Kansas City Chiefs Kicker Ryan Succop in Competition with Rookie Cairo Santos

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Kansas City Chiefs Kicker Ryan Succop in Competition with Rookie Cairo Santos
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

In the National Football League, there is only one certainty: Your job is never safe. It doesn't matter if you're an elite quarterback, star running back or the starting kicker, there will always be somebody younger—and cheaper—to take your place.

The Kansas City Chiefs aren't immune to that mantra.

In 2009, the Chiefs made South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop "Mr. Irrelevant" by selecting him with the 256th overall and final pick of that year's draft.

Since joining the Chiefs, Succop has been anything but irrelevant. While he's not the most accurate of field-goal kickers in the NFLconverting 119 of 147 field-goal attempts for an 81 percent make ratehe's dead on with his extra points, making every single one of the 160 he's attempted since entering the league.

However, perhaps where he's the weakest is his leg strength.

Succop only boasts a career-long field goal of 54 yards. That won't wow anyone in regard to how strong his kicking leg is. More telling, though, is the amount of touchbacks he's racked up compared to other kickers.

Of the 91 kickoffs Succop took during the 2013 season, nearly half of them (42) were returned for an average of 24 yards.

In terms of number of returns, Succop ranked third in the AFC West behind Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski and the Denver's Matt Prater and only ahead of San Diego's Nick Novak, who allowed an incredible 73 returns on kickoffs.

In a league that has moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line in order to eliminate the danger of the play, half of Succop's kicks being returned is not a good ratio.

Perhaps the Chiefs' special teams coach, Dave Toub, has caught on to this as well and brought in undrafted free agent Cairo Santos from Tulane University to light a fire under Succop. Or maybe he was brought in to truly compete for the job.

During the rookie minicamp in May, TWC SportsChannel's Nick Jacobs was immediately impressed with Santos' leg strength.

Jacobs suggested Santos was pushing Succop during voluntary OTAs last month:

Santos' road to the NFL has been unorthodox to say the least. Originally from Brazil, Santos grew up playing the "other football" (i.e. soccer) and didn't discover American football until he was a foreign exchange student at St. Joseph's Academy in St. Augustine, Florida.

USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't long before Santos—and his college coaches—realized he had a knack for the game. That knack manifested itself in 21 made field goals on 21 attempts during his junior year.

According to The Times-Picayune's Tammy Nunez, this earned him the Lou Groza Award. Perhaps most telling, though, was Santos' cool head under fire when he was asked to kick a 57-yarderhis career long to keep his streak alive:

"I'm thankful and very honored to be with these two guys and to be on the same stage with all of these great players and coaches," Santos said at the ceremony. ...

"I'm just very thankful that I have a coach [Curtis Johnson] who trusts me," Santos said. "All I could think about was the kick going through."

While most of the media will be keeping an eye on the battle for the Chiefs' No. 2 receiver spot and whether Justin Houston and Alex Smith will receive big contracts prior to the start of the season, this roster battle will prove to be just as exciting.

Who knows? Perhaps Santos could usurp the place-kicker role from Succop and replace Mr. Irrelevant with Mr. Accurate.

 

All stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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