For Patrick Mahomes the floor is already higher than for anyone else in the National Football League. Given that he won a league MVP and led the KC Chiefs to back-to-back Super Bowls, expectations for Mahomes are sky high in just one season. Anything less than a Pro Bowl-level production line will be viewed as a disappointment.
So it might sound strange to think that Mahomes could actually take his game to even greater heights in 2021.
We all know Mahomes produced on the run last year, working behind an often leaky line that had to contend with more injuries upfront than any season recently. To take things even further, check out the following table by Zach Drapkin:
This table, of course, tells us what we already know about Mahomes. One look makes it clear that he is way ahead of the others and that there are hardly any surprises here as to which quarterbacks are productive and which are not.
However, another look at the EPA stats (expected points added) shows how effective Mahomes can be when actually given time to play. Nobody in the NFL is more dangerous when it comes to throwing the ball, but the past year has clearly been a challenging year for Mahomes in this category. Mahomes often had to go on the run to extend the games and give the receivers time to open up, and the Chiefs went to work this off-season to make sure this would never happen again.
The Chiefs’ offensive line was completely rebuilt this offseason with exactly this idea in mind: protecting Mahomes and enabling his natural talents to make the difference in the game.
At the start of the off-season, the Chiefs were unwilling to deal with any further questions or health concerns for another season. Mitchell Schwartz could have recovered from back pain after so long, but the Chiefs let him go. The same goes for Eric Fisher’s Achilles injury. just like that, the two Mahomes bookends would be new in ’21.
Fortunately, with the trade for Orlando Brown, Jr., the Chiefs got at least one home run on the left. The cost was significant in terms of first round selection, but it has a young pro bowler in the position with likely long term extension. On the other hand, with Lucas Niang, a bright young talent competes against a solid veteran like Mike Remmers.
Along the interior, which had to be significantly upgraded without injuries, the chiefs invested heavily in the design and the free agency. Joe Thuney was signed to a big money deal to keep the New England Patriots on the left and Creed Humphrey was brought into the center. Kyle Long was a key player, but that was the position where Trey Smith arrived on draft and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif returned after a year off.
The Chiefs are enough across the board to even consider how they could outsource some of this competition to get future draft assets in trading with other teams in need. The depth goes triple deep in some positions and there is plenty of versatility to withstand the rigors of a 17-game season and the postseason.
Last year Mahomes worked behind multiple backups and sometimes even behind some free agents who were signed at the last minute and forced into very meaningful reruns. For the coming season, he’s sure to be working in every single location behind a legitimate top tier line in the NFL. In a game limited to milliseconds, this revamped line will give Mahomes the much-needed extra time, which could mean we see more fireworks than ever from the Chiefs.