Breaking Down Kansas City Chiefs Roster After the 2015 NFL Draft
Now that the 2015 NFL draft is over, it is time for the Kansas City Chiefs to focus on the upcoming season. Improving upon last year's 9-7 regular-season record and earning a playoff berth should be the immediate goal.
Though the Chiefs lost a few pieces from last year's team—like wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and center Rodney Hudson—in free agency, the team also made some major moves to improve the roster. The Chiefs signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as a free agent and traded for guard Ben Grubbs.
Over this past weekend, Kansas City also drafted nine new players. With any luck, they will have a hand in an improved season, as well.
With the 2015 NFL draft firmly in the rearview mirror, let's take a look at the Chiefs roster and predict how the new additions might change the landscape.
The Chiefs are in a good position at quarterback with 10-year veteran Alex Smith running the show. He completed 65.3 percent of his passes last season with 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He finished the season with a passer rating of 93.4.
Former New Orleans Saints backup Chase Daniel will likely serve as Smith's primary backup, while the team continues to develop 2014 fifth-round pick Aaron Murray and former undrafted free agent Tyler Bray.
- Jamaal Charles
- Knile Davis
- Cyrus Gray
- Anthony Sherman
- Spencer Ware
There is no question that Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles will be the Chiefs' primary ball-carrier this season. He rushed for 1,033 yards and nine touchdowns last season and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
Knile Davis, who rushed for 463 yards and six touchdowns in 2014, will likely be the primary backup, with Cyrus Gray as the No. 3 back.
Anthony Sherman should be the starting fullback in 2015. Fullback Spencer Ware last appeared with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013.
Most of the work here will most likely go to Charles and Davis, a tandem that makes the backfield one of Kansas City's team strengths.
- Jeremy Maclin
- De'Anthony Thomas
- Jason Avant
- Frankie Hammond
- Junior Hemingway
- Chris Conley (R)
- Da'Rick Rogers
- Albert Wilson
- Armon Binns
- Da'Ron Brown (R)
This year's crop of Chiefs receivers appears stronger than last year's group, which failed to produce a single touchdown. Much of the improvement should come from former Philadelphia Eagle Jeremy Maclin, who racked up 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago.
Maclin should be the Chiefs' No. 1 receiver this season. The No. 2 job may go to either nine-year veteran Jason Avant or De'Anthony Thomas, who also has roles in the backfield and as a punt returner. This is, of course, unless rookie third-round pick Chris Conley doesn't step up and take the No. 2 job.
Conley, the speedy (ran a 4.35-second 40 at the combine) former Georgia Bulldog, stands 6'2", 213 pounds and projects as a future star on the outside.
"Conley can flat-out fly, folks. He's one of the smartest players in this draft. He has more diversified interests than your typical football player," draft Analyst Mike Mayock said of Conley, via NFL.com.
Junior Hemingway (12 receptions for 108 yards in 2014) may find a home as the fifth receiver.
Also competing for roster spots will be Frankie Hammond, Da'Rick Rogers, Albert Wilson, Armon Binns and rookie Da'Ron Brown, a seventh-round draft choice out of Northern Illinois.
- Travis Kelce
- Demetrius Harris
- Richard Gordon
- James O'Shaughnessy (R)
Third-year pro Travis Kelce should be the unquestioned starter at tight end for Kansas City. Not only did he produce 862 yards and five touchdowns last season, but he was also the No. 1 run-blocking tight end in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Rookie fifth-round pick James O'Shaughnessy out of Illinois State should get every opportunity to step up and claim the No. 2 tight end role. He needs work with his blocking skills but has the speed (ran a 4.68-second 40 at his pro day) to be a legitimate downfield threat in the passing game.
Richard Gordon and Demetrius Harris will likely battle for the third tight end spot. Harris probably has the inside track there after appearing in eight games a season ago.
- Eric Fisher
- Ben Grubbs
- Eric Kush
- Jeff Allen
- Donald Stephenson
- Mitch Morse (R)
- Paul Fanaika
- Derek Sherrod
- Curtis Feigt
- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, will likely be back at left tackle. However, he ranked just 71st among all tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus, so that shouldn't be guaranteed.
Offseason acquisition Ben Grubbs was brought in to start at left guard, while Jeff Allen and Paul Fanaika will likely compete for the other guard spot. Donald Stephenson and Derek Sherrod will likely compete for the right tackle spot, though Fisher may end up there if a better option emerges for the left.
As of now, third-year pro Eric Kush is the starting center. However, rookie second-round pick Mitch Morse out of Missouri will have every opportunity to claim the job. If Morse doesn't work out at center, he should also have a chance to move into the right guard spot.
The other guys on this list will likely be competing for roster spots as backups.
- Dontari Poe
- Jaye Howard
- Mike DeVito
- Allen Bailey
- Loni Fangupo
- Nicholas Williams
- Jerel Worthy
- Vaughn Martin
- Rakeem Nunez-Roches (R)
Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe is the force in the middle of the Kansas City defensive line and will most certainly be the starter there.
Jaye Howard started 10 games as defensive end last season and will likely retain that role. Defensive end Mike DeVito suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 last year but should have an opportunity to earn a starting role at the other end position. He will have to take it from Allen Bailey, however, who started 14 games at end last season.
Loni Fangupo, Nicholas Williams, Jerel Worthy and Vaughn Martin will compete for backup positions along the defensive line. Rookie sixth-round pick Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Southern Miss) is a 6'2", 307-pound defensive tackle who should get an opportunity to serve as Poe's primary backup.
There is room for overall improvement here and among the linebackers, as the Chiefs ranked just 28th overall against the run in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.
- Justin Houston
- Derrick Johnson
- James Michael-Johnson
- Tamba Hali
- Dee Ford
- Phillip Gaines
- JoJo Dickson
- Josh Mauga
- Jamell Fleming
- Ramik Wilson (R)
- Frank Zombo
- Dezman Moses
- D.J. Alexander (R)
Assuming the Chiefs' use of the franchise tag on Justin Houston doesn't cause a holdout, Houston should start at left outside linebacker. He is easily one of the league's best pass-rushers, notching 22.0 sacks just last season.
Tamba Hali, a nine-year starter, should join Houston on the outside, with 2014 first-round pick Dee Ford fighting for playing time.
Derrick Johnson and James Michael-Johnson can likely be penciled in for the inside linebacker positions right now, though there will be plenty of competition. JoJo Dickson, Josh Mauga and rookie fourth-round pick Ramik Wilson will also be fighting for a job inside.
Wilson, a three-year starter at Georgia, is an interesting addition to the competition inside. He is just 6'2" and 237 pounds, but he has the range and athleticism to be an asset in pass coverage.
Guys like Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses will be competing for backup positions. Rookie fifth-round pick D.J. Alexander of Oregon State will likely be a developmental prospect with a secure roster spot.
- Sean Smith
- Husain Abdullah
- Ron Parker
- Marcus Peters (R)
- Tyvon Branch
- Kelcie McCray
- Sanders Commings
- Steven Nelson (R)
- Daniel Sorenson
- Phillip Gaines
According to Pro Football Focus, Sean Smith ranked fifth overall among cornerbacks in 2014. He will undoubtedly own one starting position. He may be joined by first-round draft pick Marcus Peters.
Peters is a 6'0", 197-pound cover specialist with immense talent but some off-field issues. He was dismissed from the Washington football team for confrontations with the coaching staff. If he can show enough maturity, however, he can be a reliable rookie starter.
Third-round draft pick Steven Nelson of Oregon State may wind up as the primary nickelback. The 5'10", 197-pound pass defender has the talent and the competitive drive to do so. However, he will have to battle guys like Phillip Gaines and Sanders Commings for playing time.
Seven-year veteran and former Oakland Raider Tyvon Branch should see time as a rotational safety.
Overall, the secondary should be one of Kansas City's stronger units in 2015.
- Cairo Santos
- Dustin Colquitt
Things should look familiar in the special teams department. Kicker Cairo Santos and punter Dustin Colquitt both return at their respective positions.
Receiver De'Anthony Thomas will likely again serve as primary punt returner, though one of the rookie receivers may get an opportunity here.
Running back Knile Davis will probably start out at the primary kick returner.