5 Dark-Horse Candidates to Make Kansas City Chiefs' Final 53-Man Roster

Brett GeringCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2013

5 Dark-Horse Candidates to Make Kansas City Chiefs' Final 53-Man Roster

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    With training camp just over the horizon (July 26), a number of obscure Kansas City Chiefs are looking to defy the odds and crack the 53-man roster. 

    Their short-term goals are long shots, but some will have smaller obstacles to hurdle than others. 

    Five Chiefs in particular will find themselves balancing on the roster bubble. 

    If they seize the moment, the dark-horse candidates won't be relegated to the outskirts known as the practice squad. 

5. Braden Wilson, FB

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    The glass of sixth-round draft pick Braden Wilson should be filled with a fair amount of optimism. The Chiefs inquired about the services of fullback Vonta Leach, cementing Andy Reid's skepticism surrounding the position. The ongoing contract negotiations with No. 1-pick Eric Fisher deems the deal unlikely, though.

    However, the post-draft trade for Anthony Sherman also gives Wilson a reason to pause.

    Sherman's pass-catching capabilities present a more diverse skill set than that of Wilson's. But lead-blocking for Jamaal Charles will headline the list of priorities.

    If Wilson eclipses Sherman in that facet of the game, he could survive the final roster cut. 

    Regardless, the Chiefs won't be expected to retain both fullbacks heading into the season opener. 

4. Tysyn Hartman, SS

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    Kansas City will likely keep five safeties on the final roster.

    Kendrick Lewis, Husain Abdullah and Sanders Commings occupy three slots at free safety. Perennial Pro Bowler Eric Berry anchors another at strong safety. 

    Andy Reid and John Dorsey recruited one of Reid's former players, Quintin Demps, to help bolster the anemic depth behind Berry.

    Hartman is standing at the foot of an uphill battle. In 2012, Demps' productivity throughout 12 contests (27 tackles, five pass defenses and one fumble recovery) trumped Hartman's output in 11 games (22 tackles and three pass defenses). 

    However, receivers caught 66.7 percent of passes while being covered by Demps; Hartman's targets only managed to snag 57.1 percent of the passes heaved in their direction. 

    Also, despite Hartman procuring two starts to Demps' zero, the veteran logged 111 more snaps than the second-year safety from Kansas State.

    If the aforementioned trends bleed into 2013's training camp, Reid could favor Hartman over his former draft pick. 

     

    Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

3. Junior Hemingway, WR

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    At 6'1", 225 pounds, Junior Hemingway is a gargantuan target for any quarterback.

    When Dexter McCluster suffered a tweaked hamstring, Andy Reid called Hemingway's number.

    According to Arrowhead Addict, the former Michigan wideout impressed Alex Smith:

    He’s had a little window here where he’s getting a little more opportunities because Dex (Dexter McCluster) hasn’t been out here the last couple days. He’s gotten a lot of work and really making the most of it. He’s a guy we’re really moving around a lot. He’s gotten good work.

    The second-year receiver isn't the second coming of Flash Gordon; he's not going to grill tread marks into the field on a go route. 

    But No. 88 can line up inside or outside, and he snatches virtually everything within his hands' area code. 

2. Ricky Stanzi, QB

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    If you walked past Ricky Stanzi, you would feel an insatiable urge to drape an American flag across your shoulders or watch Dazed and Confused with a family-sized bag of Cheetos (or both). 

    You wouldn't think you were passing an NFL quarterback. 

    Although Tyler Bray dwarfs Stanzi in terms of arm strength, the third-year passer appears to be picking up Andy Reid's offense quicker than the gun-slinging rookie. 

    Despite never taking a regular-season snap, Stanzi has become a fan favorite—mostly because Hulk Hogan's theme song echoes when spotting him on the sideline.

    He's facing more adversity than the past two years. But if Bray struggles with learning the playbook, Stanzi could attain a slot on the 53-man roster for the third consecutive season. 

1. Demetrius Harris, TE

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    Statistically speaking, Tony Moeaki oversaw a more fruitful rookie campaign (47 receptions, 556 yards and three touchdowns) than living legend Tony Gonzalez (33 receptions, 368 yards and two touchdowns). 

    By Week 1, that same once-budding prospect could be on the outside looking in.

    Subpar in-line blocking and a string of injuries have plagued Moeaki's career. The worst of injury bugs struck again this past offseason, demoting Moeaki to a sideline spectator throughout Kansas City's minicamps. 

    Demetrius Harris, a former basketball standout at Milwaukee-Wisconsin, has routinely caught the eye of Andy Reid, who spoke to KCChiefs.com:

    [Harris] came in as a basketball player and he’s just gotten better and better every day. You see him out here making plays, I’m sure you guys noticed that. I’m proud of him for the way he’s worked. That’s not an easy transition.

    The rookie's ascendance up the depth chart could correlate with Moeaki's downfall. 

    If Harris proves that he can negate No. 81's pass-catching proficiency, Moeaki could regress from starter to trade bait in less than a season's time. 

     

    Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.

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