As soon as the 2010 season ended, Kansas City Chiefs' fandom was abuzz, trying to identify what the Chiefs need to complete the framework that general manager Scott Pioli had laid. With the right pieces, the Chiefs could go from the dark horse winners of the AFC West in 2010 to becoming legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The main weak spot was unanimously agreed upon: wide receiver. The Chiefs’ passing game was ranked 30th in the NFL in 2010 with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe producing four times more than any other Chiefs receiver.
If Kansas City was to improve, they would have to get more productive at this position, and so they did, drafting Jonathan Baldwin out of the University of Pittsburgh and signing Steve Breaston from the Arizona Cardinals.
With these two players now sporting the red and yellow, it is very easy to overlook some of the other players that have been brought on at this position. One of the easiest to ignore is Chris Manno.
Manno is far from an NFL superstar in the making. After walking on at Hofstra, Manno was ignored in the NFL draft and forced to play in AF2, the Arena Football League’s developmental program. While there, Manno succeeded, but being successful in AF2 does not signal success in the NFL.
Then on August 2, Manno went from playing in a rundown arena to being signed by an NFL squad.
The question is can Manno make it in the NFL?
There is no doubt that Manno is a hard worker. He has trained extensively since his 2007 graduation and has shown an unbridled willingness to do what it takes to get the job done. A look at his audition video shows his physical play both in college and in the AF2, where he recorded 70 receptions for 10 touchdowns last season.
The biggest thing that Manno has going for him, though, is his athleticism.
Compared to the 2010 NFL combine, Manno showed an amazing initial burst of speed, tying Jacoby Ford for the fastest wide receiver at the 10 meter. Ford was able to use this burst of speed to record three touchdown returns as well as 148 yards receiving against the Chiefs last season. If Manno’s speed is utilized in this way, he could have a shot at making the roster on special teams.
Manno’s abilities are also drawing comparisons to Wes Welker. With his speed and tenacity, Manno could have a shot at making the team as a receiver. Granted, he will not be stealing the number one receiver spot from Dwayne Bowe in this lifetime, but if he is able to adapt his athleticism to the NFL field, he could get his shot at a few NFL receptions.
Yes, Chris Manno is an underdog. No one has expected much from him, yet he has worked hard, hoping for a moment to prove himself. For Manno, this is that moment. What he is able to do with it remains to be seen.