While the 2016 season didn’t end the way the Kansas City Chiefs had hoped, they still should consider the year a success. They made the playoffs in despite playing in the toughest division in football. A division they swept none the less. New faces to the team played a very big role in their success. There were many players this season that exceeded expectations, here’s a look at some of them.
Kansas City Chiefs 2016 Standout Performers
Defensive End: Chris Jones
The Chiefs first pick in the 2016 NFL draft exceeded everyone’s expectations this season. While many expected Chris Jones to play the nose tackle position, he ended up playing defensive end due to the injuries of Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard. It’s now clear Jones needs to stay at the defensive end position.
Chris Jones is one of the strongest players in the league. He has the ability to manhandle offensive linemen in a way that is rarely seen. He is a fantastic pass rusher, much in part to his vast repertoire of moves. Many rookies come in to the league with only one maybe two pass rushing moves. Jones however is already proficient in five or six. Of course his raw strength benefits his push-pull, club, rip, and bull rush moves. He can also utilize his agility with a decent spin move. Despite being a rookie, he looked to be the best defensive lineman on the entire team this season.
Right Tackle: Mitchell Schwartz
It was no secret the Kansas City Chiefs needed help on their offensive line after the 2015 season. Jah Reid had an abysmal season other than his one solid performance against the Houston Texans. As a result John Dorsey went out and signed the best right tackle on the market in Mitchell Schwartz. The then 26 year old tackle was given a five year $33,000,000 contract.
Schwartz lived up to his sizable contract this season as he proved to be a core player to build around on the offensive line. He proved to be a stellar run blocker as well as providing solid protection for Alex Smith in the passing game. Conventional wisdom says the left tackle is the position that needs to be the premier pass protector, but this does not necessarily hold true in the AFC West. The Chiefs division is filled with elite pass rushing defenses which increases the need for a great offensive line. The protection provided by Schwartz no doubt was a key component to the Chiefs ability to negate their division rivals pass rush. When you pair him with a improving Mitch Morse and a promising guard in Parker Ehinger, you have the makings of a solid line for years to come.
Wide Receiver: Tyreek Hill
Tyreek Hill may have answered the Chiefs’ question at the wide receiver position. The fifth round pick was expected to be more of a return man and gadget player. He turned out to be a stellar kick returner as well, piling up three special teams touchdowns. What wasn’t expected, however, was his ability to be a legitimate option opposite of Jeremy Maclin.
Hill turned out to be the teams second leading receiver behind Travis Kelce with 593 receiving yards and led the team in touchdowns with six. While everyone was aware of Tyreek Hill’s speed, many were caught off guard by his strong hands and ability to come down with 50/50 balls. His skill set is far more complete than critics originally believed. The ability Hill has to stop on a dime cannot be overstated either. Running crisp routes relies so heavily on the ability to cut sharply and suddenly. With Hill’s exceptional speed you might expect it to be harder for him to come to a sudden stop, but he demonstrated otherwise this season. Tyreek Hill drew comparison to Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin at first, but it looks like Hill may be more than just a gadget player like Austin.
Outside Linebacker: Dee Ford
Dee Ford has been criticized rather harshly since being drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs. In his first two seasons he struggled to adjust to the NFL game. He was undersized and only had one pass rushing move. In college you can get by speed rushing your way around the edge every down, but it doesn’t work in the NFL. Ford found himself being pushed up-field and run out of the play due to his lack of strength and inability to properly lean low enough. Things changed this season.
Ford came into the 2016 season bigger and stronger, as well as developing a second pass rushing move. This certainly made a difference as he finished the season with ten sacks. He started off the season extremely hot, but started to miss some action due to injury. After coming back, he continued to get solid pressure on the quarterback, but didn’t rack up stats similar to the ones before his injury. It was a coming out year for Ford in 2016, however, as he finally looks to be developing into the player the Chiefs hoped he would be.
To have these players come in and make an impact the way they did this season is a testament to John Dorsey’s scouting ability. When you are able to hit on players in the draft the way he has and have his big free agent signings pay off as they did with Schwartz, it’s no surprise Kansas City has are Super Bowl contenders.