROUGH off season. Allen, Abdullah, Smith, Devito,Branch, and Grubbs were decent starters and depth players.

      I disagree with moving Schwartz. I truly believe moving Fisher around has hurt his growth. Via PFF last season he did great at RT during his starts. Then we switched him back to LT he struggled a Lil but then picked it up and graded out better than any player we had in the playoffs.don’t feel bad just imagine what Denver’s offensive line looks like. Okung was 60.9 Stephenson was 34.5, Mark Sanchez definitely has a bad PFF grade. We are not as bad off as you think. The question in 2016 isn’t our starters the question is will our back ups provide the same depth that the recently departed did. Can Brown, Gaines and Nelson fill in for Abdullah, Branch and Smith. That’s a bit of a stretch. Will Jones fill in for devito. Can Fulton Or LDT step up and preform at least at Grubbs sub par level of 70.9

    • larry mckinney

      Glass half empty Jon?