In the last decade, the Chiefs have employed some of the NFL’s better overall centers with both Rodney Hudson and Mitch Morse on the books as former second-round picks. Both players were Pro Bowl-caliber anchors in the middle of the Chiefs’ offensive line for years, giving the team a reliable heart of the offensive front for consecutive four-year stretches.
But in the last couple of years, which comprises most of Patrick Mahomes‘ tenure at quarterback, the Chiefs went cheap at the position out of necessity due to costs at other positions. Austin Reiter claimed the majority of starts in that time and did a respectable job, but it’s also telling that Reiter has found minimal playing time for two teams in 2021 before taking over a starting role for Miami due to injuries.
The Kansas City Chiefs struck gold with their selection of center Creed Humphrey in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
When the Chiefs grabbed Humphrey, it was after a few interior linemen had already been taken, including Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round and Landon Dickerson and Josh Myers in the second. The Chiefs even grabbed linebacker Nick Bolton a few picks before taking Humphrey near the end of the round, taking a bit of a chance by potentially missing out on Humphrey, but there he was for the taking at No. 63 overall.
Humphrey entered the NFL as pro-ready as a center prospect can be. He had years of starting interior experience at Oklahoma blocking for some of the best passers to play college football in the last decade—a list that includes Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray, and Spencer Rattler. He’s got a good frame, the requisite strength, ideal technique, and a high football IQ. In short, he was as ready as anyone.
From the word go, Humphrey seized hold of the starting center position and never let go. Through preseason and now through 12 weeks of the regular season, Humphrey has become a fixture in the middle and the results have been head-turning all along.
Through Week 12, CBS Sports ranks Humphrey as the league’s top rookie overall. That’s not top rookie lineman or even top rookie on offense. Of all first-year players in the National Football League, they rank Humphrey as their top performer in 2021.
In case you think that’s an outlier of sorts, Pro Football Focus agrees with its own system of metrics. Humphrey is the single highest graded rookie and they also credit him with much more.
"Don’t expect anyone to overtake Humphrey anytime soon. He’s not only the highest-graded rookie and the highest-graded center in the NFL; he is the fifth-highest-graded offensive lineman in the league regardless of position."
This graphic speaks for itself.
Even coming into the league, Humphrey’s overall athleticism and skill set was turning heads, which was an indication that he might prove to be a bit more special than anyone initially realized.
Alas at this point, it doesn’t matter. The Chiefs have him, the secret is out, and now it’s a question of whether or not he can earn the year-end acclaim that seems to be building. Can Humphrey lock down a Pro Bowl nomination? Is he destined for an All-Pro selection? Is it even possible for him to garner some Offensive Rookie of the Year votes?
Humphrey’s rave reviews are part of what has helped this offensive line develop quickly after seismic changes and the Chiefs offense is all the better for it.