Kansas City Chiefs: Top 10 players in 2015

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Nov 16, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) rolls out to pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

7. Alex Smith

If Smith has a career year, don’t be shocked. For the first time in his career, Smith has an elite receiver in Jeremy Maclin. Smith also has an improved offensive line, Jamaal Charles, and Travis Kelce. While the former 2005 first-overall pick will never throw for 5,000 yards or 45 touchdowns, he has shown the ability to beat defenses for big gains when given time.

Smith has a bevy of weapons around him and is in his physical prime at 31 years old. If there is ever a time for Smith to earn some recognition as more than a game-manager, 2015 is that moment.

Projection: 3,700 passing yards, 66.0 percent completion rate, 29 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

6. Derrick Johnson

Johnson is 32 years old and coming off a torn Achilles. Every metric says Johnson will never be the same player, and may never become an impact guy again. Then again, Johnson has proven to be a workaholic and a physical freak of nature. Johnson has appeared hell-bent to return from this injury, constantly posting updates about his progress.

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49ers can hope Sam Darnold has Alex Smith-like career
49ers can hope Sam Darnold has Alex Smith-like career /

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  • With a stellar defensive line in front of him, Johnson will have the latitude to roam and make plays. Before getting injured in Week 1 last year, Johnson had recorded 95 or more tackles in each of the four previous seasons. The former University of Texas star can also cover tight ends, an invaluable skill in today’s NFL.

    Projection: 101 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions

    5. Tamba Hali

    Last year was thought to be Hali’s swan song in Kansas City. With a huge cap savings waiting in the wings, most thought Dorsey would cut Hali after the campaign was out. Instead, Hali took a $7 million pay cut to stay with the Chiefs, ensuring he will be loved in the land of BBQ for the rest of his life.

    On the field, Hali struggled with a knee injury and only had six sacks. It stands to reason that Hali will bounce back if healthy, taking advantages of the double-teams headed toward Justin Houston. A fitness fanatic, Hali will be in great shape and ready for the grind.

    Projection: 54 tackles, 10.5 sacks

    4. Jeremy Maclin

    Maclin was brought in on a five-year, $55 million deal to produce like a star. Last year, Maclin tore it up for the Eagles, racking up more than 1,300 receiving yards. Maclin immediately becomes the top receiver in Kansas City and should provide Smith with short, intermediate and long routes to hit for big gains.

    The Chiefs have shown the willingness to throw deep when they have the chance. Despite popular belief that Kansas City (i.e. Smith) is ultra-conservative, the Chiefs threw long to Albert Wilson last year when he emerged. Look for those types of throws to increase with Maclin on board.

    Projection: 78 receptions, 1,100 receiving yards, eight touchdowns

    Next: The top two are easy, but who's third?