Cottam, Belcher, Brown, Long and Studebaker.
Sounds like a law firm doesn’t it?
I believe that Brad Cottam, Javon Belcher, Colin Brown, Lance Long and Andy Studebaker could be 5 key players that contribute to the Chiefs improvement.
With all of our talk about potential free agents and the upcoming draft, we tend to overlook some of the younger players with potential that the Chiefs already have on their roster. I want to take a look at these 5 players and how their continued development could be what turns the team around. These 5 players are all young, unproven and have a lot of potential. Some of them have shown flashes that they might just have what it takes to be a starter. Obviously, in the NFL flashes aren’t enough. All NFL players are talented and athletic but it is those players who can perform at a high level on a consistent basis that are the ones that will be trusted to start. Some players take longer to develop than others. Some have a ceiling and will never get better than they are right now. Some players, however, blossom late and can sometimes blossom big. Pittsburgh’s James Harrison is a perfect example of a player from a small school that was undrafted and showed very little promise early in his career that got his play on track and is now one of the best players at his position in the league.
Do the Chiefs have a potential Pro Bowlers in Cottam, Belcher, Brown, Long and Studebaker? Perhaps not, but the Chiefs don’t need 5 young All-Pros. They need solid, reliable starters to solidify the heart of their roster. Of that foundation, stars will emerge.
Let’s take a quick look at each player and how they might be able to develop into a core player for the new era Chiefs.
We’ll start with Brad Cottam. When Cottam was drafted by Herm Edwards he was thought to be the successor to the Tony Gonzalez throne. Not an easy task for any rookie. When Herm was fired and Tony was traded most Chiefs fans expected to get a better look at Cottam. Unfortunately for Brad, Todd Haley was not impressed and the Chiefs continued to bring in different tight ends all season while Cottam warmed the bench. Prior to Week 13, Cottam had registered only 1 catch for 11 yards and that came in a Week 3 trouncing by the Eagles.
Suddenly, in Week 13 in another trouncing by the Broncos, Cottam was getting involved in the offense, catching 3 balls for 21 yards. In Buffalo, Cottam had another catch, this time for a healthy 26 yards. He followed that up with easily the best game of his career vs. the Browns. Cottam had 4 receptions for 62 yards against the Browns before he landed on his head stretching out of a first down, ending his season. Cottams numbers in those 3 games, stretched out over the course of a 16 game season, would average out to 41.6 catches for 580.7 yards. Numbers like that would make Cottam a very solid starter and potential offensive weapon for Matt Cassel. Cottam is huge at 6-7, and weighs 269 pounds. He could be a very big (literally) asset to the Chiefs in red zone situations as well as roaming across the middle. Todd Haley had to appreciate Cottam’s effort late last season and you have to believe he will be given every chance to claim a starting spot this year.
Next up is Javon Belcher. One of the surprises of last season, Belcher was thought to be primarily a special teamer but Belcher improved so much that Todd Haley was rotating him into the defense in passing situations alongside Derrick Johnson. Belcher was constantly around the ball showing a ton of hustle. His best moment came when he effectively made the game winning tackle against the Steelers. Belcher made a beautiful open field tackle that prevented the Steelers from getting a first down and entering FG range in OT. The Steelers were forced to punt and the Chiefs went on to score on the next procession. Belcher is 6-2, 228 and recorded 48 tackles last year as a backup and a special teams player. He is only 22 years old. Could this be as good as Belcher ever gets? Sure. But if he does continue to develop he could one day find himself a starter at MLB. Already a valuable player for the Chiefs, Belcher could become even more valuable if he continues to exceed expectations. Chiefs fans should be watching Javon very closely this season.
On to Colin Brown. How can you not have high hopes for Colin, a life long Chiefs fan and former Missouri Tiger? Brown is gianormous at 6-7, 335 and was taken by Pioli and the Chiefs in the 5th round of the draft last year. The Chiefs originally had him listed as a G but were trying him out at RT last preseason before a knee injury sent him to injured reserve. With the addition of Ryan Lilja and the presence of Brian Waters it doesn’t appear that there is room for Brown as a starter at the G position but he very well could push Ryan O’Callahan at RT. Brown played RG at Missouri and by all accounts is a pretty good pass blocker. Brown has also played center in his football career and we know the Chiefs aren’t particularly stable at that position either, even with the addition of Casey Weigman. Brown’s versatility on the offensive line may be the reason why the Chiefs didn’t bother to re-sign utility man Wade Smith. If the Chiefs can eventually develop Brown into a starter, whether it be at C, RT or as the successor to Brian Waters, the Chiefs will have hit a homerun with the 5th round pick. By all accounts, Brown was healthy and at the offseason program yesterday. Keep your eye on this kid this offseason.
Lance Long. Long was brought in by the Chiefs last season during the teams search for reliable receivers and he had his ups and downs. Long is very small at 5’11 and 186 pounds. His best bet to catch on with the Chiefs is in the slot receiver role. Long had 20 catches last year for 186 yards with a long reception of 30 yards. I would say Long is more of a quick receiver than a fast one but by all accounts he is a good guy who works hard. Long is an intriguing prospect, especially given the success of Wes Welker (5’9, 185). If I were Lance Long I would have spent my entire offseason watching tape of Welker. If Long can learn to play with Welker’s heart, he could be a big surprise for KC. The odds aren’t good for a player as small as Long but he must have made it this far for a reason. Receiving jobs are wide open on the Chiefs so this is probably Lance’s best shot at making it in the NFL. He needs to step up.
Andy Studebaker is someone I talked about in an article not long ago so I won’t go on at length here. Studebaker was very productive both on special teams and in relief of Mike Vrabel. His two interceptions were big keys to the Chiefs victory over the Steelers and of his 28 tackles last season, 17 of them came in relieve of Vrabel (Raiders game when Vrabes was injured early, through the Week 12 game vs. the Chargers). Studebaker was also a sack master in college so if he continues to learn under Mike Vrabel, he could be the Chiefs answer at OLB opposite Tamba Hali. From what I understand, the Chiefs are very excited about Studebaker’s progress. If he continues to improve, expect to see him in a starting role sooner rather than later.
When evaluating a roster you can put players into one of three categories. Assenting players, descending players and ceiling players. The ceiling players are guys will probably never be better than they are. Examples on the Chiefs would be:
Ascending: Jamaal Charles
Descending: Thomas Jones
Ceiling: Mike Cox
Belcher, Studebaker, Cottam, Long and Brown are all still young enough to be considered ascending.
Coming into the league, these 5 guys all had pretty low expectations placed upon them. The holes on the Chiefs roster aren’t going to be totally filled by draft picks and free agent pickups. For the Chiefs to truly turn the corner, some of the guys on the roster will have to fill those holes themselves.
Let’s hope 2010 is the year that the law firm of Cottam, Belcher, Brown, Long and Studebaker makes its move.