The predictions below are based on observations from three rookie camp practices, 10 days of organized team activities (OTAs) and three mandatory minicamp practices.
QUARTERBACKS (3): Alex Smith, Kevin Hogan, Aaron Murray
ON THE BUBBLE: Tyler Bray
OUTLOOK: Rookie Kevin Hogan was the second-best quarterback during spring practices, showing touch, velocity, anticipation and accuracy. The fifth-round selection did not get the same amount of snaps as Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray, but Hogan made the most of his time and showed tremendous promise.
Murray struggled to see over the line of scrimmage and had inaccurate passes because of it. The third-year pro’s deep passes either had a wobble or were typically underthrown, leading to inconsistent performances throughout the spring.
Bray appears to be comfortable throwing the crossing route and deep ball. But he has a habit of trying to rifle the ball to his receiver at a spot rather than anticipating where they will be with timing, all of which leads to inaccurate passes that might be high, wide or behind the receiver. The fourth-year veteran has made the strides to continue investing time at this point, but Murray gets the nod for his athletic ability.
RUNNING BACKS (5): Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Anthony Sherman, Darrin Reaves
ON THE BUBBLE: Knile Davis, Trey Millard
OUTLOOK: The running back position may need to be more of a focal point in 2016 because quarterback Alex Smith is a valuable asset to the Chiefs’ chances at Super Bowl contention. Coach Andy Reid and his staff will need to lessen the opportunities Smith has of taking hits.
The Chiefs’ running back position has the opportunity to be utilized in a similiar way as the 2014 group. All the backs have the athletic ability of wide receivers and can catch out of the backfield or line up wide.
The tough decision will be between Reaves and Davis.
Davis has the experience, but fumbling issues and his running style have never arguably meshed in the offense. Tyreek Hill’s ability to return may have a bigger impact on Davis than most realize.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Jeremy Maclin, Rod Streater, Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Demarcus Robinson
ON THE BUBBLE: Da’Ron Brown, De’Anthony Thomas, Mike Williams, Frankie Hammond Jr., Mitch Mathews, Kashif Moore, Seantavius Jones
OUTLOOK: The situation at wide receiver will be one to monitor during training camp. The Chiefs would benefit from keeping six wide receivers, but numbers at running back, tight end, linebacker and defensive backs could impact this position.
Hill has outperformed Thomas during spring practices and shows a burst on the field that rivals Jamaal Charles’ speed.
The toughest decision will likely be between Wilson and Robinson. Wilson knows the offense better, but Robinson has a bigger investment as a fourth-round pick. Right now, both are on this version but that could change once the pads come on.
TIGHT ENDS (4): Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, Ross Travis, James O’Shaughnessy
ON THE BUBBLE: Brian Parker
OUTLOOK: The athletic ability showcased by the tight ends could provide a promising combination for a passing offense that ranked 30th in 2015. Ross was consistently getting open and making acrobatic catches over the middle. O’Shaughnessy began to regain his form during minicamp once he passed his physical.
OFFENSIVE LINE (7): Eric Fisher, Parker Ehinger, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz, Jah Reid, Zach Fulton
ON THE BUBBLE: Jordan Devey, Curtis Feigt, Reid Fragel, Garrick Mayweather, Daniel Munyer, Drew Nowak, Jarrod Pughsley, Zach Sterup
OUTLOOK: The backups at this position will be tough to gauge. The Chiefs typically dress seven for a game, so based on numbers they could be looking for one to pick up the eighth spot and another two for the practice squad.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Jaye Howard, Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey, Chris Jones, Nick Williams, Rakeem Nunez-Roches
ON THE BUBBLE: David King, Jimmy Staten, Alameda Ta’amu, Niko Davis
OUTLOOK: The promotion of Britt Reid to defensive line coach from assistant coach showed during spring practices. The first-year NFL position coach had the defensive line working countless pass rushing drills during down time, which wasn’t a familiar sight the past three seasons.
Defensive line could arguably be the Chiefs’ strongest position from top to bottom in 2016. The pads will determine the fifth and sixth spots.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses, Dadi Nicolas
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM (PUP) LIST: Justin Houston (knee)
ON THE BUBBLE: Jonathan Massaquoi
OUTLOOK: The outside linebacker position is a potential position of concern headed into training camp.
Hali will likely need camp and preseason reps reduced to withstand the wear and tear of an NFL season. Zombo and Moses lack the change of direction to have a similar impact as Hali or Houston would.
This is the season where Ford must take the step forward or the Chiefs will find themselves in trouble. Teams have to account for Houston and Hali on every play, and if the next rusher up does not have a similiar impact, running backs and tight ends don’t have to chip the rusher. That allows for an additional receiving option in the passing game and chucks of yardage.
Nicolas has some promising speed, but will need time to develop his strength in the weight room to withstand the demands in the run game.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4): Derrick Johnson, Justin March, D.J. Alexander, Ramik Wilson
ON THE BUBBLE: Josh Mauga, Terrance Smith, Andy Mulumba, Tyrell Adams
OUTLOOK: The final roster spot or two at the inside linebacker position will be intriguing. March arguably outplayed Mauga during the early portions of training camp in 2015. Wilson and Alexander provided an impact on special teams while getting time to develop into consistent contributions.
The Chiefs have a tough decision based on numbers at other positions.
CORNERBACKS (5): Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, D.J. White, KeiVarae Russell
ON THE BUBBLE: Deveron Carr, Shannon Edwards, Vernon Harris, Tre Jones
OUTLOOK: The five spots are all picks the organization has invested in over the past three seasons. The sixth position will likely be a player that can contribute on special teams, cornerback and safety.
SAFETIES (5): Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen, Stevie Brown, Eric Murray
ON THE BUBBLE: Marcus Cooper, Jamell Fleming, Shak Randolph, Akeem Davis
OUTLOOK: The fifth and potential sixth spot at safety will be an intriguing battle.
Brown looks comfortable at the position and the Chiefs have a draft pick invested in Murray, who can also rotate at corner. Cooper appeared to find a nice comfortable level at the position driving on the ball and intercepting multiple passes during camp. He shows promise being able to read and diagonsis the play in front of him. Fleming has typically appeared to be comfortable in zone coverage.
SPECIALISTS (3): Dustin Colquitt, Cairo Santos, James Winchester
ON THE BUBBLE: None
OUTLOOK: The specialist position appears locked in place for another season.