Chris Jones nears top, Tyrann Mathieu out of top 10 in Pro Football Focus defensive position rankings


Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones motions for the crowd to get loud near the end of their NFL AFC championship football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On the defensive side of the football, the Kansas City Chiefs do not get as much national praise as their offense does.

That trend continues with Pro Football Focus’ rankings of each defensive position ahead of the 2021 regular season.

Only two positions on the top 32 lists featured Chiefs; interior defender and safety.

It may not be a surprise to many, but the players featured are defensive tackle Chris Jones and safety Tyrann Mathieu.

According to PFF, Jones’ pass-rushing grade last season was 92.8, putting him second overall.

Jones also ranks second in the NFL in both sacks (32.0) and quarterback hits (49) since 2018. His interior push has helped carry a pass-rushing unit that is still looking for additional consistent contributors following the addition of Frank Clark two offseasons ago.  

Pro Football Focus – Ben Linsey

Jones is only topped by Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, largely regarded as the best defensive and overall player in the NFL.

With the addition of Jarran Reed this offseason, the Chiefs have said that they may experiment with moving Jones around the defensive line to cause more havoc.

Top 10 Interior Defenders according to PFF

  1. Aaron Donald – Los Angeles Rams
  2. Chris Jones – Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Cameron Hayward – Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Grady Jarrett – Atlanta Falcons
  5. DeForest Buckner – Indianapolis Colts
  6. Fletcher Cox – Philadelphia Eagles
  7. Vita Vea – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  8. Kenny Clark – Green Bay Packers
  9. Leonard Williams – New York Giants
  10. Calais Campbell – Baltimore Ravens

In the defensive backfield, very few players have made an impact on a team like Mathieu has since joining the Chiefs ahead of the 2019 season.

Tyrann Mathieu is a complete and versatile player who has been a difference-maker within the Chiefs defense since he arrived there. He still has a knack for making big plays at the most critical times, as he came down with a pick in both the AFC championship and the Super Bowl, two of seven he had in total last season.

Pro Football Focus – Sam Monson

Mathieu is coming off a year with 6 interceptions which was first among safeties and third in the league behind New England’s J.C. Jackson (9) and Miami’s Xavien Howard (10).

Fans will wonder why “The Landlord” lands outside of the top 10 at No. 11, according to PFF, but Mathieu’s relentless pursuit to be the best should see him climb up the leaderboard throughout the season.

The Honey Badger’s defensive backfield teammate Juan Thornhill ranks 31st on the list after coming back from a torn ACL in his rookie season.

Thornhill’s second season was something of a letdown, given how good he was in his first, but a torn ACL in Week 17 of that debut season probably impacted his play in Year 2. Now he is a year removed from that injury, and a return to that PFF coverage grade of 78.0 or better this season would see Thornhill likely even climb higher on this list.

Pro Football Focus – Sam Monson

Top 10 Safeties according to PFF

  1. Justin Simmons – Denver Broncos
  2. Harrison Smith – Minnesota Vikings
  3. John Johnson III – Cleveland Browns
  4. Marcus Williams – New Orleans Saints
  5. Minkah Fitzpatrick – Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. Derwin James – Los Angeles Chargers
  7. Marcus Maye – New York Jets
  8. Jessie Bates III – Cincinnati Bengals
  9. Adrian Amos – Green Bay Packers
  10. Jamal Adams – Seattle Seahawks

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