Kansas City Chiefs: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for 10 Rookies
On May 10, head coach Andy Reid and his coaching staff will kick off the Kansas City Chiefs' three-day rookie minicamp. While some newcomers will meet—and perhaps surpass—expectations, others will be forced to place their dreams on layaway.
Over the course of four months, general manager John Dorsey relentlessly scoured upcoming prospects for the Chiefs. And as the 2013 NFL draft drew to a close, Kansas City welcomed eight new talents with open arms.
The team also dominated headlines by signing a polarizing but undrafted rookie, former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray. Additionally, the organization beefed up its secondary depth by recruiting another late-round prospect who fell through the cracks, Kansas safety Bradley McDougald.
Rookies, by nature, stare down varying uphill struggles. Some are confronted with molehills; others will attempt to scale Alps.
S Bradley McDougald, Kansas
Originally, safety Bradley McDougald was slated to line up for the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, he later decommitted and signed with Kansas, citing his desire to play wide receiver.
He eventually began the transition to safety at the beginning of his junior season.
McDougald tallied 182 tackles, five interceptions, four forced fumbles and one touchdown in his final two seasons at Kansas (via Sports-Reference.com).
The rookie boasts decent straight-line speed (4.51 40 time at his pro day), and as a former wide receiver, he possesses sure-handed ball skills. He also shows a knack for disrupting plays in the backfield.
McDougald secures a spot on the Chiefs' 53-man roster as the fifth safety.
McDougald underperforms and fails to make to the practice squad.
QB Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Tyler Bray's right arm accounts for more lasers than Tron. But his off-field immaturity and questionable work ethic caused the gunslinger to fall into the pool of undrafted free agents.
However, the toughest SEC defense that Bray faced may have been his own: Tennessee ranked 107th of 120 total Division-I universities in team defense (via NCAA.com). Tennessee's inability to stop opposing offenses largely contributed to the team's meager 1-7 conference record.
Declaring as a true junior, the 21-year-old projects to be a three- to four-year developmental project under Andy Reid.
Bray touts the necessary talent to become a legitimate NFL starter. But if the pocket passer hopes to headline Arrowhead Stadium in the distant future, he first needs to get his head in the game.
Bray overshadows Ricky Stanzi and enters the 2013 season as the Chiefs' third quarterback.
Bray is relegated to the practice squad.
DE/OLB Mike Catapano, Princeton
Kansas City announced Mike Catapano's name with its closing pick of the 2013 NFL draft.
In 2012, the edge-rusher earned countless honors, including 2012 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year (via IvyLeagueSports.com).
On tape, Catapano exhibits an array of pass-rushing moves, from vicious shoulder slaps to sudden inside spins. He also possesses a voraciously persistent motor.
However, if he plans to storm out of tunnels on Sunday, Catapano may have to adapt to a somewhat foreign role (via Nick Jacobs):
Reid on Catapano:"We're going to use as an outside linebacker"— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) April 28, 2013
Ultimately, the rookie's most challenging transition will lie in the caliber of his opponents.
Catapano acclimates to his new position and serves as a situational pass-rusher.
Catapano is overwhelmed by the jump in competition and cracks the practice squad.
FB Braden Wilson, Kansas State
Braden Wilson represents the archetypal fullback: a hard-nosed, physical lead blocker.
But the Chiefs recently traded cornerback Javier Arenas to the Arizona Cardinals for fullback Anthony Sherman. Sherman will be penciled in as the starter, which casts a grim outlook for Wilson's odds to join the 53-man rotation in 2013.
The Kansas State fullback's opportunities largely depend on two factors: his special teams performance and Jamaal Charles' success in Andy Reid's offense.
If Wilson proves to be an invaluable special teams performer—and the Chiefs' final roster can spare an additional fullback—Wilson could dress on Sundays. Also, if Charles' efficiency suffers under the new regime and Sherman doesn't suffice as a lead blocker, Wilson could be promoted to the game-day roster.
Wilson distinguishes himself in blocking for Charles and cements a slot on the depth chart.
Wilson's blocking and special teams abilities fail to warrant a place on the 53-man roster, and the fullback spends 2013 as a member of the practice squad.
C Eric Kush, California (PA)
Another small-school prospect, fifth-round selection Eric Kush serves as a 304-pound insurance policy.
Kansas City's starting center Rodney Hudson was victimized by a broken leg in Week 3 of the 2012 season. The injury rendered Hudson as a sideline spectator for the remainder of the year, which likely inclined John Dorsey to pluck Kush from the draft board.
Kush bolsters the team's offensive line depth, adding athleticism and flexibility up front. He manned all three positions (center, guard and offensive tackle) over the course of his collegiate career.
Kush fills in for an injury-stricken teammate and sees playing time at guard or center.
Kush struggles to adjust to NFL competition and doesn't reach the field during the regular season.
DB Sanders Commings, Georgia
By the end of 2013, Sanders Commings could jog off the field as the steal of Kansas City's 2013 draft.
Former general manager Charley Casserly projected the defensive back to be a second- to third-round selection. But he ultimately plummeted down boards, and the Chiefs snatched him with the first pick of the fifth round.
Due to this oppressive size (6'0", 216 pounds) and surprising speed (4.41 40), Commings primarily lined up as a cornerback at Georgia. But the Chiefs' secondary is chock-full of cornerback talent, so Commings will likely compete with Kendrick Lewis and Husain Abdullah at free safety—a position he periodically played in college.
The hard-hitting newcomer is afforded a minor advantage over most rookies: His veteran counterparts also have no prior experience in Bob Sutton's defense.
Commings, who was once drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a center fielder, embodies impressive closing speed, rapid recognition and distinct ball skills. If the rookie digests Sutton's system in a timely manner, Lewis' lease on the starting job will expire sooner rather than later.
Commings outplays Lewis and Abdullah throughout training camp, giving him the nod as Kansas City's starting free safety.
Commings sluggishly assimilates to his new position and rarely steps onto the field in 2013.
ILB Nico Johnson, Alabama
Similar to Sanders Commings, Nico Johnson could yield the most value of Kansas City's most recent batch of rookies.
A three-time national champion, Johnson anchored the core of Alabama's vaunted defense, including a trio of starts as a freshman in 2009.
He totaled 163 tackles (16.5 for loss), two sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles throughout his stay at Alabama (via Sports-Reference.com).
Johnson's a prototypical strong-side linebacker. He effectively sheds blocks—by fullbacks and linemen alike—stuffs running lanes and rarely over-pursues. And his attention to gap discipline is complemented by reliable tackling.
However, like most interior thumpers, Johnson tends to struggle in man coverage.
As he familiarizes himself with Bob Sutton's defense, the rookie projects to be a solid two-down run-stopper.
Johnson quickly grasps the system and starts at strong-side linebacker on opening day.
Johnson loses the training camp battle to the underweight (230 pounds) Akeem Jordan, primarily becoming a special teams contributor.
RB Knile Davis, Arkansas
Normally, running backs showcase sixth-gear speed but lack power or vice versa. Knile Davis is one exception to the rule.
The Arkansas tailback's 4.37 40-time and 31 bench-press reps ranked second amongst running backs at the combine (via NFL.com).
But after a jaw-dropping 2010 season, ankle injuries and fumbling issues plagued the remainder of Davis' collegiate career.
If Andy Reid and Co. can suppress the rookie's problematic ball security, the tailback might be able to resurrect his career and salvage his game-breaking reputation.
Davis fends off the injury bug and enjoys a successful rookie campaign behind Jamaal Charles.
Davis battles nagging injuries and recurring fumbles downgrade his status on the depth chart.
TE Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
Third-round pick Travis Kelce is destined to grow into a starting role in the future.
He blocks with a mean streak and doubles as a dynamic receiver—he averaged 16 yards per reception as a senior (via Sports-Reference.com).
However, Kansas City's roster already accommodates a pair of proven starters at tight end: Anthony Fasano and Tony Moeaki.
Overall, Kelce is a more talented player than both of his peers. Moeaki is oftentimes exploited as an in-line blocker, and Fasano doesn't pose an alarming threat as a receiving option.
But Kelce's ascension through the depth chart won't come easily.
Kelce finishes the season as the team's second tight end.
Kelce's impact is minimized by the leap in talent.
OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
The No. 1 overall pick of the draft will begin his NFL journey at right tackle—a position he played throughout his first two seasons at Central Michigan.
Formerly a high school quarterback, Eric Fisher's a natural athlete posing as a 306-pound offensive tackle.
His blocks often end with a flavor of nastiness, which probably endeared him to Andy Reid and John Dorsey. The unremitting bookend also displays unique balance and agility despite towering over opponents with his 6'8" frame.
Fisher's impressive athleticism becomes apparent in the open field. Considering that Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert also excels in space, the tandem's shared strength will likely result in plentiful amounts of screens throughout 2013.
As Fisher packs on pounds throughout his career, his athletic pedigree will remain unchanged.
Fisher punctuates an exceptional rookie season with a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Fisher's relocation to right tackle curtails his effectiveness, and his overall performance fails to justify the hype.
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