While Kansas City has employed some of the league’s top interior anchors over the years in Mitch Morse and Rodney Hudson, the arrival of Patrick Mahomes saw the Chiefs “go cheap” at the position in former seventh-rounder Austin Reiter. While he proved sufficient as the nucleus of the Kansas City line for nearly three seasons, Mahomes’ newfound, youth-infused heartbeat of his front five has put to bed many of the long-lasting quarterback-center rapport narratives.
For as long as football dates back, two of the most important positions on the gridiron lie at center and the man taking snaps from him. From the alliance of Jim Saturday and Peyton Manning over the years to Tom Brady and David Andrews in recent memory, finding the perfect harmony of the two quarterbacks of an offense has been as important as any wideout or supremely talented ball-carrier a team could deploy. While teams have avoided placing young centers with veteran quarterbacks as the asking price from signal-callers with years of NFL experience is oftentimes too much for a first-year lineman, former Oklahoma standout Creed Humphrey has been everything and much, much more for Mahomes and the Chiefs’ journey back atop the AFC.
A front five that saw itself undergo a complete facelift with the arrivals of Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, and Trey Smith following an ugly (to be nice) performance in last year’s Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as important as each of their additions looked on paper, the selection of Humphrey has seen arguably the most immediate return on investment for the Chiefs since the selection of Mahomes back in 2017.
He’s been outstanding. How good? Let’s dive deeper.
Humphrey is football’s highest-graded rookie center since 2006 and is currently the highest-graded first-year player (91.4) regardless of position. While his marks also rank him in the top five among all offensive linemen, his presence within the interior has been two-fold as an extension of Mahomes’ thought-process on each and every snap.
An absolute force in space, Humphrey doesn’t wait to find his footing in a football game. From the opening snap, he’s looking to put you on your backside and let you know about it. With the power to overwhelm opponents in the run game and quick hands to work from the snap to engaging with 1-techs and blitzing linebackers before anchoring his sub-310-pound frame, his fundamental athleticism and high level of agility allow offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to do so many things schematically with Humphrey that is simply unmatched by many of the league’s top interior talents.
As good as he’s been, and as good as he was as the protectant for former Sooner gunslingers in Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts, Humphrey represented the fourth interior lineman to come off the board behind Alijah Vera-Tucker (Jets), Landon Dickerson (Eagles), and Josh Myers (Packers), providing an extra chip on the shoulder of the former all-everything out of college. But as we progress into the homestretch of the season and into the playoffs, where players ultimately came off the board in April sits second to the production they’ve enjoyed—or lacked—between the hashes in their first taste of the bigs. For Humphrey, a late second-round pick who slotted as high as No. 13 on the 2020 summer version of The Draft Network’s Top 100 players, to say the Chiefs struck gold on day two would be understating his true impact.
A player that looks to captain the Chiefs’ front for years to come, despite his massive snubbing as a Pro Bowl honoree this fall, ending the season with a Super Bowl ring on his finger when it’s all said and done, I'm sure, would do just fine as a fallback in his dominant debut campaign.