Kansas City Chiefs: 5 Players Poised for Breakout Campaigns in 2014
Last summer, names like Geoff Schwartz and Marcus Cooper were synonymous with "that one guy."
One seasonal cycle later, Cooper has "Kansas City Chiefs' rookie of the year" inscribed on his resume, and Schwartz's bank account looks nine months pregnant.
However, obscurity isn't a prerequisite in becoming a breakout player.
Prior to 2013, Dexter McCluster was a nationally known jack of all trades. He just wasn't the ankle-cracking punt returner who emerged under Dave Toub.
Throughout the 17 weeks of 2014, five Chiefs are destined to pave paths to local stardom.
5. A.J. Jenkins
Last season, A.J. Jenkins' eight receptions for a combined 130 yards were viewed as signs of progress—in his case, the word "breakout" tends to be somewhat skewed. Anything above 30 receptions will be considered groundbreaking.
Having said that, as an NFL player, readjusting your life and career due to an on-a-whim preseason trade isn't easy. This year—not last—will serve as a true gauge when projecting the wideout's potential.
The sluggish start to Jenkins' pro career doesn't steam from a lack of talent. His first-round selection was serendipitous.
The third-year enigma hosts first-class speed and above-average elusiveness. He's a natural hands-catcher who's capable of snatching buzz-worthy receptions amid defenders. Furthermore, his closest competition, Donnie Avery, only presents himself as a one-dimensional vertical threat.
However, Jenkins desperately needs to improve his balance and footwork while also digesting Andy Reid's offense to a T.
Last year, opportunity knocked. This year, the door is wide open.
4. Chris Owens
Judging by Twitter (and for reasons unknown), when projecting the Chiefs' defensive roles, Chris Owens has become the odd man out.
Widespread speculation has circled around who will be the slot corner. Versus three-receiver (or more) sets, will Brandon Flowers slide inside? If not him, then who?
Riddle solved: It's Owens.
He's not just another offseason signing. He's not just another special teams contributor. Owens is one of the more underrated corners in the league—ask Chase Daniel.
In fact, last season, his cumulative rating (subscription required) from Pro Football Focus ranked higher than any Chiefs cornerback, allowing a meager 7.8 yards per reception.
By the end of the 2014, don't be surprised if Owens doubles as the most overlooked offseason pickup.
3. Knile Davis
Knile Davis' ranking on this list isn't indicative of his skill; it's indicative of his role.
One can argue that Jamaal Charles is the most well-rounded running back in the league. Simply put, he was the Chiefs' 2013 offense.
Jamaal Charles had a league high 35.3 percent of his teams yards from scrimmage this season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 4, 2014
Obviously, as with all sports, common sense claims that a team's best offensive player should receive as many opportunities as possible. That, in turn, minimizes those for teammates of the same ilk, which is the scenario that Davis currently finds himself in.
But when No. 34 cradles the ball, alarms blare in the heads of defenders. Whether rushing, receiving or returning, Davis is endowed with a unique, game-breaking blend of speed and strength.
If he fends off injury and continues to rectify his fumbling issues, Davis is capable of becoming far more than a local fan favorite.
2. Travis Kelce
Every now and again, injuries derail rookie seasons and render them nonexistent. It's the NFL. It happens.
A club losing (arguably) its two most valuable selections in the preseason? Not so much.
But for the Chiefs, that proved to be the case, as both Travis Kelce and Sanders Commings were rendered season-long cheerleaders (who could bend and snap you like a glow stick). And by the looks of it, they've had plenty of time to get acquainted.
On the field, Kelce's heart flatlines, and when it does, he carries a mean streak.
Make no mistake, he's a dangerous receiving threat who has underrated speed and can shed would-be tacklers like an athletically inclined juggernaut.
However, what most highlight compilations fail to show is his value as a blocker.
In terms of mentality, a case can be made that Kelce is the most relentlessly aggressive blocker on Kansas City's roster. At Cincinnati, he regularly pancaked, de-cleated and/or launched helmets (NSFW) from heads like coins from Mario Bros. blocks.
Barring another injury, Kelce can supplant Anthony Fasano as the starting tight end by midseason.
1. Sanders Commings
General manager John Dorsey didn't draft a free safety due to one reason, and said reason can be found in the slide title.
The skill set of Sanders Commings can adapt to any position in the Chiefs secondary.
As a corner, press-man served as the pillars of his collegiate career. He flashes the red-eyed, contact-craving mentality often associated with Eric Berry's role as an in-the-box strong safety.
However, his repertoire is best suited for one position: free safety, which is the fit Dorsey envisioned when selecting him.
Commings' rookie season was anything but. A fractured collarbone limited him to a paltry three plays—one in which showed the thudding physicality he possesses. It was less of a debut and more of an interlude.
When healthy, though, he's a dynamic talent whose 40 time (4.41) was just one-hundredth of a second slower than Berry's (4.4), despite outweighing him by five pounds. (According to the official roster, Commings now tips the scale at 12 pounds heavier than the Pro Bowler).
His primary role as a Cover 1 deep safety is akin to a center fielder, which was the position he thrived in prior to being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008.
While Seattle's secondary revolves around a different concept (Cover 3), the personnel draws parallels with that of Kansas City's. Or, at least what Kansas City is searching for.
At the end of every NFL season—at least for 31 of the 32 teams—life isn't a bowl of cherries. That being said, three of them flashed across the screen when Commings' selection was announced.
Sanders Commings made one of the best plays of the day by breaking on a bad pass by Bray (who threw across his body) & hauling in a pick.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) May 27, 2014
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