You know what time it is. Every article about the NFL opens up with the same “This is the slow part of the NFL offseason” in June and early July. You know this is the part of the year where predictions become king.
The Chiefs will have their final day of OTAs on Friday, which is the last chance the media and fans will get to see the team before training camp, which does not start until July 31st. This means that this is, really, the best and most appropriate part of the year to do 53 man roster predictions.
So let’s jump into it. I am going position by position, with starters listed first, then backups listed in italics.
Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
The only thing worth talking about here is the backup position because that starter spot is locked up for a decade. Chad Henne is the only QB on the roster that has a shot at this spot, with all due respect to Shane Buechele and Anthony Gordon. If Matt Moore and Jordan Ta’amu were still hanging around, we could have a conversation about them earning a roster spot, but for now, it is Henne’s and Henne’s alone.
Offensive Line: Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Kyle Long, Mike Remmers, Trey Smith, Lucas Niang, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Nick Allegretti, Andrew Wylie
Okay, so I would like to act like I am beyond insightful and have concocted the perfect starting five from their deep pool of talented linemen. However, the reality is that this is the starting five from OTAs. Creed Humphrey getting nods at starting center right off the bat is huge and Brett Veach deserves a ton of credit for that pick. Trey Smith could very well earn a spot at right guard, but Mahomes and Long have been very friendly this offseason, that I doubt he can be outdone on the line.
The backups are not very easy to predict because there are seven or eight linemen who could make the team. Austin Blythe does not stay on the team, largely because he can not move along the line like everyone else. Trey Smith will continue to fight for RG1, while Niang is here to fill in for injuries on either side of the line. LDT is actually on the roster bubble for me, but his ability to play right guard as well as right tackle earns him one of the last spots on the roster.
Tight End: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
This is another really easy position group. Travis Kelce is TE1, and Noah Gray is his heir apparent. Gray will get some passing reps, but he will also be used as a swiss-army knife player. Full back, special teams, everywhere. Blake Bell gets a nod here for the actual TE2 position, which is essentially a blocking position in the Reid offense.
Running Back: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerrick Mckinnon, Darwin Thompson, Darrel Williams
Clyde Edwards-Helaire has an opportunity to blow up this year, behind one of the best lines in football, with an actual offseason to prepare, and a full year for Coach Reid to write up plays for him. He has the starting position pretty clearly, so the rest of the lineup is where the questions come in.
Jerrick Mckinnon will work great as a third-down back, or even a back for use when CEH is pushed out into the slot. Darwin Thompson is getting one last chance on the roster here, thanks to everything he did in the 18/19 season. Then Darrel Williams is a bubble player who is here for depth purposes. He could be bumped out to the practice squad.
Wide Receiver: Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Cornell Powell, Jody Fortson
It is Tyreek Hill and then a bunch of wide receiver threes.
Demarcus Robinson’s contract means he is getting playing time, so his spot as WR2 is pretty easy. Pringle could earn that spot eventually, and even Powell could take his shot at the starting lineup in the later weeks, but for now, it is Demarcus “0 Yards after Catch” Robinson. Mecole Hardman gets the WR3 nod, and this is the last chance he is getting before I seriously push for cutting him.
Some people may see the last name on this list and raise an eyebrow, but I think it is time for Fortson to get a shot. He has sat on the practice squad and been groomed to take the field for two seasons now, and if the Chiefs do not finally pull the trigger on him, then they wasted time, money, and his talent. He earns a bottom bench spot, but he could be a redzone threat, which would be money for the offense.
Defensive End: Taco Charlton, Frank Clark, Michael Danna, Joshua Kaindoh, Tim Ward
This is actually a pretty easy position to list. Clark and Charlton are pretty obvious starters, and Danna and Kaindoh are making the team due to their rookie deals. Tim Ward is the biggest question here. If Chris Jones plays a ton of defensive end this year, Ward does not make the team, but if he stays inside, Ward will get some shots this year.
Defensive Tackle: Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Jarran Reed, Tershawn Wharton
Again, fairly easy to know who will make the roster, the only question is who earns the second defensive tackle position.
This is actually going to be a very interesting battle in the training camp, and my pick is Derrick Nnadi to win out. I think his ability to stuff the run is why I prefer him over Wharton and Reed, but I could easily be wrong. I like keeping five defensive tackles because I think we are going to see more defensive attacks this year.
Linebackers: Anthony Hitchens, Willie Gay Jr., Nick Bolton, Ben Niemann, Darius Harris, Dorian O’Daniel
Starters are easy here, backups are a little harder. Hitchens is on a contract year but is the voice of the defense. Willie Gay’s time is now. Nick Bolton got brought in to help fight the run, which has been a downside for the Chiefs’ defense.
Now, the bottom three are a bit harder, but I think each player fills a need. Ben Niemann knows the defense already, which helps him stay on the roster, and will get him some snaps. Darius Harris is actually a specials teams player for me, but he has a chance to get defensive snaps due to injuries. Dorian O’Daniel is another roster bubble player for me, but he can offer a little help in preventing the run game like Nick Bolton.
Cornerbacks: Charvarius Ward, L’Jarius Sneed, Mike Hughes, Rashad Fenton, Deandre Baker
The weakest position group on the team is actually in jeopardy of getting worse. Charvarious Ward was not present for OTAs, and although those are optional, it is a bit concerning. Ward is in a contract year and could hold out for a contract this offseason.
This makes this positional group really rough to predict, but also really concerning to think about.
Safeties: Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, Will Parks, Bopete Keyes, Daniel Sorenson
Okay, easy group to talk about right after that awful CB group. Mathieu and Thornhill are guaranteed to earn a spot because they are two of the best safeties in the league. Will Parks is a great safety depth player who will get chances to play in the slot and cover the safety position when Mathieu goes to blitz. Bopete and Sorenson are both on the roster bubble, and I actually think Keyes could be pushed out to the practice squad.
Special Teams: Tommy Townsend, Harrison Butker, James Winchester
Duh. I do not have to explain this.