Earlier this week, NFL writer Gregg Rosenthal identified the top breakout candidates from each NFL team for the 2021 season—players he believes are set to take the single biggest leap forward in their development from each roster. When it comes to the K.C. Chiefs, Rosenthal believes second-year cornerback L’Jarius Sneed has the best chance of stepping into the spotlight.
While the Chiefs have a few candidates here who would make sense, most of Chiefs Kingdom would likely agree with Rosenthal’s take. Sneed is not only a dynamic talent, but the roster makeup of the team at present also makes this a likely scenario.
Sneed showed off a surprisingly pro-ready skill set last year beginning in Week 1 for the Chiefs and continuing through the postseason. The Chiefs grabbed Sneed at the tail end of the fourth round as a smaller school prospect with elite athleticism. However, Sneed never once looked overmatched in the pros. Instead, he showed himself as coachable as any prospect and absorbed anything the Chiefs gave him.
L’Jarius Sneed identified as Chiefs top breakout candidate.
By season’s end, Sneed was the highest graded corner in coverage from Pro Football Focus, and he’d learned how to lock down on receivers both outside and in the slot. The fact that he was able to accomplish all of that without a proper offseason (given the COVID-19 protocols) makes it even more amazing. Rosenthal adds:
The Chiefs are starving for some young players to develop as foundational pieces on defense, and Sneed’s natural ability to adjust to the ball in the air has him on a sneaky star track.
Beyond Sneed’s talents, the Chiefs roster is actually set up for Sneed’s breakout campaign. The roster itself is top-heavy, which makes it hard for any further offensive players to stand out too much when there are so many All-Pros already present on that side.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs have kept the activity at cornerback fairly minimal this offseason and even allowed Bashaud Breeland to walk in free agency to the Minnesota Vikings. That leaves space for young players to grow like Deandre Baker, but it also means a defense that will be in primetime many weeks next season is going to also need some players like Sneed to become household names.
Last season, Sneed had 48 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 7 passes deflected to go with 2 quarterback sacks in 9 games for the Chiefs.