Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie of the Year candidates

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Aug 21, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid walks to the field before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won 14-13. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

After the third preseason game, the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves sitting pretty with a 3-0 record. Now, many a year have teams had terrific preseason records and failed to deliver in the regular season, but there is a habit in winning, a habit that Andy Reid’s Chiefs seem to be learning quick.

Part of the success in the preseason has been the play of many rookies on both sides of the ball. So, since we are now less than two weeks til the start of the regular season, I thought it’d be interesting to speculate as to who the Chiefs’ Rookie of the Year will be.

Before I move on to who will be the most likely candidate to scoop rookie of the year, here are a few honorable mentions and some outside bets. The first is third-round pick, cornerback Steven Nelson. He doesn’t make the list as there is great depth for the Chiefs at cornerback, especially when Sean Smith returns from suspension. However, if he is able to get on the field regularly enough, he has the ability, especially as a nickel corner and in run support (his tackling is incredible for a corner) to impress in 2015.

The second is backup tight end, James O’Shaughnessy. Again, playing time will be the issue with Travis Kelce demanding the majority of the snaps and targets (assuming he’s healthy). However, the small-school prospect does have some pass-catching ability, though his blocking certainly needs work.

The final guy who would’ve perhaps made the list as an outside shot would have been linebacker Justin March. The undrafted rookie had been one of the standout names from training camp, and was all over the field against the Arizona Cardinals. However, he has since had surgery for a torn meniscus, and is now in a battle to even make the 53-man roster.

Now, onto the contenders.

Aug 15, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (left) with head coach Andy Reid prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason NFL football game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Peters

It would seem wrong to not start with the Chiefs’ first-round pick when discussing the Rookie of the Year award. After being dismissed by Washington, Peters, who is often considered the best cornerback in the 2015 draft class, fell to the Chiefs at No. 18 overall.

His anticipation, physical pressing and good hands have been praised before the draft, and he has more than delivered with plenty of picks in practice and training camp. He has also displayed an excellent reading of the game during preseason, with a fantastic pass deflection on an underneath route against the Seattle Seahawks last week.

Peters has downright impressed so far. He is sometimes beaten deep due to his lack of recovery speed and over-eagerness to intercept the football, but he is willing to learn and is clearly improving. Peters has even drawn Gil Brandt, pretty much the most informed NFL analyst going, to propose him as the favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. That is particularly impressive when you consider that a defensive back hasn’t won the award since Charles Woodson in 1998, and yet Brandt still feels that Peters’ talent will lead him with the award.

Clearly, the first year cornerback is in prime position to take the Chiefs’ Rookie of the Year title, especially as he will be called to play immediately. Sean Smith, Kansas City’s leading corner is suspended for the first three games, and Peters will be expected to lead a young group of corners from week 1.

Talk about being chucked in the deep end, facing Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning in Weeks 2 and 3. If he’s still swimming after Week 3, we could not only be looking at the Chiefs’ Rookie of the Year, but the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Next: A pair of under-the-radar men