Chiefs roster preview: Men who may be on bubble

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Four weeks from now, 90 Kansas City Chiefs players will report to St. Joseph, Mo., for training camp duty. When the smoke clears, roughly 60 percent of them will make the team’s regular season roster.

With an influx of talent this offseason through free agency and the NFL Draft, there will be stiff competition at 2–3 key positions (most notably, cornerback and wide receiver). As the depth chart typically goes with Andy Reid-coached teams, those two spots tend to represent the smallest denominations on the overall 53-man roster. If last year’s any indication, there will only be 11 jobs available between those two groups.

If I had to guess, I’d wager that Reid will carry six at wide receiver and five at cornerback. He’s been known to keep just a handful of wideouts in years past, but with second-year man De’Anthony Thomas now reporting to receivers’ coach David Culley, I expect a sextet at the position. Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, and Jason Avant are all likely the safest roster bets come late August. The remaining talent will compete for the final two spots on the depth chart at that position. Though, if the Chiefs carry Thomas as a receiver in 2015, they could all be vying for a single opening.

Time will ultimately tell if my suspicions about the makeup of the roster prove accurate, but for the purpose of today’s column, let’s concede the aforementioned numbers at each spot. I think there are a trio of players who may be on shaky ground as we proceed into the fourth and final phase of the offseason program. Here are the three players who should be concerned about their futures in Kansas City heading into camp (in no particular order).

(CB) Marcus Cooper

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City’s 2013 Mack Lee Hill award winner could have the toughest row to hoe over the next two months. That seems improbable for a player of Marcus Cooper’s ability. I’d argue that he has the highest ceiling among the three, but that might also set up the biggest fall from grace between them (potentially). Cooper’s already experienced the highs and lows of an NFL career through his first two seasons in the league.

He was originally taken in the seventh round of the draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Four months later, Cooper was cut. He landed on his feet with the Kansas City Chiefs, and in short order, became the starting cornerback. Conversely in 2014, adversity and free agent signee Jamell Fleming wedged themselves between Cooper and the starting job. Sean Smith is the incumbent at one spot. Draftees Marcus Peters and Steven Nelson also appear safe (as Kansas City’s taxi squad isn’t a secure option for either of them). That leaves room for just two other players, and he’ll have to compete with Phillip Gaines and Jamell Fleming to claim one of those lockers.

Next: Another UDFA on the offensive side of the ball...