2015 NFL Offseason: Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs (Last Year: 9-7)

2015 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Jeremy Maclin, G Ben Grubbs, G Jeff Linkenbach, G Paul Fanaika, DT Vance Walker, ILB Joe Mays, CB Chris Owens, S Tyvon Branch.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Marcus Peters, C/G Mitch Morse, WR Chris Conley, CB Steve Nelson, ILB Ramik Wilson. Chiefs Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Dwayne Bowe, TE Anthony Fasano, C Rodney Hudson, DE/DT Vance Walker, DE/DT Kevin Vickerson, ILB Joe Mays, CB Chris Owens.

2015 Kansas City Chiefs Offense:
Everyone has heard the ridiculous stat by now: Alex Smith failed to throw a single touchdown pass to a receiver throughout the entire 2014 season. The Chiefs’ scoring attack sputtered at times as a consequence, and the team scored 19 or fewer points in five of its final eight games. A promising 7-3 record quickly turned into 9-7 finish that left the franchise out of the playoffs.

Kansas City’s front office had to do everything in its power to make sure this side of the football was much more productive. Of course, that could prove to be difficult considering how limited Alex Smith is. Smith does a great job of avoiding turnovers, but he’s able to do that because he throws shorter, checkdown-type passes and seldom challenges opposing defenses downfield. Smith consequently won’t ever be able to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they don’t have a promising alternative.

Smith can, however, take a team to the playoffs if he has enough talent around him and a strong defense to keep the overall scoring down. Kansas City had a poor receiving corps last season, but was able to improve this area by signing Jeremy Maclin to a big contract. Maclin is a capable No. 1 receiver when he’s on the field, but his health has been a big issue over the years. He wasn’t banged up at all this past season, but he had played a full slate of games just once in his career prior to 2014. It’s safe to say that Maclin will either miss time or play injured at some point in the near future.

If Maclin goes down, Kansas City will be in big trouble because Smith’s only viable option, if the backfield is excluded, will be Travis Kelce. The third-year tight end caught 67 balls for 862 yards and five touchdowns in 2014 and should continue to improve. There’s not much elsewhere, however, as Albert Wilson and third-round rookie Chris Conley will fight for the starting receiver job across from Maclin. Neither is expected to contribute much.

The most important player in the Chiefs’ offense is Jamaal Charles. The dynamic running back had just 1,033 rushing yards in 2014, but still averaged five yards per carry and also caught 40 passes. He was hampered by multiple leg injuries this past season, and that was another reason why Kansas City struggled to score down the stretch. Knile Davis is a quality backup, but if Charles is limited again, the Chiefs won’t be able to put up points consistently.

Speaking of Charles, he made the news this offseason by telling the media that he wanted the front office to upgrade the offensive line. The complete opposite occurred, however, as the team lost its best blocker when Rodney Hudson signed with the Raiders. Kansas City spent a second-round pick on Mitch Morse to take his place, but it’s unclear how the Missouri product will perform. He’ll be flanked by Ben Grubbs and Jeff Allen. The former was once considered a terrific guard, but he just turned 31 following a mediocre season. Allen, meanwhile, missed most of the 2014 campaign with an elbow injury.

It doesn’t get any better on the outside. Left tackle Eric Fisher has not lived up to the expectations of a No. 1 overall choice. In fact, he has struggled, and there are now questions within the organization about whether he’s tough enough to play in the NFL. Donald Stephenson, who was suspended last year for PEDs, is expected to start at right tackle. There aren’t any other promising options, so it’s easy to see why Charles was so desperate for his team to upgrade the front line.

2015 Kansas City Chiefs Defense:
The Chiefs had three major problems this past season. Two of them – the receiving corps and offensive line – were discussed already. The poor run defense was the third. Kansas City struggled mightily to stop the rush, surrendering more than 2,000 yards on the ground.

Injuries were the key culprit. Two prominent members of the stop unit barely played, as inside linebacker Derrick Johnson tore his Achilles in Week 1, while Eric Berry had to leave football because he was diagnosed with cancer. Berry obviously won’t be available in 2015, while Johnson is unlikely to be at 100 percent, given that he turns 33 in November. Starting defensive end Mike DeVito also missed time with a torn Achilles of his own, and as a 31-year-old, he’ll have trouble recovering as well.

Kansas City curiously failed to find sure-fire upgrades at all three positions. A fourth-round selection was used on inside linebacker Ramik Wilson, but he may not be able to start for a while. Then again, he may not have much difficulty leapfrogging either Josh Mauga or James-Michael Johnson, both of whom were major liabilities in run support this past season. Even if he’s on one leg, Johnson can’t possibly be worse than either player. Meanwhile, no one was added to the defensive line to help outstanding nose tackle Dontari Poe. He’ll be starting next to the hobbled DeVito and pedestrian Allen Bailey.

Tyvon Branch was added to potentially help at safety, but like many of the other Kansas City defenders, he can’t be relied upon to stay healthy; he has played in just five games the past two seasons, after all. If he can somehow manage to stay healthy, he would be an upgrade over either starting safety. Both Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker are just marginal players who also struggled to contain the rush (notice a theme here?)

While the Chiefs were absolutely atrocious in terms of defending ground attacks, and look like they’ll continue to be so, they should at least excel in terms of getting after the quarterback and stopping the pass. There are a couple of reasons for this, and the primary one is the duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Both players are among the top rush linebackers in the NFL; in fact, Houston came just one sack short of breaking Michael Strahan’s single-season record in 2014. Hali had a bit of a down year, but he still played very well.

Houston and Hali make things easier for a Kansas City secondary that figures to have a new starting cornerback in 2015. The front office spent its first-round selection on Marcus Peters, who slipped to No. 18 overall despite being a top-10 prospect because of character issues. However, Andy Reid investigated Peters thoroughly and determined that there wasn’t much risk. Peters will likely start across from Sean Smith, a corner who was inconsistent in the past but just had an outstanding 2014 campaign.

2015 Kansas City Chiefs Schedule and Intangibles:
The Chiefs need to bring back the Arrowhead magic that existed prior to 2007. Since that year, Kansas City is a dreadful 26-39 as a host, though it was 5-3 in 2013 and 6-2 last year.

Andy Reid had poor special-teams units in Philadelphia after John Harbaugh left for Baltimore. That was not the case the past two years for the Chiefs, as they’ve combined for six return touchdowns. De’Anthony Thomas and Knile Davis both found the end zone in 2014, and the Chiefs outgained the opposition in both punt and kickoff returns.

Kicker Cairo Santos struggled early last year, going 2-of-4 during the first two weeks, but he finished 25-of-30 overall. He converted just one of two tries from beyond 50.

Pro Bowler Dustin Colquitt was 11th in net punting average in 2013 and moved up to eighth last season. He’s a master at pinning the opposition inside the 20.

“The Chiefs had an easy schedule last year, but that’s not the case in 2015. Three of the team’s first four opponents made the playoffs last year (Broncos, Packers, Bengals), and the lone exception is Houston, which is pretty solid. After that, Kansas City has to battle the Steelers, Lions, Broncos (twice) and Ravens.

2015 Kansas City Chiefs Rookies:
Go here for the Chiefs Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2015 Kansas City Chiefs Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2015 Kansas City Chiefs Analysis: The Chiefs have a shot at the playoffs again, but a taxing, early-season schedule could doom them. They open with three road games against the Texans, Packers and Bengals, and the lone home contest is against Denver. If Kansas City survives that stretch with a 1-3 record or better, the team might be able to recover. However, an 0-4 start is definitely possible, and if that happens, the Chiefs once again won’t be playing into January.

Projection: 7-9 (3rd in AFC West)

2015 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2015 NFL Season Previews

NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: Kansas City’s offensive ineptitude must be addressed. Receivers need to score touchdowns, so an upgrade across from Jeremy Maclin has to be obtained. Help on the offensive line would allow Alex Smith to have time to find these wideouts. Elsewhere, the inside linebacker, cornerback and safety positions need to be bolstered.

2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Chiefs did indeed fill needs with their first three picks, but they did so in risky and/or disappointing fashion. First-rounder Marcus Peters was the gamble. Andy Reid visited Peters’ hometown during the pre-draft process to dig up information on the former Washington cornerback, so it’s safe to assume he liked what he saw. However, Reid has taken chances on players with character issues before, and it has backfired. Peters will be a huge upgrade at corner if he pans out, but he could just as easily quit on the team. After that, Mitch Morse and Chris Conley both made sense, but they were slight reaches. The former should be able to start this upcoming season, but only because the offensive line is in terrible shape. Conley, however, is a project.

I liked the Chiefs’ picks after that, for the most part. Their next two selections, Steve Nelson and Ramik Wilson, were solid values who filled needs. Kansas City made no terrible choices on Day 3.

The Chiefs’ goal entering the 2015 NFL Draft was to find help to bolster their offense. Unfortunately, they didn’t do enough. Morse will help, but Conley is so raw that he may not be able to play as a rookie. No other receivers of note were added, and there weren’t enough upgrades made on the offensive line.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

18. Marcus Peters, CB, Washington: C+ Grade
Yikes, this could really backfire. Andy Reid visited Marcus Peters’ hometown during the draft preseason to do some undercover work on the talented cornerback. I guess he liked what he saw, as Reid is taking a big gamble on a player who quit on his team. Peters definitely has the talent, as he would’ve been a top-10 pick had he been clean off the field, but this is a big gamble in the top 20.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

49. Mitch Morse, C/G, Missouri: C+ Grade
Mitch Morse is an athletic interior lineman who can play both center and guard. The Chiefs had to address the former position with Rodney Hudson gone. I think this is a bit too early for Morse, but I’m not so sure he would’ve been available for the Chiefs in the third round. Kansas City could’ve traded down, which would’ve salvaged this grade. However, Morse should end up being a decent player for the Chiefs.

76. Chris Conley, WR, Georgia: B- Grade
Chris Conley is one of the most athletic players in this class. He doesn’t know how to play football very well yet, but if he learns, he could emerge as a viable starting receiver. I don’t know why Kansas City felt the need to move up, though. The thinking is that they wanted to leap ahead of Cleveland for a wideout, but if a team is concerned that the Browns are going to draft a certain prospect, that player probably isn’t good to begin with.

98. Steve Nelson, CB, Oregon State: B Grade
Steve Nelson probably could have gone early in the third round without being deemed much of a reach, so the range definitely makes sense. Nelson also fills a need. Sure, Kansas City selected Marcus Peters in the first round, but Nelson will be able to play in the slot. If anything, he’ll provide decent value for a team that needs to find a way to beat Peyton Manning.

118. Ramik Wilson, ILB, Georgia: B Grade
Ramik Wilson isn’t a very good athlete, but he’s been productive at Georgia, so Andy Reid is hoping Wilson will continue to be so in his new home. Wilson will have to contribute early, as Kansas City doesn’t have much at the inside linebacker position.

172. D.J. Alexander, LB, Oregon State: B+ Grade
Another inside linebacker makes sense for the Chiefs, who need to shore up that position. D.J. Alexander is a top athlete who was productive at Oregon State. The concern with him is a neck problem that he needed surgery on. He should be able to become a solid contributor if he can stay healthy.

173. James O’Shaughnessy, TE, Illinois State: C+ Grade
James O’Shaughnessy was very productive at Illinois State, both in terms of a pass-catcher and blocker. Though level of competition is obviously an issue, he has upside as a solid athlete. The Chiefs needed another tight end, and while O’Shaughnessy was a slight reach, he does make sense at this juncture.

217. Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Miss: B- Grade
Rakeem Nunez-Roches provides some value at the very bottom of Round 6, as he would’ve been chosen earlier if he didn’t have injury concerns. However, I don’t think he’s a good fit for Kansas City’s 3-4 scheme.

233. Da’Ron Brown, WR, Northern Illinois: B- Grade
Da’Ron Brown was highly productive at Northern Illinois, but I never had him in my mock because he didn’t seem like an NFL talent to me. That said, he might have a chance to make Kansas City’s roster because of the lack of depth at receiver.

Season Summary:
The Chiefs were extremely hot at one point during the season; they had reeled off five consecutive victories, including a win over the defending-champion Seahawks. They capsized after that, however, dropping four of their next five, including a blowout home loss to the Broncos on national TV, which basically told the world that the Chiefs were once again incapable of hanging with the big boys.

Offseason Moves:
  • Lions sign CB Chris Owens
  • Jets sign ILB Joe Mays
  • Jets sign DE/DT Kevin Vickerson
  • Browns sign WR Dwayne Bowe
  • Panthers sign S Kurt Coleman
  • Chiefs re-sign S Ron Parker
  • Chiefs re-sign TE Richard Gordon
  • Chiefs re-sign S Kelcie McCray
  • Chiefs re-sign WR Jason Avant
  • Titans sign TE Anthony Fasano
  • Broncos sign DE/DT Vance Walker
  • Chiefs sign G Paul Fanaika
  • Chiefs cut WR Dwayne Bowe
  • Chiefs acquire G Ben Grubbs from Saints for 5th-round pick
  • Chiefs sign S Tyvon Branch
  • Chiefs sign WR Jeremy Maclin
  • Raiders sign C Rodney Hudson
  • Chiefs re-sign ILB Josh Mauga
  • Chiefs cut DE/DT Vance Walker
  • Chiefs cut ILB Joe Mays
  • Chiefs franchise DE/OLB Justin Houston
  • Chiefs cut TE Anthony Fasano

    Team Needs:
    1. Wide Receiver: Alex Smith had to shoulder some of the blame for not throwing a single touchdown pass to a receiver. The wideout corps is at fault too, however. Dwayne Bowe is not a No. 1 target, and it’s fair to wonder if he’s even a secondary option at this point in his career. The Chiefs need to consider spending their top draft choice on a receiver. Signed Jeremy Maclin

    2. Inside Linebacker: The Chiefs needed help at inside linebacker even before Derrick Johnson went down with a torn Achilles prior to the season. Replacements Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson were anemic. A second-round choice can help remedy this need.

    3. Safety: Let’s hope that Eric Berry makes a swift and complete recovery. Unfortunately, Berry may never play football again, so the Chiefs will need a safety next to Husain Abdullah. Signed Tyvon Branch; re-signed Ron Parker

    4. Offensive Tackle: I don’t know what the Chiefs are going to do at offensive tackle. Eric Fisher was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he has struggled for two years now. An upgrade is also needed at right tackle, so Kansas City will either have to obtain a new blind-side protector and move Fisher to the right side, or simply try Fisher again at left tackle and find someone new at right tackle.

    5. Center: Rodney Hudson was Kansas City’s best offensive lineman last year. He’ll need to be re-signed.

    6. Guard: The guard position also needs to be upgraded, as Zach Fulton was a major liability there this past season. A mid-round choice could fill this hole. Traded for Ben Grubbs; signed Paul Fanaika

    7. Quarterback: Not throwing a single touchdown pass to a receiver is not an accident. Alex Smith needs to be upgraded. The problem is that the talking heads on TV tell the public otherwise because they’re friends with Smith, so the front office will never get any heat for not finding a better quarterback. The Chiefs’ options are limited anyway.

    8. Rush Linebacker: Justin Houston is a free agent, so the Chiefs will have to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. They can just franchise him. Franchised Justin Houston

    9. Cornerback Depth: Some corner depth wouldn’t hurt.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles. Age: 27.
      Signed with Chiefs

      Jeremy Maclin just had the best season of his career. He went over 1,000 yards for the first time, accumulating 85 catches, 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. The one concern with Maclin is his previous injury history. He was healthy this past season, but that may not happen again.

    2. Tyvon Branch, S, Raiders. Age: 28.
      Signed with Chiefs (1 year, $2 million)

      Tyvon Branch was taking up $3 million in cap space, so the Raiders had to let him go. After all, he had appeared in just five games over the past two seasons. Branch can still turn his career around, but time is running out.

    3. Paul Fanaika, G, Cardinals. Age: 26. — Signed with Chiefs (3 years, $8.1 million)

    Kansas City Chiefs Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Chiefs

      One of the top defensive players in the NFL, Justin Houston recorded 22 sacks in his fourth NFL season, falling one short of breaking Michael Strahan’s record. The scary thing is that there’s still plenty of growth with Houston, who is only 26.

    2. Rodney Hudson, C, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Raiders (5 years, $44.5 million)

      Rodney Hudson was just above average in 2013, but he was coming off a leg injury. He had to fend off competition to become the starting center, but held the job. He took a big step in 2014, playing as one of the top centers in the NFL. Just 26 in July, Hudson should continue to improve.

    3. Ron Parker, S, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Chiefs (5 years, $30 million)

      Ron Parker has been generating a ton of interest in free agency, so I thought I’d post a write-up on him. I originally had him as a 1.5-star free agent because he’s a major liability against the run. He’s fine in coverage though.

    4. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Signed with Browns

      Dwayne Bowe has been overrated for quite some time. He has never been reliable on the field, making too many mistakes. Now, he appears to have lost some of his talent. It’s not entirely his fault, but he hasn’t eclipsed 801 receiving yards since 2011. He’ll turn 31 in September, so the odds of him bouncing back are low.

    5. Eric Berry, S, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      I didn’t know where to put Eric Berry, as he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in November. Hopefully he can make a quick and complete recovery.

    6. Ryan Harris, OT, Chiefs. Age: 30.
    7. Anthony Fasano, TE, Chiefs. Age: 31. — Signed with Titans
    8. Kurt Coleman, S, Chiefs. Age: 27. — Signed with Panthers
    9. Chris Owens, CB, Chiefs. Age: 28. — Signed with Lions
    10. Vance Walker, DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 28. — Signed with Broncos (2 years, $4 million)
    11. Josh Mauga, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Chiefs (3 years, $8 million)
    12. Kevin Vickerson, DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 27. — Signed with Jets
    13. Donnie Avery, WR, Chiefs. Age: 31.
    14. Jason Avant, WR, Chiefs. Age: 32. — Re-signed with Chiefs
    15. Joe Mays, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 30. — Signed with Jets
    16. Mike McGlynn, G, Chiefs. Age: 30. — Signed with Saints
    17. Joe McKnight, RB, Chiefs. Age: 27.
    18. Kelcie McCray, S, Chiefs. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Chiefs
    19. Richard Gordon, TE, Chiefs. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Chiefs


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