2015 Chiefs: Four To Grow On


The offseason has officially begun in this part of the Chiefs’ blogosphere. The Kansas City Chiefs completed a sweep of the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to avoid playoff elimination. The inevitable still taxied its way onto the tarmac at One Arrowhead Drive. And so it begins for this motley crew of writers here at AA. The next six months will be an over-analyzing, moralizing, finger-wagging, Hair Splitters’ Convention. You’re all invited to a very public audit of Andy Reid and John Dorsey’s books. The bean counters have arrived and are waiting patiently outside of their offices.

September’s quite a ways off so I’ll spare you in-depth analysis of player personnel in today’s column. My annual free agency outlook is just around the corner. For now, I’d like to begin by taking inventory of the Chiefs’ roster as it currently stands. We’re all familiar with the known quantities. I’m going to narrow my focus and look only at the young players who made a case for their future in Kansas City in 2014. Let’s take a look at what’s in the cupboard, shall we?

#1 WR Albert Wilson

What I’m about to say is misleading, but the undrafted rookie out of Georgia State outplayed every wide receiver on this football team not named Dwayne Bowe. Yes, I’m aware that this position group didn’t manage a single touchdown catch the entire season (thanks, CBS). There’s still something to be said about being the second-leading wideout on the team despite just two starts all year. It’s not even purely about his numbers. Albert Wilson proved an ability to separate and help the Chiefs’ offense stretch the field. Were I Andy Reid, he’d be penciled in as my No. 2 starter at wide receiver heading into the offseason.

In four of the last six games, Wilson had a reception of at least 22 yards. The Steelers secondary is suspect, to say the very least, but in Week 16 Wilson posted a five-catch, 87-yard day in just his second start. Mind you, those numbers were amassed in just the first half of that game. It’s clear that one spot on the receiver depth chart belongs to Wilson. I’m going to predict that barring a Round 1 pick at the position, he’s probably starting opposite of Bowe (assuming he stays in Kansas City) in Week 1 of the new season.

#2 CB Jamell Fleming

Coming into the year, cornerback was of the most maligned position groups in Chiefs Kingdom. I’m not sure that’s true today. That’s true, in part, due to the addition of free agent corner Jamell Fleming. Prior to coming to Kansas City, Fleming spent time with Arizona, Baltimore, and Jacksonville. He appears to have temporarily found a home with the Chiefs. In 2014, Fleming logged a career-high four starts. He wasn’t expected to be much more than a warm body at the position, but wound up stealing playing time away from 2013 starter Marcus Cooper and 2014 draftee Phillip Gaines.

Fleming doesn’t have the height or length defensive coordinator Bob Sutton prefers in a cornerback, but his style of play certainly fits the bill. He’s an aggressive, physical corner who thrives in press coverage. Like Wilson, Fleming potentially has a future as a starter on this team in 2015. Cooper never got out of Andy Reid’s doghouse in 2014 and there’s some concern that he may be on borrowed time. For now, Fleming takes the sting out of Coop taking a step back this season.

#3 DB Ron Parker

I’d venture to guess that if you polled Chiefs Kingdom Ron Parker would be the most polarizing player of the bunch. The simplest explanation is that he’s the most inconsistent. His play borders on brilliant one Sunday and completely inept the next. A part of that can be attributed to what position he’s being asked to play. Parker seems to be more comfortable in the safety role. He was up and down in 2014, but I think he has value on this football team going forward.

Hopefully Reid feels the same way because otherwise Parker’s slated to hit free agency come March. That will ultimately depend on which Ron Parker the staff and front office remember from this season. Is it the one Pro Football Focus gave their game ball to in Week 10? He received a +3.5 grade from PFF and defensed three passes in a crucial fourth quarter, red zone drive. Or will they recall the Seattle game where Parker surrendered 8 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown? Won’t be a mystery for long. The free agency period begins the first week of March.

#4 DE Jaye Howard

Another former Seahawk rounds out the list of players I think have a future in Kansas City. Howard came in with a group of free agents the year prior, but didn’t see much of the field. The third-year man out of Florida was thrust into a bigger role when starter Mike DeVito tore his Achilles in Week 1 of the season. Howard would go on to make ten starts for the Chiefs in 2014.

Make no mistake, Howard’s performance this season was nothing to write home about. He logged 36 tackles and 1 sack on the year, but he proved that he’s a serviceable replacement should the Chiefs decide to part ways with 30-year old DeVito (a cap savings of $4 million). Paying Justin Houston will require tough personnel decisions and Howard may play a key role in that process.

As the Chiefs begin to lose veteran players from previous regimes, it’ll be important to keep backfilling those spots with competent depth and/or replacements. This group seems to be a solid bunch for 2014. All but one of them is under contract for next year. We’ll soon find out if Parker will join them for 2015.

Who do you think figures into the future on this roster? Are there other young players who made a statement in 2014? Can the Chiefs trust ascending players in year three of this administration? Use the comment section below to weigh in on the topic. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!