Generally speaking, for most of Chiefs Kingdom, free agency’s been a disappointment. There’s some thought that the Kansas City Chiefs’ low-level signings won’t make a constructive difference in 2014. The AFC West arms race appears to have been dominated by the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs’ modest FA haul comes as no real surprise to those who’ve been reading the tea leaves. The front office clearly expects to flesh the roster out with players from the NFL Draft. More importantly, they expect younger players already on the roster to mature and make bigger contributions next season.
Chiefs GM John Dorsey’s core “draft and develop” philosophy requires more than the addition of young talent. Eventually those young players are also going to have to play. A pair of the players Kansas City thought would contribute in year one were sidelined with injuries that kept them off the field (Travis Kelce and Sanders Commings). Andy Reid will call upon several of them when the new season begins. They’ll be asked to help fill the vacated roles of players who became unrestricted free agents and defected for other teams.
Given few impact player acquisitions in March and only six draft picks (barring any trades) in May, the Chiefs are counting on younger players to take another step forward next year. As a former NFL scout for more than a decade, Dorsey’s shown a keen eye for player evaluation. We’ve already seen how adept he can be at identifying diamonds in the ruff. It’s not unreasonable to think his plan could continue to work in Kansas City.
Here are the players I think are most likely to continue to blossom:
Losing two starting-caliber right guards in Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah pushes the three-year man out of Ole Miss to the fore. His lone start for the Chiefs came in the final game of the regular season. With Kansas City locked into their postseason seed, head coach Andy Reid opted to rest his starters. Johnson got the start at right guard and his performance in the game was quietly among the very best on the field that day. In case you missed it, fellow AA writer Ladner Morse did an in-depth analysis of every Rishaw Johnson snap of the second San Diego matchup. It’s a small sample size, but he appears to be one of the likelier candidates to improve in 2014.
While we’re on the subject of the Week 17 contest, was there any performance more impressive than the one turned in by rookie runningback Knile Davis? Given the lionshare of the carries, he had the best day of his young career amassing 2 touchdowns and 81 yards on 27 rushing attempts. Davis averaged just 3 yards per carry, but he flashed good field vision, explosion, and a real nose for the end zone. His maturation will afford Reid the opportunity to add new wrinkles to the Chiefs’ offense. Imagine an offensive set where he and Jamaal Charles are both in the backfield at the same time.
The former seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49’ers may already be the team’s most promising young player. His efforts over the first nine games of the season helped him snare the Mack Lee Hill Award (an honor bestowed on the team’s top rookie). The back half of the season proved to be too much for him, but he still finished the season with 44 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 3 interceptions. Cooper’s a big, physical corner who has the potential to be a key part of Kansas City’s future in the secondary. Even given his struggles, he may be the cornerback best suited for success in Sutton’s defensive system.
Jenkins is another Bay area transplant who arrived in Kansas City in 2013. He was acquired in a trade with San Francisco for another underachieving former first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin. Jenkins didn’t do much to distinguish himself from a pedestrian group of wide receivers in Kansas City, but he did come on at the end of the season. In the team’s final contest of the regular season he registered 3 catches for 67 yards (including a 48-yarder in KC’s first offensive possession). The Chiefs have made a pair of unsuccessful attempts to upgrade the receiving corps this month. Jenkins could have another great opportunity to separate himself from the pack this coming season.
What say you, Addicts? Will these young players figure prominently in the Chiefs’ future? Are there other players you expect to step up in 2014? Is the front office’s reliance upon the maturation of these players a sound strategy? Use the comment section below to begin the debate. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!