The relationship between a center and a quarterback does not always receive as much focus as it should. Some of the better snappers can both lead the blocking unit and keep the passer calm or at ease. For the Kansas City Chiefs, that is yet another position that they are overhauling for 2021 and beyond. They recently signed Austin Blythe. The former Los Angeles Rams blocker signed for one year, so his window of opportunity is not necessarily very large. Though, the Chiefs may not be in the best position to draft a top center, depending on how the board falls in a few weeks.
In today’s edition of This Or That, we ask the following question. Should the Chiefs start Blythe at center to open the 2021 season? Or, is it a better option to let a rookie take the snaps at that spot? To help make our pick, we will look at Blythe’s body of work so far and what the top rookie options at center could look like. Plus, how could the moves Kansas City made in free agency impact this decision?
- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Austin Watkins
- This Or That: Start Blythe At Center Or Rookie?
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- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Landon Dickerson
- This Or That: Draft Dickerson Or Meinerz?
Blythe’s Career Resume
A four year starter for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Blythe appeared in 52 games in college. During his senior season, Iowa started their season 12-0 and appeared in the Big Ten Championship Game. He and his teammates played in the Rose Bowl that bowl season.
Near the end of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Blythe in the seventh round with the 248th overall pick. He primarily backed up Ryan Kelly at center. That lone season in Indy saw Blythe appear in eight games, while making one start. The Colts subsequently waived him after one year.
The Rams claimed him off waivers, and he immediately became a focal point on the offensive line. Blythe appeared in all 16 games in 2017, but only made one start in Week 17. The following year he became entrenched as a starter for Sean McVay‘s offense. Across both 2018 and 2019, Blythe started 31 games at right guard. He then started all 16 games in 2020, after moving to center.
After signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, Blythe mentioned some key nuggets during his introductory press conference with the media. “I was born in the Kansas City area, so I have Kansas City roots.” He also added that his family had continued to remain Chiefs fans throughout the early part of his life. As a result, a childhood dream could be coming true this fall for the former Hawkeye.
Blythe’s Play Style/Traits
Like Joe Thuney, the addition of Blythe brings in a highly durable blocker. That is obviously no surprise from Kansas City’s perspective. Only one of their Week One starters on the offensive line was healthy enough for the Super Bowl. That is certainly a nice asset to have. Meanwhile, there are a few more aspects of Blythe’s game that stands out.
I would say his greatest strength shows up as a run blocker. Watching what he did with LA, it is easy to recognize the quickness that Blythe has. He displays very few issues when pulling or climbing to the second level. The Rams used a wide zone rushing attack. Inside of that, Blythe was able to use stout angles and solid awareness to wall off or seal opposing defenders. His football IQ would fit right in alongside other new additions like Thuney and Kyle Long.
As a pass blocker, the ability to stay staunch against physical and stronger defenders is encouraging. He has a great understanding of using leverage in correlation with his hand placement. Blythe’s hand technique was truly surprising, in a good way. Elsewhere, he usually has a solid base, making it difficult for defenders to get around him.
Overall, by no means is this addition going to turn heads. The Chiefs are instilling plenty of reliability and toughness with the addition of Austin Blythe, however.
Center Options In The Draft
There are actually four top options at center who could hear their name called in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. This includes Alabama’s Landon Dickerson, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz and Ohio State’s Josh Myers. Personally, I believe that all four of these guys could come in, compete and win the starting center job for the Chiefs. There are limitations with each, at the same time.
Dickerson has the injury concerns, of course. Humphrey does not possess the most awareness that one would like, and he could stand to add some functional strength. On the other hand, the adjustments to be made for Meinerz in a scheme like Kansas City’s could be too much to ask. Finally, Myers has questions regarding his all around athleticism.
There are some other late round options to keep in mind as well. The Chiefs could have interest in Georgia’s Trey Hill, Pittsburgh’s Jimmy Morrissey, Kentucky’s Drake Jackson or Stanford’s Drew Dalman, just to name a few.
Pros And Cons Of Blythe Or Rookie Center
There are certainly some advantages or disadvantages to keep in mind with either of these two options. Here are a few to monitor.
Let’s start with Blythe. One advantage of him starting at center, is that you know what you are getting from him. He has grinded out consecutive start after consecutive start to be a force upfront in a high powered offense already. Furthermore, Blythe has the physical tools that can clearly keep Patrick Mahomes clean, more often than not. His scheme fit with the Chiefs is easy to see. If there were a disadvantage to starting him at center, it would have to be that the return on investment may not be that much better than what the previous center brought in Austin Reiter. Possibly a rookie could give them a more talented option and a long term solution.
On the flip side with a rookie center, there are a couple of advantages. The more impactful addition and long term answer could lie in this choice. To boot, a rookie would be surrounded by substantial leaders up front in Thuney and Long, or even Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. But, disadvantages could still arise with a rookie center. The added time needed for development may be a bit longer than what the team needs currently. The Chiefs also may not receive as much reliability with a rookie, especially with how much overhaul this blocking unit is going through.
Go here to cast your vote in today’s poll: Start Austin Blythe or a rookie at center?
My choice has continued to go back and forth throughout this article. Yet, I am choosing Blythe in this scenario. For one, I have actually liked the signing more and more since it happened. He fits the mold of the technically sound blockers that the Chiefs have brought in so far. Moreover, Blythe has the versatility, athletic upside and strength against power that the team has clinged to in the past. I will say, that this crop of center options in the 2021 NFL Draft are exciting. But, give me the guy who could transition quicker and smoother into Kansas City’s offense. Disagree with me? Let us now in the poll above.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs This Or That hypothetical articles throughout this 2021 offseason. We will post them on Tuesday and Thursday. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.