The K.C. Chiefs Player Rankings And The Hinge Draft

1 Feature From The Bleachers

The 2014 Kansas City Chiefs are in a bit of a pickle. The new regime of Andy Reid and John Dorsey have been espousing two truths this off season: they will only be selecting the “best players available” in the draft and that the Chiefs are not going to be “active” during the Free Agency period which begins in exactly one week (March 8th for verbal agreements and March 11th for signing contracts). The problem is, the Chiefs are going to need good players from both the draft and Free Agency to improve an organization that is teetering between mediocrity and excellence and depending on how they do this offseason will determine their future status as a contender.

The salary cap is now officially $133 million leaving the Chiefs with much more than they started out the offseason with, giving rise to the speculation that they’ll actually do more to save the players they thought they might lose otherwise.

On Friday morning, AA’s own Nicholas Alan Clayton posted a piece called Salary Cap Boost A Huge Win For Chiefs, in which he reveals that if the league does in fact make the cap $133 mil then the Chiefs will have $12.458 at their discretion. Clayton goes on the say,

“With this amount of room, the Chiefs can sign (or re-sign) one valuable free agent like LT Branden Albert, WR Golden Tate, or WR/PR Dexter McCluster. Or, they could extend QB Alex Smith.”

So, the news changes the game for the Chiefs. At least it should. If the Chiefs could possibly re-sign their best offensive lineman… shouldn’t they think about attempting that? In an interview a week ago, as the combine was beginning, GM John Dorsey said he and his staff had already sat down and laid out their plan for the offseason. In the same interview, he stated that he had already sat down with LT Branden Albert’s agent to see what could worked out.

Which means even with a limited cap number a week ago, John Dorsey wanted to re-sign his Pro Bowl left tackle and he will probably want to do that more than ever now since there will apparently be more cap space to work with.

There’s a train of thought that the elevated amount of money that it would take to keep Albert means… he’s not worth it. For an offensive line that has spent the better part of the past ten years flailing in ineptitude you would think fans would not want to take a major step backwards at the very moment when the OL appears to be coming together. Building around Albert and Fisher would be much easier than going with Fisher and Stephenson. Some of us can too readily recall the Barry “Ole” Richardson years to ever want to be taking a step backwards.

It raises a question about where Branden Albert actually falls on the list of most valuable Chiefs? Recently an AA blogger asked me to reveal a rating system I might have on NFL prospects in this draft. What I do have time for is a ranking of all Chiefs players which, as it turns out, takes more energy than time.

Energy… because making decisions about who is more valuable, for instance, DJ or Hali, is not a one thought process. In any event, following my February of 2014 ranking of all Chief players. To get there, first I ranked all players by position. Then, I ranked players from those lists into an offensive list and a defensive list. Lastly, I took the offensive and defensive lists and made a whole TEAM ranking.

First, the position by position lists:

1 Off POSITION ranks

1 DEF POSITION Ranks

1 SPEC Rank

Obviously, there is no science to this task. Choosing DJ over Hali was difficult but, in my mind he’s more valuable to the Chiefs even tough Hali plays a critical OLB pass rusher position.

Next, the whole offense and whole defense was ranked:

1 TOTAL OFF Rank

1 TOTAL DEF RankSpecial teams was incorporated into the offense in this case.

Lastly, players were taken from these lists to come out with a whole TEAM Ranking:

1 TOTAL Team Rank

*Both Donald Stephenson and Eric Kush have mistakenly been left off of the charts above. They will be included below.

Jamaal Charles is easily the most valuable player on the Chiefs in my mind. He was competing against perhaps the best regular season QB in the history of the game for league MVP honors for much of this season. So, Charles it is.

Alex Smith started slowly this season, yes. However, considering all of the changes, and non-changes, that took place last year, Smith is “the” major cause for the Chiefs altered fortunes in 2013.

Branden Albert  has progressed every year since coming to the Chiefs culminating in a Pro Bowl season in 2013. I rank him here too in recognition of the time honored QB-LT-OLB idea that these are the most important positions on a roster in the NFL especially since it’s a passing league more than never.

Derrick Johnson has been one of the Chiefs premiere players for years and I may have a bit of a man-crush on DJ but if not for Ray Lewis I think he’d have a handful of Pro Bowls in his pocket that he doesn’t have now. DJ has been in on 871 tackles, had 11 INTs and 22.5 sacks and he’s not usually asked to sack the QB.

Justin Houston could be the premiere OLB who leads the league in sacks one day soon. His arrow is pointing up and that’s the reason I placed him above Hali in value.

Tamba Hali is still one of the most feared pass rushers in the league and paired with Houston gives the Chiefs what I believe is the best pass rushing tandem in football.

Dontari Poe. It goes Poe/Berry or Berry/Poe. Either way they have each become elite at their respective positions. The difference here is that I believe it’s harder to find an elite DT like Poe than a Safety like Berry.

Eric Berry has been Pro Bowl caliber since he arrived in fountain town. Sidelined by an injury in year two takes nothing away from his recognition across the league as star.

Dwayne Bowe is still destined to become the Chiefs all time leading receiver. However, he didn’t live up to his reputation this season when many were expecting him to breakout under new coach Andy Reid.

Dexter McCluster just happened to have a breakout season in his contract year which makes it harder to see him returning to the fold. Dex ability to return punts bumps him up the value ladder.

Eric Fisher is supposed to still be the eventual replacement at LT for Branden Albert, whenever he is gone for good. His rookie year tells us he’s not the Joe Staley (3 Pro Bowls in 3 years) clone that some, like myself, thought he might be. Fish needs to live in the weight room this summer.

Jon Asamoah has been Mr. Consistent at RG since he was drafted by the Chiefs in 2010. No, he’s not been to a Pro Bowl but the Chiefs would like to keep him if possible.

Donald Stephenson has become the heir apparent to either Branden Albert or Eric Fisher at one of he Tackle positions. He’s played well enough in substitution to deserve a shot.

Sean Smith came to the Chiefs last year and solidified one of the CB positions. He’s an above average CB with an open upside at 6-3, 218. He’ll be in the Chiefs plans for the next few years.

Dustin Colquitt continues to be one of the very best Punters in the league. His value, as with all the players here, is dependent upon the ability to replace them. That should place Colquitt in the upper tier of Chiefs players, value wise.

Tyson Jackson had his best year as a Chief in my humble opinion. Aside from Poe, I’d say he was the next best DL the Chiefs had in 2013.

Mike DeVito was right there with TJ and aside from Alex and Sean Smiths, DeVito was the next best Free Agent brought in last off season.

Brandon Flowers didn’t really have a much better year than newcomer Marcus Cooper. His move to the slot is the best thing for him if he’s going to stick for the next couple for years. I felt like his Pro Bowl selection was a cumulative award more than a statement about what he did this past season.

Knile Davis progressed at the right times and contributed in a big way in the Chiefs playoff game. His continued value as a possible super-sub for JC and a kickoff returner moves him up the value scale a tad.

Quintin Demps was a two way player: returning kickoffs and subbing in at the Safety position. I’d like to see Demps back and his double-duty moves him up the value scale as well.

Marcus Cooper was the surprise player of the year. His work at cornerback was very good and even on plays he was beat you could see he was only inches from making a play… and all as the 252nd pick of the 49ers in last year’s draft. He has a “wow upside” and he’s a big reason I can’t wait for the season to begin.

Anthony Sherman was a pleasant surprise after coming to the Chiefs in a trade for Javier Arenas. Sherman made Jamaal Charles’s job a lot easier.

Akeem Jordan came in and calmed a big position of need. He wasn’t the answer at ILB but did help to make us forget what, and who, needed to be forgotten.

Allen Bailey appeared in 15 games for the Chiefs in 2013. He had 25 tackles and one sack… not 8 sacks that he predicted before the season began. However, he did have one more tackle than Tyson Jackson and has more upside as a pass rusher… we just haven’t seen it yet.

Abdullah Husain was the first player that Andy Reid signed last offseason and was coming back after a religious hiatus. He was a very good Safety for the Vikings and by the end of 2013 was beginning to show some of that same promise.

Rodney Hudson was an average Center in 2013. I was surprised the Chiefs used another center with very little experience as a backup because Hudson was out the previous year. Hudson maintains value here because he’s a starter.

Geoff Schwartz was a starter without a starting position. I’ve made it clear before I like him a lot and think he should have been moved ahead of Jeff Allen.

*Eric Kush would be placed at number 41 right in front of Cyrus Gray. If the Chiefs have to have a center, Kush better be ready and I would hazard a guess that it would be easier to go out and shop for a RB in the middle of the season than it would be to find a Center.

~ ~ ~

Now that I’ve explained my ranking of each of the players who have spent time starting this past season, I’ll move on to more important and arising issues. While creating this ranking system I noticed my ideas and preferences about who to keep on the rosters… shifting.

When you look at LT Branden Albert who ranks the 3rd most valuable on this roster (in my estimation), it’s difficult to grasp the idea of the Chiefs allowing him to simply walk away in free agency. Yes, it would cost an inordinate amount of cap dollars to keep him but, how can a team attempting to ascend the league ranks let their 3rd best player go?

Now that the cap appears to be set 10 million higher than we thought at the beginning of the offseason. Does that help? Yes and no. While many are calling for the Chiefs to spend the cap space on Free Agents, it doesn’t make much sense when you consider they’ll have to give up their 3rd most valuable player to do it.

The Chiefs either bring back Albert now, or not. If not, it places more pressure on the Free Agent period. You know… the Free Agency period that the Chiefs aren’t going to be active in…. and so… a lot more will hinge upon their success in the draft.

What really needs to happen and what would really be most convenient for the Chiefs is… for the draft to happen BEFORE Free Agency. Talk about Fantasy Football. Since we’re well aware that this is not going to happen we are left with the following scenario:

… the Chiefs have to guess who — and what positions — they will get to draft (dictated by who’s available) and attempt to fill their holes by signing players in Free Agency beforehand.

Here, I’ll play it out for you with a couple of examples:

1) Albert is re-signed along with Asamoah or McCluster then the Chiefs (who say they’ll only take the BPA (best player available) are stuck hoping the draft will produce players that will help fill some of the needs that made them playoff losers last year like, FS, WR, TE or ILB.

2) Let’s say the Chiefs go the opposite direction and use Dressler (an unknown) to replace McCluster and decide to sign an ILB, FS, and WR in free agency… but are then left attempting to draft a couple of starting quality offensive linemen plus another starter at CB.

It’s comes across whimsical and foolish for the Chiefs to say they’ll take the BPA in the draft and not be players in Free Agency. There’s too much ground to cover and one week from today, we’ll see if the Chiefs are talking to any of the free agents or not.

Hopefully the Chiefs won’t become short-sighted this offseason because not only has the cap been raised to $133 million this year but the 2015 cap is said to be $10 higher and in 2016 the cap soars all the up to $150 million. Which means, the Chiefs could virtually structure contracts so that they could take care of all of their own plus fills some holes.

In Ben Nielsen’s post yesterday called, “Report: Salary Cap Set At $133 Million” he states,

“Kansas City has only 15 guys under contract so far for 2016, not including the two drafts that will take place before the 2016 off-season. Assuming a $150 million cap, this gives the Chiefs nearly $101 million in cap space to work with.”

For me, this is often like the week before Christmas… and it can’t pass fast enough. At least it was last offseason. Then I have the same feeling again the week before the draft. Ahhh, the smell of fresh baked rookies and free agents.

Now, Addict fans, want to re-order my team ranking system? Or, who should the Chiefs focus on in Free Agency so that they don’t have to worry about that position in the draft?

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