After winning just two games in 2012, the Kansas City Chiefs were afforded the top pick in April's draft and will need contributions from rookies to spark a turnaround in 2013.
During OTAs the past two weeks, Chiefs players have gotten to know their new coaching staff and gotten a solid taste of what to expect this season. For those rookies new to the team, it is their opportunity to shine and make a name for themselves on a level playing field next to veterans from the former regime.
This slideshow is a list of which rookies have stood out thus far in OTAs and how they should impact the fortunes of the 2013 Chiefs.
While the Chiefs will be sticking with the 3-4 defense in 2013, it's hardly the same system they ran under former coach Romeo Crennel.
That said, general manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid knew they needed to find a middle linebacker to pair with Derrick Johnson for their new defense.
That player is rookie Nico Johnson.
Johnson has shown well in OTAs and his attitude has remained positive throughout, as evidenced in his interview with KCChiefs.com's Reid Ferrin.
“It’s been fun," Johnson said. "They have welcomed all the rookies in, free agents, whatever, with open arms. They haven’t tried to down talk you or anything like that, they just always try to keep you motivated. Derrick (Johnson) tells me all the time that he’s been in that situation before, so he’s just trying to keep me and the other linebackers motivated to get better every day and understand you’re going to make mistakes and just keep moving forward and get ready for camp.”
The Chiefs are counting on Johnson to play a big role in their run defense, and it appears he's well on his way to learning the system and solidifying his role on the team.
It would be hard to remember a time when an undrafted free agent has had as high of expectations as Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray. Bray has perhaps the best physical skills of any rookie quarterback in the 2013 class, yet inconsistency has plagued him throughout his career.
Bray is competing with veteran Ricky Stanzi for the role of the team's third quarterback, and he has continued to fight the same issues in OTAs.
Bray's inconsistency has been intermingled with plays showcasing his physical talents throwing the football. During the same series he could be found dropping a snap on one play, making a great throw on another and then throwing a ball right into the hands of a defender on another.
The Chiefs have done a lot during the offseason to address the tight end position, signing veteran Anthony Fasano and drafting rookie Travis Kelce.
Both players were brought in, in part, because of the ever-fragile Tony Moeaki, who can't seem to stay healthy.
Most recently, the Chiefs also signed Demetrius Harris, who hasn't played football since high school but was impressive enough to the Chiefs that they signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent. Harris spent his collegiate career playing basketball instead of football at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but he has continued to make a solid impression during OTAs, catching everything thrown his way.
If Moeaki can't get back on the field, the chances of Harris making the roster go up considerably.
Running back Knile Davis may see limited touches on offense backing up Jamaal Charles, so Andy Reid is taking a long look at Davis returning kicks during OTAs.
Davis never returned kicks in college, but his outstanding speed and ability in the open field make him an excellent candidate to fill that role while he waits his turn behind Charles.
Assuming Davis gets the hang of receiving kicks and can stay away from the fumbling problem he had in college, he could provide the Chiefs with a much-needed home run threat in the return game.
Perhaps the greatest testament to how well first-round pick Eric Fisher has fared during OTAs is how little attention he's drawn thus far.
Generally when an offensive lineman is drawing attention, it's because of mistakes, not stellar play. Fisher has simply gone out there each day and done what he's supposed to do, at a high level no less.
As posted by KCChiefs.com insider Reid Ferrin, Fisher's teammates along the offensive line have been very impressed with his play thus far.
Guard Jeff Allen said, “He’s coming [along]. The best thing about him is that you haven’t noticed him, which is good for an offensive lineman, because it means he isn’t making many mistakes. He’s mixing in with us and has been doing a good job.”
Left tackle Brandon Albert had this to say, "He's going to be good, he cares about his job as a young player, that's very important, coming off being a number one draft pick. I know he wants to get better. He's coming in early to be as good as he can possibly be; he's working hard to be a great offensive tackle. I'm trying to help him and he's helping me, too. I'm learning from him."
Fisher has stepped right into the right tackle spot vacated by veteran Eric Winston, and his relationship with Albert and the other Chiefs linemen should make fans extremely optimistic as this group continues to come together and improve.