Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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!