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2014 Team Report: Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterbacks

Starter: Alex Smith
Backup(s): Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray (R)

Starting QB: After years of floundering in San Francisco Alex Smith seems to have found the perfect place and system for his talents. Andy Reid doesn't ask the 30 year-old quarterback to do too much and Smith excels as the game manager that Reid desires. Over the past two seasons Smith has now thrown 36 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. In 2013 he set career highs in touchdowns (23), passing yards (3313), and rushing yards (431). While Smith has always been viewed as an athletic quarterback, his athleticism really shined with the Chiefs. The team designed run plays for him and Smith turned plenty of broken pass plays into positive rushing plays. There are a lot of questions about Smith's weapons in Kansas City, but he'll largely have the same group back he did in 2013 (sans Dexter McCluster). Much like Reid's system doesn't demand a big arm at quarterback, it can also make due without superstar receivers.

Backup QB: Chase Daniel is a 6 foot 218 pound career backup out of the University of Missouri. He lacks arm strength but has the intelligence to make a decent stopgap as well as a good mentor for younger quarterbacks. With Tyler Bray going on the IR, the third QB will be Aaron Murray. Murray's ceiling is probably a less athletic Smith, but he seems to fit Reid's style better than Bray.

Running Backs

Starter: Jamaal Charles
Backup(s): Knile Davis, De'Anthony Thomas (R), Cyrus Gray, Joe McKnight
Fullback(s): Anthony Sherman

Starting RB: Charles has been a RB1 for 4 of the 5 last seasons, but he's never been as good as he was in 2013. Charles set career highs in touchdowns (19), receptions (70) and receiving yards (693) on his way to being the most productive running back in fantasy football. Charles had never been considered much of a red zone back until last year, but he proved that opportunity was all he needed. He scored 9 of his 12 rushing touchdowns from inside the 5 last year. Charles also saw a huge increase in his usage in the passing game under Reid. He is the main (only?) offensive weapon on this team and he sees a huge percentage of his team's rushes, receptions and touchdowns. Charles has elite speed to break the big play and also showed toughness last year running between the tackles.

Backup RBs: Knile Davis finished the season much stronger than he started it, with productive performances in week 17 and the wild card round. The Chiefs really didn't spell Charles much in the year, which greatly limited Davis' usage. What also limited it was Davis' propensity to fumble, which carried over from college. Davis has elite speed and can be a productive back if the team loses Charles for an extended time. De'Anthony Thomas is currently listed as a running back but it's likely that the team sees him as a replacement for Dexter McCluster. at 5'9" 174 lbs, the 4th round pick certainly looks the part. Cyrus Gray may well have lost his role on the team with the acquisition of Thomas. Gray was the closest thing the team had to a third down back, but he'll now be fighting for a roster spot with Joe McKnight. Both backs have special teams value.

Fullback: Sherman is used sparingly in the pass game and even less in the running game. He is a blocker first and second and shows little elusiveness when he catches the ball in the open field. Reid's offense focuses on matchups so there are occasions when Sherman is used more often than usual, but those are few and far between. The fourth year back scored his first career touchdown in 2013.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery
Backups: Junior Hemingway, A.J. Jenkins, Frankie Hammond, Albert Wilson (R)

Starting WRs: The starting wide receivers were a major disappointment statistically in 2013. Dwayne Bowe specifically had a tragically slow start to the season, catching more than 4 passes only once in the team's first 8 games. Bowe has 3-1000 yard seasons to his name including a monster 2010 campaign when he caught 15 touchdown passes. It was a major adjustment for him going from Matt Cassel (who would force the ball to Bowe in any circumstance) to Smith who is far more cautious with the ball. Bowe showed signs of acclimating in the second half and posted an 8-150-1 in the Chiefs playoff loss. Bowe will miss the team's opening game due to a suspension. Avery was a 2013 pickup from Indianapolis that failed to match his 2012 production. Avery was most successful on routes underneath the defense, but once teams took that away he was largely useless. He got behind the defense several times but dropped more deep passes than he caught. The 30 year-old receiver showed promise with 781 receiving yards in 2012 but last year only had one game with more than 4 grabs.

Backup WRs: The battle for the Chiefs third receiver job will be filled with inexperience and intrigue. Junior Hemingway made small strides in his second season, most notably in his route running. Hemingway often plays smaller than his size and doesn't have elite speed. The team is said to be very excited about A.J. Jenkins, another receiver entering his third year. The former first round pick was acquired from San Francisco in 2013 and is trying to fight off the bust label he's so rightly earned. Jenkins struggled to see the field in 2013 outside of a week 17 game in which the team rested their starters. Rookie Albert Wilson and Frankie Hammond climbed the depth chart in the preseason and Hammond will start for Bowe during his suspension.

Tight Ends

Starters: Anthony Fasano
Backups: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris

Fasano was the Chiefs' starting tight end in 2013 when he could stay healthy. After missing only 4 games in his first 7 NFL seasons, Fasano struggled with a variety of ailments and only played 9 games. He continued to be a force in the red zone and has now scored 13 touchdowns in his last 40 games. Fasano is an excellent blocker, and that is his main purpose. Even with Travis Kelce healthy this fall, Fasano will still see plenty of snaps because of his blocking. Kelce missed his entire rookie campaign due to a microfracture. He was a 3rd round pick in 2013 and has looked outstanding at camp so far. Harris is a project that likely has a spot because of the retirement of Sean McGrath. Harris has size and athleticism but he's very raw.

Place Kicker

Cairo Santos: The veteran of the specialist trio, punter and holder Dustin Colquitt is entering his tenth year. Long snapper Thomas Gafford is back for his seventh year. Kicker Ryan Succop entered his sixth year having missed six field goals in each of the past four years, which is a notch below the ever increasing NFL standard. He was challenged by and lost out to undrafted rookie Cairo Santos (Tulane), winner of the 2012 Lou Groza Award. After three years ranked towards the lower end in attempted kicking points, the Chiefs climbed to 13th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Knile Davis, DeAnthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond, Albert Wilson

The Chiefs have maintained one of the better return games for the last few years despite the names of the returners changing. Knile Davis handled two thirds of the returns, and his 28.6 yard average and one touchdown should keep him in the mix this season. De'Anthony Thomas was worked in on kickoffs and sported an equally impressive 30.6 yard average. A continued split in return opportunities may make the Chiefs an attractive option for fantasy team return units, but less so for leagues using individual returners.

Punt Returners: DeAnthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond

Kansas City's punt returners have been equally as good as the kick returners, which speaks well to the team's special teams coaching. De'Anthony Thomas should continue as the primary returner, though Frankie Hammond actually maintained a better yards per return average, 13.3 to 11.9. Both were outstanding performances that give the Chiefs little reason to look at other options, such as newly signed receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Eric Fisher, LG Jeff Allen, C Rodney Hudson, RG Jeff Linkenbach, RT Donald Stephenson
Key Backups: G Rishaw Johnson, T Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G/T Rokevious Watkins, T JíMarcus Webb, C Eric Kush

The Chiefs lost three starters to free agency and are among the leagueís youngest lines. As such, they start the season ranked fairly low in our rankings. Besides the veteran departures, also of concern is the play of former first overall pick Eric Fisher. Usually when a team uses the first overall pick on an offensive lineman, the offensive line improves greatly. Unfortunately for the Kansas City Chiefs, this was not the case last season. Fisher spent most the season struggling at right tackle, but it was recently revealed that he was playing hurt. After offseason shoulder and hernia surgeries, Fisher moves back to the left side and is expected to step up his game and live up to his lofty draft status. Assuming heís fully healthy, this should be a bounce-back campaign for Fisher. Playing at left guard for the departed Geoff Schwartz, Jeff Allen also looks to take his game to the next level, as he is entering his third year and should be more comfortable in Coach Andy Reidís offense. Center Rodney Hudson is actually an underrated player and was a reliable starter for the Chiefs last season. Heís another relatively young player looking to make the next step. The right guard position is somewhat of a free for all, as Rishaw Johnson, Rokevious Watkins and Jeff Linkenbach compete for the job. Iím betting on Linkenbach, as heís always been underrated and has the skills to be a starter in this league. At right tackle, the agile Donald Stephenson is slated to start, but should face competition from JíMarcus Webb and Canadian sixth round pick Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (whom fans have already nick named LDT). Overall this line starts the year low in the rankings but if their young players step up, this line could rise up the rankings quickly.

Team Defense

The Chiefs made a concerted effort to improve their defense heading into 2013 and for the first 9 games it looked like they'd done just that. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston wreaked havoc on the outside while Dontari Poe grew into somewhat of a beast on the inside. Derrick Johnson was his reliable self at middle linebacker and the secondary was buoyed by the surprisingly good play of rookie Marcus Cooper. In the second half of the season the Chiefs saw a much more difficult slate of offenses and largely fell apart. Hali and Houston struggled with injuries and it looked like Poe wore down due to overuse. The secondary was exposed, specifically at safety. The team added another pass rusher in Dee Ford and another corner in Phillip Gaines in the draft. There is hope that Husain Abdullah can step up in the defensive backfield and someone will have the fill the shoes of Brandon Flowers. The other safety, Eric Berry, is a great athlete but he provides much more help against the run than he does over the top against the pass. Berry has struggled with tendinitis in his heel this preseason. The pass rush should be outstanding with Hali and Houston healthy but they'll rely on their secondary to cover long enough for them to get to the quarterback. The loss of Sanders Commings and the decline of Sean Smith has made this secondary look ripe for the picking.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Mike Devito, DE Allen Bailey, NT Dontari Poe
Backups: DE Mike Catapuano, DE Vance Walker

Starting DL: Dontari Poe took a leap forward in 2013 and became a force that other teams have to account for. His penetration skills are unusual for a man his size and his energy level is off the charts. Poe struggled down the stretch because the Chiefs didn't have enough help to get him off the field during games and he seemed to wear down. Veteran Mike DeVito was serviceable in his first year with the Chiefs, but his contributions don't often show up on the stat sheet. DeVito has said this offseason that he'll be working on more penetration in 2014, which would be a change from his role last year. Allen Bailey is a physical freak that's never quite seen his measurables translate to success on the defensive line. His role on passing downs could be impacted by the addition of first round pick Dee Ford, so he bulked up in the offseason and now is making a push to be a run stopper at DE.

Backup DL: Vance Walker is listed as a backup NT but he's going to play all over the field. Walker has been getting after the quarterback so far in camp. Mike Catapano is a second year player out of Princeton that didn't see the field until week 15 last year, but he missed most of the preseason with an unspecified illness and started the year on the NFI list.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Derrick Johnson, ILB Joe Mays, OLB Tamba Hali, OLB Justin Houston
Backups: James-Michael Johnson ILB OLB Dee Ford

Starting LBs: The starting linebackers are the strength of the Chiefs' defense. Derrick Johnson is a ball hawk that benefits greatly from the attention given to Hali, Houston, and Poe. Johnson consistently posts high tackle totals with the occasional big play thrown in. There may be a passing of the torch on the outside as Tamba Hali enters his ninth season. Hali has racked up 46.5 sacks in the last 4 years but doesn't have the same motor that he once did. The top threat in the pass rush is now Justin Houston. Houston racked up 11 sacks in his first 8 games last year and looked almost unblockable at times. With Hali on the other side it's difficult to double team Houston and even harder to stop him with one man. Veteran Joe Mays won the starting job in camp but then suffered an injury that will cause him to miss the start of the season.

Backup LBs: Johnson looks to be the likely starter until Mays is healthy. Rookie Dee Ford will spell Houston and Hali on the outside and could possibly see some time on the defensive line as well. Ford is first and foremost a pass rusher that will need to work on his run support. The 23rd overall pick had 10.5 sacks in 2013 at Auburn.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Marcus Cooper, CB Sean Smith, SS Eric Berry, FS Husain Abdullah
Backups: CB Phillip Gaines, CB Ron Parker

Starting DBs: Brandon Flowers was cut the offseason and leaves a huge hole in the secondary. Marcus Cooper was a 7th round pick in 2013 picked up by the Chiefs off waivers. Another big corner in the mold of Sean Smith, Cooper likes to play close to the line. Cooper provided depth that the team sorely needed last year but was exposed in the second half on deep routes. Ron Parker has played three years in the league with three different teams. The fact that he's currently a starter is more an indictment of the Chiefs secondary than praise of Parker. Husain Abdullah is likely the player that will be filling that role. Abdullah played sparingly in 2013 after missing the 2012 season for religious reasons. Abdullah will try to do a better job than Kendrick Lewis did last year providing the last line of defense. Eric Berry is a former first round pick that seems to spend as much time at linebacker as he does safety. Berry is excellent in run support and has the athleticism to make big plays, as evidenced by his 3 INTs and 3.5 sacks in 2013. Berry showed some improvement in coverage last year but still has a long way to go to be considered an elite safety.

Backup DBs: Sean Smith is a 6th year corner spent his first 4 years in Miami before arriving in KC last year. Smith is a big physical corner that is best used in bump and run coverage. Phillip Gaines was the team's 3rd round draft pick out of Rice. Gaines has the size and speed to play the position but probably needs a year of seasoning before he'll be ready to compete at this level.

Last modified: 2015-05-10 16:46:45