Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid along with their coaches and staff have a monumental task assembling a 53-man roster before the 3 p.m. Saturday deadline.
The talent on this year’s team at many positions makes the decisions difficult.
Nick Jackob’s turned in his as-always phenomenal breakdown of the his roster projection earlier. Here’s my likely less accurate attempt at projecting the roster as it may look Saturday night.
QUARTERBACKS (3): Alex Smith, Nick Foles and Tyler Bray
Smith and Foles are absolute locks and Bray is close. Undisclosed injuries could put one of the backup quarterbacks on injured reserve. Conventional wisdom puts Bray ahead of Murray in both measurables and intangibles. The only reason to keep Hogan on the 53-man roster is fear he could be claimed off waivers. But he’s still a project, and his best role is on the practice squad to learn and develop.
RUNNING BACKS (5): Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Darrin Reaves and Anthony Sherman
As strong a backfield as any team in the league. Ware and West can lighten the load for Charles, allowing him to ease back in slowly and be fresh for December and January. Any of the three can be the featured back week to week. Sherman’s among the best at his position. Darrin Reaves has made a case to make the team, and the fact that Charles may not be ready for the opener boosts his chances. Knile Davis could still make the squad if the Chiefs don’t make a deal.
TIGHT ENDS (3): Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris and Ross Travis
The Chiefs could survive with three tight ends, but a fourth tight-end might be a luxury the team can’t afford right now. Brian Parker gets the edge for a fourth tight end as the better blocker and flexibility. When fullback Trey Millard went down with a knee injury, the team summoned Parker to backup Sherman.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Tyreek Hill, Rod Streater and Demarcus Robinson
Special teams may play a huge role in determining who the team keeps at wide receiver. The first four names seem sure bets. Wilson has run with the first team all of training camp and preseason. Hill is a draft pick with a high ceiling and provides the Chiefs with a deep threat and kick return skills. Streater makes sense, but and is a high-priced free agent, but his usage by the team in the preseason has been puzzling. Demarcus Robinson has show ability on coverage teams and as a backup returner.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Eric Fisher, Parker Ehinger, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz, Zach Fulton, Jah Reid and Jarrod Pughsley
Can the Chiefs settle for only seven offensive lineman on the roster? Fulton and Reid give them tremendous flexibility to cover all five offensive line spots. The team has a lot of young prospects for the practice squad. Also could be a position the Chiefs scour the waiver wire over the weekend looking for an eighth lineman.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard, Dontari Poe, Chris Jones, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Nick Williams
Incredibly tough decisions for the final defensive line spot. All four players battling for a spot should find homes on active rosters or practice squads. One the deepest positions groups on the team. The Chiefs could keep a sixth defensive lineman instead of an extra linebacker. But with the Chiefs increasingly using a rotation of their top four lineman and the team’s penchant for nickle and dime coverages, this is an area where they could keep in order to keep an extra player elsewhere.
LINEBACKERS (9): Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Justin March, Frank Zombo, Dee Ford, Ramik Wilson, Dadi Nicolas, D.J. Alexander and Andy Mulumba
Injuries and special teams may push the Chiefs to keep an extra linebacker instead of a defensive lineman. Alexander and Mulumba are on the bubble along Desmond Moses. Alexander has high special teams value, and Mulumba has a high upside. Nicolas has shown persistence and speed in the preseason.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10): Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Phillip Gaines, Marcus Peters, Daniel Sorensen, Eric Murray, Kenneth Acker, Steven Nelson, D.J. White and KeiVarae Russell.
The top eight defensive backs seem set, but the last couple of slots are tough decisions. KeiVarae Russell is a fifth-round draft pick, but his usage by the Chiefs is puzzling. History suggests the Chiefs will only keep 10 defensive backs, but investment of draft picks and team needs might mean keeping an extra defender. Marcus Cooper offers flexibility and experience, and could easily stick with the squad..
SPECIALISTS (3): Dustin Colquitt (P), Cairo Santos (K), James Winchester (LS)
No competition in camp for any of the three. Colquitt is one of the best in the league, and the Chiefs clearly comfortable with Santos and Winchester.
PRACTICE SQUAD CANDIDATES (10): QB Kevin Hogan, WR De’Ron Brown, OT Zach Sterup, OL Jordan Devey, LB Terrance Smith, CB Deveron Carr, DL David King, DB Shak Randolph, WR Mitch Mathews and OL Garrick Mayweather.
Highly possible not all of these players make it through waivers. No absolutes any of these will make it to the practice squad, and chances are high the Chiefs will pick up several players from other teams to assemble the practice squad.
The 53rd Man: Darrin Reaves. The Chiefs could keep an extra tight end, defensive lineman or defensive back, but the injury to Charles makes keeping Reaves for now essential. The Chiefs experienced the high attrition rates for running backs first hand last year. A fifth running back is a luxury, but it’s a need for the Chiefs now.