8. Defensive Tackle (run stoppers)
Assuming that Chris Jones eventually is signed or reports to camp, the Chiefs will have a young and talented starting duo of defensive tackles with him and second year man Derrick Nnadi. Nnadi earned his starting spot as a rookie and played pretty well, so I think it’s safe to pencil him into the starting line up at this point.
I will also note that new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will likely rotate in smaller traditionally defensive end type guys on the interior at times to attack the quarterback. Those aren’t the guys I’m talking about in this position battle.
With Jones being more of an athletic attacking player himself, the Chiefs need another big body or two to go along with Derrick Nnadi on short yardage and goal line situations. In my opinion, the Chiefs have three main contenders fighting for playing time in those situation in Xavier Williams, Justin Hamilton, and rookie Khalen Saunders.
I think Xavier Williams will likely be the first man up to start camp given his NFL starting experience. Williams was solid for the Chiefs last season but not so dominant that he couldn’t be surpassed by one of the other guys. Hamilton is in his third year with the Chiefs and has flashed some in camp and preseason games, but he has yet to see it carry over to the regular season.
Saunders definitely has the upside to be the best of these three, but coming from a small school, it may take him a year to get the technique down to be trusted in these situations. After all, attacking the quarterback with freakish physical tools is different than holding your ground in short-yardage run-stop situations against veteran NFL linemen. It could be that Saunders is used more in pass-rushing situations as a rookie than as a run stuffer.
If you enjoy watching guys battle in the trenches then keep an eye on those three defensive tackles in camp to see who earns the spot next to Nnadi in those tough goal line and short yardage situations.
Now on to the No. 7 camp battle.