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2010 Team Report: Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterbacks

Starter: Matt Cassel
Backup(s): Brodie Croyle, Matt Gutierrez

Starting QB: Matt Cassel played better in 2009 than his statistics would indicate -- which is to say, he was adequate. Cassel had very little help from his offensive line. And until RB Jamaal Charles took over for Larry Johnson halfway through the season, the running game didn't take any pressure off of Cassel, either. In addition, the Chiefs were near the top of the league in dropped passes. Cassel himself, while hard to evaluate as a passer for those reasons, turned in a number of gritty performances, showing toughness and decent mobility in the face of constant pressure. Still, in fantasy football, it's the statistics that matter, and Cassel's were poor. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss will try to turn the Chiefs' offense around, but heading into the season we see Cassel as a longshot to become a decent fantasy starter.

Backup QB: There was a time when Brodie Croyle was supposed to be the QB of the future in Kansas City. He has struggled to stay healthy during his four years with the Chiefs and has yet to win a pro start. Matt Gutierrez was originally an undrafted free agent signed by the Patriots in 2007; he was picked up by the Chiefs after the Patriots released him in 2009. He has good size and was an efficient game-manager in college, but lacks much NFL playing experience.

Running Backs

Starter: Jamaal Charles
Backup(s): Thomas Jones, Kolby Smith, Javarris Williams, Jackie Battle, Dantrell Savage, Keshton Moore
Fullback(s): Mike Cox

Starting RB: Jamaal Charles became the Chiefs' featured runner over the second half of the 2010 season and turned one of the weaker rushing attacks in the league into one of the strongest. Charles rushed for 968 yards over the final eight games of the season, averaging over 20 carries per game over that stretch. Some will question whether he can handle 20 carries a game for a whole season without breaking down, but we see no reason to think he can't. Our main concern, rather, is the signing of Thomas Jones this offseason, who could eat into Charles' carries. Nonetheless, Charles was far too dominant down the stretch last season to take out of the game. He is one of the fastest players and most dynamic open-field runners in the game. If he can continue to play at the same level he did last year, we believe he will be the Chiefs' featured runner with Jones the clear backup.

Backup RBs: Thomas Jones rushed for more than 1,400 yards for the Jets last season to go with his 14 touchdowns. A lot of the credit has to go to the Jets' offensive line, however. Thomas often went down on first contact last season, appearing to lack the power and balance he had earlier in his career. Nonetheless, Jones is still a patient, intelligent, durable runner who will provide solid depth behind Charles. Kolby Smith, Jackie Battle, Javarris Williams, and Kestahn Moore may be fighting for one roster spot between them, given that Dexter McCluster will be given touches out of the backfield as well.

Fullback: Mike Cox is a bruising lead blocker that can be used as an emergency receiver out of the backfield. His fantasy upside, however, is essentially nonexistent.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers
Backups: Dexter McCluster, Lance Long, Jerheme Urban, Devard Darling, Terrance Copper

Starting WRs: Dwayne Bowe had an impressive rookie season in 2007 followed by an even more productive second season in 2008, but fell back to the pack in his third year. He was in the dog house early in the season, then was suspended (four games -- substance abuse) toward the end of the season. Bowe showed terrific hands and the ability to hold onto the ball in traffic during his first two years in the league, but dropped too many balls last season. The Chiefs will count on him to bounce back this season. Across from him, Chris Chambers was picked up midseason after the Chargers released him. He made an immediate impact, catching two touchdowns in his first game as a Chief. While he did not have 40 yards receiving in any of his seven games with the Chargers, he passed the 40-yard mark in seven of his nine games with the Chiefs and became their most consistent receiver over the second half of the season. Chambers was known as a big-play receiver who also dropped a lot of balls earlier in his career with the Dolphins. As a Charger, he became a sure-handed receiver but lost his big-play mojo. As a Chief, for half a season, he put his best qualities together and was both dynamic and reliable.

Backup WRs: Rooke Dexter McCluster is only 5-8, 165, but the Chiefs plan to get him the ball in a variety of ways -- as a receiver, as a runner, and possibly as a Wildcat QB. McCluster had 1,700 yards from scrimmage last season at Ole Miss, and should operate primarily out of the slot for the Chiefs as a rookie -- perhaps similar to the way the Vikings used Percy Harvin last season. Jerhame Urban and Lance Long will also compete for reps out of the slot. Urban, who has spent time with the Seahawks, Cowboys, and Cardinals, is a team player known for always giving his best effort. Long, similarly, is a high-effort player who emerged from obscurity last year to make a number of plays out of the slot in the latter half of the season.

Tight Ends

Starters: Tony Moeaki
Backups: Leonard Pope, Brad Cottam, Jake O'Connell

After letting Tony Gonzalez leave for Atlanta last season, the Chiefs got poor play out of the tight end position. Leonard Pope does not have the speed to get downfield, and drops too many balls. Brad Cottam is a good athlete with decent potential, but it hasn't translated into production on the field. The Chiefs therefore spent a third-round pick on TE Tony Moeaki, and he should have a chance to play right away. Moeaki has potential as both a blocker and as a receiver, and should take over the starting position sooner rather than later as long as he stays healthy (something he had trouble doing in college).

Place Kicker

Ryan Succop : Ryan Succop had a strong career placekicking, punting, and kicking off at South Carolina, although an abdominal muscle tear affected his senior year numbers. Last year, the Chiefs new coaching staff (at the urging of special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman) selected Succop with the final pick in the draft. The choice paid off as Succop emerged as one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season for the team. He hit 25 of 29 (86.2%) on FGs, and was perfect from under 40 yards. After some kicker scoring success during the Dick Vermeil years, Kansas City slipped to 16th and then plummeted to 31st and 32nd during the Herm Edwards era. Succop's accuracy helped them climb back up to 17th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Quinten Lawrence, Jamaal Charles, Lance Long, Maurice Leggett

Among the many that the Chiefs tried on kickoff returns last year, RB Jamaal Charles proved to be the best (36 returns, 25.7 avg. 1 TD). He is unlikely to continue in that capacity this year given his increased role on offense. Two second round draft picks will vie for return duties. Of the two, CB Javier Arenas from Alabama has the most experience. His 90 career kickoff returns and 2,166 yards rank fifth in SEC history. RB Dexter McCluster was used in various roles at Mississippi throughout his career. He averaged 19.7 yards on 19 kickoff returns. Second year player WR Quinten Lawrence had limited health and limited success (16 returns, 19.8 avg.) last year, but could factor into the mix this year if healthy. Potential backups/upmen include CB Maurice Leggett (5 returns, 20.6 avg. in 2008) and WR Lance Long (6 returns, 17.7 avg.).

Punt Returners: Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Quinten Lawrence, Maurice Leggett

Javier Arenas was both busy and highly successful on punt returns in college. His 125 career returns ranks second in NCAA FBS history as do his seven career TDs. McCluster will have to rely on his speedy potential rather than college experience of eight career returns (7.1 avg.). Quinten Lawrence had even less college experience on punt returns, but he made it count. His lone punt return came in 2008 and went 70 yards for a score. With Bobby Wade and Dantrell Savage gone, Maurice Leggett is the only remain player that returned any punts for the Chiefs last year (5 returns, 2.6 avg.). The Chiefs typically ranked in the top half of the league in fantasy returns during the Dick Vermeil and Dante Hall era, including a number one in 2003. The last three years they ranked 28th, 23rd, and 15th.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Branden Albert, LG Brian Waters, C Rudy Niswanger, RG Ryan Lilja, RT Ryan O'Callaghan
Key Backups: G Jon Asamoah (R), T Ike Ndukwe, C Casey Weigmann

The Chiefs offensive line is rebuilding nicely. It isn't as strong as it was in the past but it is certainly headed back in the right direction. Branden Albert is a top-tier talent at left tackle but is still learning his craft and needs to get better in terms of discipline and consistency. He took too many penalties last season but made strides in both pass protection and run blocking. He could emerge as a top-five tackle in the next season or two if he works hard at his craft. Ryan O'Callaghan is a huge man at 6'7 and 330 pounds and he does have talent. However with just 19 career starts he may not have the athleticism to turn the corner at this level. Waters has started 125 of the past 128 games for the Chiefs. He is an exceptional guard but at 33 years of age, he is entering the down slope of his career. He took too many penalties and wasn't as dominant as he used to be. Rudy Niswanger has started 31 of 32 games for the Chiefs and he is beginning to emerge as a force at center. He isn't there yet but if he continues to improve, he will be very good. Finally the Chiefs added a very good guard in Ryan Lilja from Indianapolis. If his knees are in good shape, he'll be a huge upgrade for the Chiefs at right guard. This could be a pretty good season for the Chiefs offensive line.

Team Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Tyson Jackson, NT Ron Edwards, DE Glenn Dorsey
Backups: DE Alex Magee, DE Wallace Gilberry, DE Kenny Smith, DT Derek Lokey, DT Shaun Smith

Starting DL: The Chiefs again look to be extremely thin along the defensive line in 2010. High draft picks Jackson and Dorsey will be counted on to improve as 5-technique players. Dorsey showed some improvement in run support last season, but his pressure numbers still aren't living up to the team's expectations. Jackson struggled in his rookie season, but should make strides in his second year. Edwards is a replacement level nose tackle who may again be asked to take more snaps than he should.

Backup DL: Magee and Gilberry are rotational players. Magee flashed in a very limited role last season and will likely see a significant increase in playing time this year. Smith has bounced around the league in recent seasons due to inconsistency and a suspect attitude. He may be pressed into service as the primary backup at nose tackle.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Tamba Hali, ILB Corey Mays, ILB Demorrio Williams, OLB Mike Vrabel
Backups: ILB Derrick Johnson, ILB Jovan Belcher, OLB Andy Studebaker, LB David Herron, LB Justin Rogers

Starting LBs: The Kansas City linebacking unit struggled terribly against the run last season. While they had little support from the defensive line, Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams had difficulty holding the point of attack and made too many plays downfield. Both were rotational players for the bulk of the year, leaving the field in all subpackages. Both could see fewer snaps in the base defense this year, with Jovan Belcher gaining favor as the 2009 season went on and Derrick Johnson arguably the best all-around talent among the four. Hali was an effective pass rusher from his new standup OLB position, but wasn't as good against the run as he'd been at DE. Mike Vrabel's play was quietly solid, but he no longer adds much in pass rush.

Backup LBs: Johnson found himself in the doghouse well before the preseason last year and never worked himself back into the good graces of his coaches. He played a limited role as a subpackage specialist, but again showed the ability to make game-changing plays. He could factor into the base defensive packages again with a strong offseason. Belcher earned snaps in the nickel package and began rotating with Mays in the base defense by year's end. If he can add bulk and hold his own in run support, he'll likely earn a larger role soon. Studebaker looked good in a minor role during the second half of 2009 and will likely cut into Vrabel's playing time again this year.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Brandon Flowers, S Eric Berry, S Jon McGraw, CB Brandon Carr
Backups: CB Javier Arenas, CB Maurice Leggett, CB Travis Daniels, S DaJuan Morgan, S Jarrad Page, S Jon McGraw, DB Kendrick Lewis

Starting DBs: The Chiefs added an all-around talent with big play upside early in the first round in safety Eric Berry. It's not yet certain how Berry will be used. He could fit equally well in a roving centerfielder role in the mold of a Sean Taylor or in an in-the-box, man coverage role like Rodney Harrison. The other safety position will be a wide open competition, with veteran Jon McGraw a narrow favorite after providing some stability late last year. Brandon Flowers has established himself as the team's top corner and provides toughness in run support with solid zone coverage skills. Carr has been steady but inconsistent and will be pushed by second round pick Javier Arenas.

Backup DBs: Arenas is expected to win the nickel job in camp over veterans Travis Daniels and Maurice Leggett. He'll likely switch roles with Carr in time. Morgan has never impressed the coaches enough to earn a significant role at safety. Page's inconsistency has had him in the same doghouse as Derrick Johnson at times. Both will compete to start alongside Berry. Lewis is a fifth round pick that could play a role in subpackages in time.

Last modified: 2010-06-07 15:36:35