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2011 Team Report: Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterbacks

Starter: Matt Cassel
Backup(s): Tyler Palko, Ricky Stanzi

Starting QB: Last year, Matt Cassel improved considerably in his second season with the Chiefs. He led the team to a division title, throwing 27 TDs compared to just 7 INTs, accumulating a 93 passer rating and a Pro Bowl appearance. Cassel is an enthusiastic, vocal leader who plays with a lot of heart. He still needs to improve his footwork and efficiency, but he's a hard worker who may continue to make strides this season. He has better mobility than one might expect, and can throw the ball from outside the pocket. He doesn't have a particularly strong arm, but shows good timing and accuracy on underneath routes.

Backup QB: Behind Cassel, the Chiefs are thin on experience at QB. Tyler Palko has completed just 4 passes as an NFL quarterback. A former undrafted free agent, Palko will compete with this year's fifth-round pick, Ricky Stanzi, for the number two job. Ricky Stanzi is a smart quarterback and a quick learner. He needs to improve his mechanics and develop a quicker release, so he is considered a bit of a project at this point, but he likely has better long-term potential than Palko. Whoever wins the backup job, the Chiefs are hoping he won't be pressed into action in 2011.

Running Backs

Starter: Jamaal Charles
Backup(s): Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle
Fullback(s): Le'Ron McClain

Starting RB: The Chiefs led the NFL with almost 35 rushing attempts per game last season, and are expected to rely heavily on the running game once again. Thomas Jones was listed as the starter on the team's first official depth chart this season, but Jamaal Charles is the clear favorite for fantasy purposes. Charles is among the fastest players in the league, and can score from anywhere on the field. He split carries with Jones last season (Jones had 245 carries, Charles had 230), but it was Charles who finished as the NFL's second-leading rusher, thanks to a 6.4 yards-per-carry average. As the current depth chart shows, Thomas Jones will not completely give way to Charles this season. The team will use both backs, and will manage the number of touches given to Charles. Nonetheless, Charles is too great a talent not to make a huge contribution, both to the Chiefs and to his fantasy owners.

Backup RBs: Thomas Jones may be the Chiefs' starter on the official depth chart, but he is the backup from a fantasy perspective. Jones is a solid inside runner with decent power and a pretty good burst, but he has nowhere near Charles' breakaway speed. Jones will likely get the majority of the goal-line carries, however, which gives him decent fantasy value as an RB4. Behind Charles and Jones, there won't be many carries left over for the other RBs. Dexter McCluster will line up both in the backfield and in the slot, but will probably make his biggest contribution on special teams as a kick- and punt-returner. Jackie Battle will not get much playing time unless both Jones and Charles are injured.

Fullback: Le'Ron McClain was added via free agency to give the team a proven blocker at fullback. McClain proved to be an effective ballcarrier when given the chance in Baltimore, and would like to have the ball in his hands more often. Nonetheless, his primary role will be to lead the way for Charles and Jones. It's unlikely that McClain will get enough touches to have fantasy relevance.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin
Backups: Steve Breaston, Jerheme Urban, Terrance Copper, Verran Tucker, Jeremy Horne, Kevin Curtis, Josue Paul, Keary Colbert

Starting WRs: Dwayne Bowe heads up this group of receivers after a stellar 2010 season that included a stretch of games in which he scored 13 touchdowns in 7 weeks. Bowe is a big WR with terrific strength who can make the tough catch in traffic. He has become QB Cassel's security blanket, and should be heavily targeted again this year. Rookie Jonathan Baldwin has the speed to get deep, and excels at adjusting to the ball while it's in the air. He'll be counted on to contribute right away. Ideally, the Chiefs would like to see Baldwin start on the outside opposite Bowe while Breaston settles into the slot position; but if Baldwin doesn't prove ready for the job, Breaston could end up starting at flanker.

Backup WRs: Steve Breaston was signed away from the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. He is ideally suited for the slot, and the last time he lined up in the slot for Todd Haley (in 2008 for the Cardinals), he finished with over 1,000 receiving yards. The Chiefs won't put the ball in the air enough for Breaston to repeat that feat, but his presence (along with Baldwin's) adds depth to the WR corps that was lacking last season. Jerheme Urban is another former Cardinal who previously played under Haley. He joined the Chiefs last year, but missed the season with a hand injury. Originally undrafted out of a Division III college, Urban has an excellent combination of size and speed, and is probably the favorite to land the WR4 spot for the Chiefs. Dexter McCluster may occasionally line up in the slot, but has worked mostly with the RBs in training camp so far. Terrance Copper has a good shot to make the roster for his special teams prowess, leaving Verran Tucker, Jeremy Horne, and Kevin Curtis on the roster bubble.

Tight Ends

Starters: Leonard Pope
Backups: Tony Moeaki (on IR), Jake O'Connell, Cody Slate

Leonard Pope gets the starting job due to Moeaki's injury. Pope is not much of a fantasy option as this offense will run through Charles and the wide receivers. Tony Moeaki had an impressive rookie season, establishing himself as one of the team's more reliable pass-catchers right off the bat. He is a good athlete for a tight end; he can get open on a variety of routes, and generally shows good hands. He had arthroscopic knee surgery during the offseason, and began training camp on the PUP list. His injury history dating back to his college days is of some concern, but he is the clear starter when healthy. Of course, he has been lost for the 2011 season. Jake O'Connell is also a good athlete with fine body control and hands. He is a decent run-blocker as well, making him a fine backup TE. Cody Slate has some potential, but has inconsistent hands and concentration.

Place Kicker

Ryan Succop, Todd Carter : The Chiefs do not have any competition at the specialist spots. The returning starters will spend camp getting in their reps and honing their synchronization under the tutelage of special teams coordinator (and kicking guru) Steve Hoffman. Long snapper Thomas Gafford is back for his fourth year. The veteran of the trio, punter and holder Dustin Colquitt is entering his seventh year. Kicker Ryan Succop enters his third year. HC Todd Haley is hoping to utilize Succop's high hang time kickoffs under the new rules, "We're excited about Ryan's skills and how they'll potentially play into that one way or another, whatever philosophy you take as a kickoff team." Succop's now joined by recently signed camp leg Todd Carter, who would have been the Panthers kickoff specialist last year were it not for an injury. The Chiefs ranked 22nd and 19th in attempted kicking points the last two years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas, Steve Breaston

Punt Returners: Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Steve Breaston

Last year the Chiefs drafted two strong returners in CB Javier Arenas and RB Dexter McCluster. Both produced as rookies. This offseason they signed another returner in WR Steve Breaston. So who will handle returns this year? According to HC Todd Haley, all of them, "If that were his No. 1 job, then I would be all for that if he were a big-time returner, which they all have a chance to be. As the situation looks right now, I don't know if that'll be the case. Those are guys that are contributing in other areas where we need them -- all three of them.... You felt completely confident doing it [rotating returners last year] because you felt like either guy gave you a chance to make a big play."

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Branden Albert, LG Jon Asamoah, C Casey Wiegmann, RG Ryan Lilja, RT Barry Richardson
Key Backups: Jon Asamoah, Rodney Hudson [R], Ryan O'Callaghan

Team Defense

The Chiefs' 2010 resurgence had a lot to do with how solid their defense was. Romeo Crennel coached these players up and made the unit a very effective one. The Chiefs brass invested in Kelly Gregg to play the nose. Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are already anchors at 3-4 end. The addition of Brandon Siler from San Diego to play beside Derrick Johnson will be a boost to the run defense. Eric Berry is a dynamic playmaker from the SS position and was named in the much-debated NFL Network Top 100 players of 2011.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Glenn Dorsey, NT Kelly Gregg, DE Tyson Jackson
Backups: DE Wallace Gilberry, DE Allen Bailey, DT Jerrell Powe

Starting DL: The Chiefs added veteran nose tackle Gregg, but lost what was a strong run defending combination in Ron Edwards (to Carolina) and Shaun Smith. Gregg will need to improve on his inconsistent 2010 season to anchor the line. Dorsey had another strong year as a run defender last year, but remains below average in pass rush. He's a fantasy option only in deeper, tackle heavy leagues. Jackson continues to be a disappointment and will play only on base downs.

Backup DL: Gilberry built upon a promising 2009 season with seven sacks last year in a rotational role. He doesn't have the size to play on early downs, but will again be expected to produce in passing situations. This line will struggle if any of its starters go down with injury; the depth is untested and not likely ready for an expanded role.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Tamba Hali, ILB Derrick Johnson, ILB Jovan Belcher, OLB Andy Studebaker
Backups: OLB Justin Houston, ILB Brandon Siler, ILB Demorrio Williams

Starting LBs: Hali had been a consistent pass rusher in his first four years, but finally settled into his role as a 3-4 rush OLB last year and put up 14.5 sacks. He signed a big contract extension after being franchised by the team and will continue as their primary pass rusher. He's a LB1 in big play formats and LB2/3 in most others. Johnson also finally overcame concerns about his consistency and motor last year, playing very well against the run and showing improvement in coverage. He may struggle behind a weakened defensive line, but will again be a safe LB2+ fantasy option. Belcher is the early favorite to win the other starting ILB job, but will be pushed by Siler. Studebaker will see the majority of rotational snaps at the other OLB position, but will gradually lose time to Houston and isn't an IDP option.

Backup LBs: Houston has great size and length and could grow into a dangerous pass rusher opposite Tamba Hali in time. If he wins the job quickly, he could be a midseason IDP find. Siler was productive in San Diego but slipped a little against the run last year and the Chargers elected to let him leave in free agency. He could rotate with Belcher. Williams will be valuable depth and could play in the nickel as another pass rusher if needed.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Brandon Flowers, SS Eric Berry, FS Kendrick Lewis, CB Brandon Carr
Backups: CB Javier Arenas, S Jon McGraw, DB Donald Washington, CB Travis Daniels

Starting DBs: The Chiefs have two potentially elite secondary talents (and IDP values) in Flowers and Berry. Berry struggled in coverage during the first half of 2010, but recovered to finish the season strongly. The Chiefs will continue to use him all over the field and he'll be a consensus top three fantasy pick at DB. Flowers has been inconsistent but has also shown flashes of being one of the better all-around corners in the league. Consider him a CB2 with upside. Lewis will have to earn the FS job over the veteran McGraw, while Carr may be challenged by nickel corner Javier Arenas for snaps in the base defense.

Backup DBs: Arenas has been a very good kick returner and solid nickel back. He could push Carr for more snaps this year. McGraw will be a veteran presence and provide depth if Lewis is ready to take over full time this year.

Last modified: 2011-09-04 01:32:42

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