It's an established fact at this point that the Kansas City Chiefs came away from the 2021 NFL Draft with a tremendous haul of talent, and according to the folks at NFL.com, it was the top class in the league.
League analysts Nick Shook and Gennaro Filice ranked every rookie class from best to worst this week, assigning the Chiefs the No. 1 overall spot as the only team to earn an "A" grade.
"Kansas City's grade is all about maximizing picks," Shook wrote. "The Chiefs sent their first-round pick in 2021 and other selections to Baltimore to acquire left tackle Orlando Brown (assets well spent), then nailed their second-round pick by choosing linebacker Nick Bolton, a Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team selection who graded out as the 13th-best linebacker in the league, per Pro Football Focus. Kansas City followed that up by finding its center of the future in Creed Humphrey, who began his NFL career by performing better than any other player at the position, per PFF. He also earned PFWA All-Rookie honors."
Indeed, Bolton and Humphrey were nothing short of outstanding this past season. Bolton – who racked up the most tackles (112) for any rookie in franchise history – was one of only three players last season to record at least 110 tackles and 10 tackles-for-loss, becoming just the ninth rookie to hit each of those marks since 2000. Humphrey, meanwhile, earned the top PFF grade for any center – regardless of rookie status – since 2017.
It's for those reasons that both players went significantly higher in ESPN’s recent “re-draft” of the 2021 class than where Kansas City actually selected them, with Humphrey going at No. 20 overall (as opposed to pick No. 63) and Bolton going at pick No. 44 (instead of No. 58).
The Chiefs' success last spring went beyond just those picks, however, as Shook continued to explain.
"Tight end Noah Gray saw some playing time at tight end behind Travis Kelce and Blake Bell while also playing special teams regularly," Shook wrote. "And, finally, a premier Day 3 find came in the form of offensive guard Trey Smith, who teamed with Humphrey and Joe Thuney to make an excellent interior trio. Smith also earned PFWA All-Rookie recognition and will be an important part of Kansas City's offensive line for years to come."
As Shook wrote, Smith was perhaps the steal of the entire draft. He lined up at right guard for 100 percent of the Chiefs' offensive snaps in 2021, earning the 12th best PFF grade among all guards with at least 1,000 snaps. Additionally, when compared to other rookies, only Humphrey and first-round picks Rashawn Slater and Penei Sewell earned a better grade.
His performance prompted the aforementioned "re-draft" to select Smith with the No. 34 overall pick, which was 192 selections ahead of where Kansas City got him.
Each of those players contributed to a sixth-straight division title and another trip to the AFC Championship Game last season, and there's still room for the class to be even better. Edge rusher Joshua Kaindoh showed promise at times last season despite spending the bulk of the campaign on Injured Reserve, and wide receiver Cornell Powell – who spent last season on Kansas City's practice squad – will have another chance to show what he can do this offseason.
Altogether, it has the makings of a special class that should have a lasting impact on the Chiefs' success moving forward.
For the rest of the rankings, click here.