3. Juan Thornhill
One of the biggest weaknesses the Chiefs needed to address last offseason was at the free safety position. The middle of the field had been a massive weakness in general since the release of Derrick Johnson, and the prime of Ron Parker and Eric Berry. Veach doubled down on the safety positions bringing in Virginia safety Juan Thornhill to take the free safety role and Mathieu to take over as the strong safety.
Thornhill played primarily as a single high safety in Spagnuolo’s defense, but he saw plenty of time coming down to man the slot as well. Even early in the regular season, Thornhill proved to be an upgrade over the top. As the season progressed, his confidence grew, and the defense had a playmaker on the back end.
Starting all 16 games, Thornhill finished his rookie year with 58 tackles, 3 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), and 5 pass breakups. He saw the most defensive snaps for the Chiefs outside of Mathieu and cornerback Charvarius Ward. His season was cut short when he suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter of the Week 17 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
A large part of the defensive success in 2019 was attributed to Thornhill. He was named to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie team. Opposing quarterbacks combined for a 40.9 passer rating when attacking Kansas City’s defense 20 or more yards downfield ranking third in the NFL behind the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. Thornhill will be returning from a late-season ACL, but all news points to him being ready by training camp. There’s plenty to be excited about with him in year two.