By Jack Johnson, Sports Radio 810 contributor
When Super Bowl LV concluded, general manager Brett Veach had a tough decision to
make. Should he rely on a turnaround from injured players such as Mitchell Schwartz
and Eric Fisher? Or, should he scrap the entire thing? Well, Veach chose the latter and
here we are with an entire new group blocking for Patrick Mahomes. Without further
ado, here’s a projection as to who will be starting on the line in 2021.
1. LT — Orlando Brown Jr, 25, Oklahoma
The Chiefs opened the league’s eyes when they pulled off a deal that brought Brown to
Kansas City from Baltimore. Brown, the son of a former nine-year veteran in the NFL, is
only 25 years old and already has two Pro Bowls to his name. Without question, the
imposing 6-foot-8, 345-pound figure will be anchoring the left side of Kansas City’s
offensive line. Not just for this season, but for the future. Brown is only under contract
for 2021 and is expected to have a hefty price tag, but with his talent at a young age, it’s
a price worth taking on.
2. LG — Joe Thuney, 28, North Carolina State
Before the Brown Jr. news broke, Thuney was one of the biggest offseason acquisitions
in the NFL. When the Chiefs inked Thuney to a 5-year, $80 million deal back in March,
there was one word that came to mind when dissecting why he was worth that amount.
Durability. Over his five-year career in New England, Thuney started in all 80 games he
played in and has yet to miss a single game in the NFL. On top of that, Thuney is
excellent in pass-blocking — allowing just three sacks since the start of the 2018
season. His flexibility also allows him to shift around on the interior.
3. C — Creed Humphrey, 22, Oklahoma
After the first two, this is where the projections become sticky. Humphrey, who was
drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, makes a lot of sense to be snapping
the ball to Mahomes this season. However, Kansas City has a veteran option in Austin
Blythe, who signed a one-year deal in March. Blythe has started in 49 of the 71 games
he’s appeared in. On the other hand, if this restructuring of the offensive line has taught
us anything, it’s that the Chiefs want to get younger and more durable. Humphrey fits
the bill, as he just turned 22 in June and played in 37 collegiate games in three
seasons. Additionally, Humphrey didn’t allow a single sack in 1,297 pass-blocking
4. RG — Trey Smith, 22, Tennessee
This is the biggest wild card on the offensive line. Before Kyle Long went down with a
serious leg injury, Smith was viewed as an outsider looking in for the starting job.
However, he’s now in a position battle with Laurent-Duvernay Tardiff, who opted out of
last season. Smith is someone that Kansas City is extremely high on, according to
ESPN’s Louis Riddick. If it wasn’t for blood clots in his lungs that forced him to miss time
in college, the 22-year-old wouldn’t have been available for Veach so late in the draft.
While at Tennessee, Smith was a Second-Team All-American and earned All-SEC
First-Team in 2020.
5. RT — Lucas Niang, 22, TCU
Not one, not two, but THREE rookies starting on the offensive line? Seems unlikely.
However, Niang isn’t a true rookie. The TCU Horned Frog opted out of last season due
to COVID-19, but returns as a favorite to win the starting job. After all, there’s a reason
Veach didn’t re-sign Schwartz in the offseason. The other option is Mike Remmers, who
the team brought back on a one-year deal. Despite being an excellent depth piece,
Remmers was one of the starters in the Super Bowl meltdown, and in all honesty, that’s
an image that’s tough to shake. From a logical standpoint, having Niang sit the bench
for two consecutive seasons wouldn’t make too much sense. Remmers is there if it
doesn’t work out, but Niang has an upside that’s worth gambling on.