When zooming out on the entirety of the Kansas City Chiefs‘ offseason, it’s clear that the front office called for wholesale changes in the secondary from one season to the next. Plenty of new competition has been brought in at both cornerback and safety while familiar faces have been jettisoned or allowed to leave in free agency.
For all the new names in new places, however, one holdover player who was earning more and more of the coaches’ trust last year is lingering as a sleeper candidate for greater reps in ’22: defensive back Zayne Anderson.
Just a year ago, the Chiefs signed Anderson to a rookie free agent deal out of Brigham Young as a big, physical player known for his intelligence and versatility. Given that he’d been on a Mormon mission, Anderson likely went undrafted due to being an older prospect with a long injury history.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Zayne Anderson is a sleeper candidate for more playing time in 2022 than some fans might believe.
While the Chiefs might have a soft spot for BYU players (thanks to Andy Reid) here and there, Anderson certainly deserved credit for earning enough praise and attention in offseason training activities and then training camp to make the practice squad. From there, Anderson continue to develop enough that the team elevated him to the active roster in mid-December and he remained there for the rest of the year, including three games into the postseason.
Anderson began to earn a solid amount of playing time on special teams, which meant he was a favored choice of Dave Toub, but unfortunately, his play came with some costly errors. Fans might remember Zayne Anderson as the one who wiped out a Byron Pringle touchdown return with a holding penalty. He also roughed up a punter the following week against the Broncos in Week 17, which ruined a defensive three-and-out (and allowed Denver to go on and score a touchdown just a few plays later).
Just like that, Anderson looked like a player headed for the proverbial woodshed, but the Chiefs not only defended him in press comments but continued to play him just as much in the postseason. Not only was he a core-four player on special teams in the playoffs, but he even got six snaps at free safety. Somehow an older undrafted prospect was earning more time and trust despite making major mistakes on what little time he’d earned.
Heading into a new year, it’s important to remember Anderson’s climbing stock in the face of seismic changes to the team’s secondary. Anderson now has a full year under his belt in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense and a slate wiped clean in front of him at safety.
Tyrann Mathieu, Armani Watts, and Dan Sorensen are all gone at this point. In their place are Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Deon Bush, and Nazeeh Johnson. While the position looks quite crowded, the truth is that Anderson has a year up on everyone involved. Reid is an obvious starter and Cook will get his reps as an exciting second-round addition along with holdover Juan Thornhill. But don’t be surprised if Anderson is a strong contender for that final safety spot.
Even if Anderson is relegated to the practice squad once again, he’ll still be in a prime position to help the team in case of any injuries—likely more so than any other player on the list of potential help. Johnson is a longshot out of Marshall drafted third among three seventh-round choices. Devon Key and Nasir Greer are both around but Anderson is ahead of both and should be first to be promoted when needed.