Every team will be in training camp by the middle of the week. Training camp position battles are always important to keep an eye on. The Kansas City Chiefs have an extremely important one to keep an eye on heading into camp.
The Chiefs have made it to three straight AFC Championship games and two straight Super Bowls. Once again they are the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl in 2021. After watching Patrick Mahomes scramble for almost 500 yards in the Super Bowl, they totally revamped the offensive line. The line gelling together is going to be something to watch, but I am going to have my eye closely on another battle.
I am going to be keeping an eye on the cornerback battle.
Bashaud Breeland has been a staple in the secondary over the past few seasons, but the Chiefs did not re-sign him this offseason. Instead, he will be playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 2021. Players that are returning include Charvarius Ward, L’Jarius Sneed, and Rashad Fenton.
Ward struggled last year but has the most experience on the team at the outside position. This is a scary proposition to think about. Considering the lack of experience at the position, one can expect that he will get the nod early as one of the starters.
Sneed is the most talented of the bunch. He is only headed into his second year, he is already considered one of the best players in the league at his position or any position. Pete Prisco of CBS has him inside his top 100 players in the NFL for 2021. He burst onto the scene last year, playing mostly out of the slot. However, he can play either on the inside or outside. He is fast, physical, and long. The Louisiana Tech standout is everything you want in a corner.
Fenton has also seen significant time, both on the outside and in the slot. His versatility is something to be valued in the secondary and he will have his place on this roster. However, he is limited physically and can get grabby in coverage.
The Chiefs traded for Mike Hughes from the Vikings and signed DeAndre Baker to come in and compete for one of the spots in the secondary.
Hughes is a former first-round pick who has struggled with injuries and to find his way in the NFL. This was a classic Brett Veach move. Veach has brought other former first-rounders in that haven’t panned out with other teams in the past. Most recently, Taco Charlton.
The former UCF corner has good size, at around 5’11 and 190 pounds. He also has adequate athleticism. He was clocked in at around a 4.5 40 yard dash and 20 bench reps.
Another thing to consider is Hughes was an exceptional return man in college. He had three touchdowns in 2017 as a return man. If he finds himself on the roster bubble for some reason this could separate him from others.
DeAndre Baker is also a former first-round pick that has struggled so far in the NFL. However, everything that I just wrote about Hughes from a size and athletic standpoint could be written for Baker. Baker has good size at 5’11 and 190 pounds. He also ran a 4.5 40 yard dash and did 14 bench reps. Baker is coming off a serious leg injury which will put him behind his competition but is recovering quickly.
Another player that will compete for a starting job or nickel position is Bopete Keyes. The Chiefs traded back into the draft in 2020 to select Keyes. Keyes has a slightly bigger build than Hughes and Baker. He is two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier. Like Hughes and Baker, however, he also ran in the 4.5s.
General manager Brett Veach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo clearly have a type at the CB position.
Long term the Chiefs could have Hughes, Baker and Keyes teamed up with Sneed in the secondary and all only rookie deals. If Baker or Hughes live up to their draft positions, they could end up being absolute steals for the Chiefs.
Taking chances on both Baker and Hughes allows the Chiefs to be wrong on one of them. It is smart roster construction. It also makes a lot of sense when you look at what Kansas City has done at the position since Spagnuolo’s arrival.
Since Spagnuolo has become the defensive coordinator, the Chiefs have not invested a ton of draft capital or money. They rely heavily on the scheme and their safeties within that scheme.
My early predictions for the position are Sneed and Baker (once totally healthy) on the outside and Hughes as the starting slot CB. Fenton, Ward, and Keyes as the next guys in.