October 14, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber (20) tackles Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster (22) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dexter McCluster: Just A Teeny Little Super Guy

You can’t judge a hero by his size…

You can, however, judge them by their draft position and the production that hasn’t justified them being taken 36th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. I should say this right up front — I’m biased. I’m an honest-to-God fan of Dexter McCluster. I think he’s a tough, scrappy young football player who could eventually win his detractors over. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.

Since being drafted, McCluster has been Chiefs Kingdom’s 2nd-favorite whipping boy (just behind the underachieving and criminally overpaid quarterback who now plays in Minnesota). He’s never been able to escape comparisons to players that fans think should’ve gone ahead of him in the draft class. I’m sure you’ve heard the names enough to remember them (Terrence Cody and Sergio Kindle come to mind). In fairness, some of the criticism has been warranted. “Dex”, as he’s sometimes affectionately known, hasn’t been the secret weapon he was expected to be. He hasn’t been a consistent playmaker or even established himself at any one offensive position.

Despite the criticism, McCluster never seems to go away. The fourth-year player enters the 2013 season looking for the breakout season that’s eluded him since he came into the league. Fortunately for him, he’s gotten the ultimate cosign from new head coach Andy Reid.

I kind of like him. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s got a heart of a lion. He’s got that MO, tremendous quickness and can catch. He’s pretty good at running the football, so there is a place for him. You line him up everywhere. You can move him around and kind of do some unique things with him.

In Reid’s West Coast offense, McCluster could finally live up to his draft promise. The offensive system is predicated upon a quick tempo that gets players like McCluster into open space. With a quarterback like Alex Smith, who has excellent ball placement on short and intermediate throws, Dex could become a valuable cog in Kansas City’s offensive wheel. In years past, he’s been the most dangerous when he’s been hit in stride and with room to operate.

To date, McCluster has produced 989 receiving yards, 657 rushing yards, and 4 offensive touchdowns. That’s not a very compelling stat line, but factor in another touchdown (on special teams) and 1,357 return yards and he hasn’t been a complete waste of a draft pick. His role on special teams was diminshed in 2012, but we could see a re-emergence there with new special teams coach Dave Toub in place. Here’s what he had to say about the possibility earlier in the offseason:

McCluster is somebody that’s very intriguing to me. He can really make you miss, and I just think he’s got a lot of untapped potential as a punt returner.

He’s certainly no Devin Hester, but I suspect he’ll have his best years under Toub’s tutelage.

Aside from failing to live up to draft expectations, I’m not sure I understand all of the vitriol directed at McCluster. He’s an upstanding football player with unquestionable toughness. Few players on this team have had their roles shifted as often as he has, but he’s accepted every challenge graciously and done what’s been asked of him. He’s the kind of football player that fans usually love.

Fans may have a change of heart if ever he becomes the electrifying skill-position player we were told he’d be. 2013 is the final year on his rookie deal. If he impresses Reid and produces on the field, I believe he’ll be re-signed. If not, he may be on borrowed time in Kansas City. Time’s a great storyteller so we’re certain to find out.

What do you expect from McCluster this season? Use the comment section below to weigh in!

Until next time, Addicts!

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Travis Forsyth

    dex hasn’t been very productive, but has been an exciting player to watch at times and can’t wait to see what Andy Reid has in store for him.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      He’s definitely flashed. I’m excited about the possibilities in 2013. I think he can be dangerous in the slot.

  • chiefridgy

    I like Dex and I don’t think he’s been given a fair shake up to this point. Unfortunately for him he hasn’t been in the best situation.

    • Mark

      I totaly agree fridgy dex had cashole throwing the football he has not been in a good situation. can not wait until sept. look out nfl here comes the Chiefs.

    • KCPauly

      I agree with you too Chiefridgy, I like the read Stacy, I think he will be way better with a coaching staff that actually has a clue about football, as you know if you have read any of my post, I think the whole Peehole era was nothing more than a bunch of baffoons wasting the talent on this team, I think with competent leadership(QB Included) we will see a completely different team, my hope anyway, only time will tell of course but I am very cautiously optimistic….Go Chiefs!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Altarium

    Your point about him being moved all over the place is spot on. I’ve never felt like he had a defined role on the team. Every year it’s kind of been “wonder where they’ll put him this time?”. If the coaches wanted him to be a swiss army knife of sorts, they should have actually made the commitment to coaching him as such. Instead it seemed like a lot of shifting around just trying to find out what to do with him. I think Reid is smart enough to know that you’ve got to give someone a defined role, even if that role comes with a wide range of responsibilities on the field.

    • berttheclock

      Weis tried, but, the High Ankle Sprain really curtailed much of his training. Huge problem developed under Muir, when, Muir could not design screen passes to him. However, one thing many forget about Dexter in all of their “He goes down if you breathe on him”, and/or “He fumbles”, is the fact even in the poor season, he was the one who moved the chains on drives, showing he did not quit. He showed heart. How many remember one of his injuries, last season, was due to having to dive for a very poorly thrown MC pass? He tried, even though, he ended up injured.

  • Matt Finucane

    I’m fine with McCluster being on the team, but he was a terrible pick. It was obvious at the time, and its gotten increasingly obvious as the years have gone by. Those who didn’t like that 2nd round, and were called “haters”, were proven 100% correct.

    Has he been a whipping boy, would you say? Seems kind of the opposite to me. I’ve read like 20 articles over the years trying to spin him as a good player.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      1,001 all-purpose yards per season since joining the team = horrible pick? I certainly don’t think he’s played up to his draft position, but there’s something between a “hit” and a “bust.” He HAS contributed.

      • Matt Finucane

        All-purpose yards? Come on now. The very fact that you have to go there says a lot about McCluster’s career thus far.

        Bust is maybe too strong, but he was definitely a bad pick.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          He’s been used in a number of ways. Why would I gloss over ANY yardage he’s contributed to the team? Even if I only thought about his offensive production, he’s given this team about 500 yards per season (as a roleplayer). While having his roles shifted and being misused.

          I won’t haggle over you calling it a “bad” pick (as I don’t think he’s played to his draft position). Horrible pick though? Not sure I agree with that.

          • jimfromkcj

            Stacy, you judge a player by his position in the draft and his value to the team. And the most important one for me is the missed opportunities. Look at the players left on the board after the Chiefs drafted the two midgits in the second round. We could have had Nate Allen CB, Gronkowski TE, Houston DT, Cody NT, Tate WR, Veldheer LT, Decker WR, Graham TE. And that is just what was left in the second and third rds. All in all, that 2010 draft was a terrible draft for the Chiefs. Too many lost opportunities.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            By that logic, you’d also have to consider the players taken after him that he’s been better than. There are a host of players on that list as well.

          • KCMikeG

            Thanks for stating the obvious that gets overlooked all the time to support why Dexter and other picks were “terrible”. They only want to mention players who, in good old accurate 20/20 hindsight, are better now while ignoring all the failures before and after his pick. Here’s a few to support the “greatness” of picking Dexter at #36 – Total bust Rolando McClain at #8, the oft injured Ryan Matthews at #12, Tebow at #25 who even though he was part of the run game that got the donkeys to the playoffs, is on his 3rd team, didn’t even play last year and will be moved to a TE to if he even gets on the field in NE. Or Javid Best at #30 – Best is expected to never play football again after suffering two concussions in the 2011 season. Or #10 pick Tyson Alualu who has battled knee injuries which have slowed his progress thus far. He has shown some ability to be a disruptive force inside, but his play has been unsteady.ProFootballFocus gave him a grade of -17.7 last year, noting that he was equally bad against the run and pass. I could go on & on & on but I believe that the point has been proven. Thanks again Stacy for bringing the topic to light.

          • berttheclock

            Strange you left off Zane Beadles. He was taken at 45. But, I would suggest it was not Dexter being taken, but, down the line, Pioli took Asamoah and Veldheer was the next pick. Then, he moved up in the draft and selected Moeaki at 93 and left Graham for the Saints at 95.
            Yes, one could well argue the point about not taking Gronk, but, remember, he had an injured record in college. The Pats took a chance and reaped the benefits, but, look at him now and where the Pats stand at TE.

  • fje

    Form what I have seen, he seems to go down pretty easily when someone puts a hand on him. Not that he isn’t tough, but just not that hard to tackle. I would like to see what his stats are for yards after contact.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      The guy’s 5’8 and a buck-70. The last thing he could ever be in this league is hard to tackle.

      • fje

        True, but it seems to me that it is more than not being able to run over people. I think that Jamal Charles does well in yards after contact even though he is not a power back. Plus, it kind of raises the question that he is a great athlete, isn’t he just too small to play (effectively) in the NFL. As a receiver, there is a very small window to get the ball to him. As a runner, it is relatively easy to bring him down.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          Charles is 3 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier. Not a good comparison.

          • fje

            Fair enough. How does McCluster compare with guys like Welker then? Maybe Welker goes down also whenever someone lays a hand on him. Or maybe my perception of McCluster is wrong.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            He’s a better comparison, but still not exactly a 1:1. Welker is an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier.

  • Tony Parker

    I remember his first training camp, he kept blowing up cleats with his quickness, I thought this little guy is going to be dangerous. Then everytime he touched the ball out of the backfield my heart skipped a beat with all those spinaramas. I don’t think RB is his forte. however with a good coaching staff & scheme in place and an accurate QB, get him the ball in space and I think we will see a different Dex this year. cant wait…..GO CHIEFS!

  • berttheclock

    Has nothing to do with his on field production, but, I remember talking with a good friend who had been involved with helping new players relocate to KC. She raved about what great people were Dexter and his girl friend. Born and bred KC lady who said they were so wonderful to be around. This was juxtaposed with her comments about having to deal with Routt coming in from Oakland Complete opposite.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      That’s a shared story. The guy seems to be universally liked. He’s genuinely a good guy.

  • ArrowFan

    My only problem is the way our past coaches would try and run the guy right up the gut over and over again.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      He was used in curious ways. That’s for sure. Remember when Vermeil’s staff finally figured out what to do with Priest? Made all the difference in the world. McCluster is no Priest Holmes, but he can be much more valuable if used properly.

    • jimfromkcj

      He was run up the gut because he doesn’t have Jamal’s speed to get outside. And he doesn’t do all that well doing it because he doesn’t have the ability to use his quickness in confined spaces to make tacklers miss. His only chance for makina play is to get the ball in open space where he has room to make people miss. I doubt he will ever do much as he will always be playing with injuries that will slow him even more.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        The knock on McCluster’s speed almost universally comes from the 40 he ran at the Combine (4.58). People tend to forget he stumbled. When he ran again at the Ole Miss Pro Day, he ran a 4.4. McCluster has plenty of speed to get outside.

        There’s more to being a playmaker than being elusive. He’s dangerous in space. He isn’t going to break many tackles at just 170 pounds and he probably won’t break any ankles either. Neither of those things mean he can’t help an offense in a significant way.

        • ArrowFan

          So he should never never never be running the ball between the tackles. Unless it is some king of shovel pass or screen.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            Depends on the offensive set. Probably not from traditional run formations, but perhaps he could run a few draw plays (from passing sets) here and there?

  • Calchiefsfan

    Dex is a playmaker which is why he was drafted. The Chiefs didn’t have much in the way of playmakers that year. His return against San Diego on MNF was supposed to be a regular occurance for him. Unfortunately we didn’t have a QB and an OC or even a decent special teams coach to take advantage of Dex’s strengths. I’m hoping this year we will finally get to see the best of Dex.

  • sidibeke

    The key to that bit is “hit him in stride.” He hasn’t had a QB who could hit him in stride, with any consistency anyway. Let’s hope AS can and see what the little guy can do. I predict a solid year for him; not Pro Bowl, because JC will get a lot of yards, but a solid year.

  • Kyle Jackson

    I personally love Dex. Sure he hasn’t shown much flash, but he has more heart, and is willing to do anything for this organization. Think of how many time that 5’8″ 170lbs body was sent over the middle and had to jump for a lobbed horrid high pass from Cassel, and catch it knowing he was going to get nailed before his feet would touch the ground.

  • Samuel Fleming

    I watched Dexter at Ole Miss for four years. He has great quickness and speed in the open field. He may not be tall in stature but he has the heart of a lion. He has a tremendous attitude and is a hard worker. I have followed him with Kansas City and the problem he has had there is that their coaches didn’t have sense enough to figure out how to use him. The first time I saw him as a Kansas City Chief was in a televised game returning a punt. It was pouring down rain and in spite of this, he made a move that left a veteran flat on his face and the next thing you saw was Dexter at the other end of the field in the end zone. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team and a great role model for kids. Lord knows they need a good role model given all the rich spoiled “superstars” we read about in the news almost daily who have killed someone, beat up their girlfriend, killed someone in a car accident while under the influence, etc. Need I say more? Give the guy a chance and Kansas City fans will have something to cheer about again.