Thursday night represents the final tune up before the start of the regular season. Some of these players seem more ready than others for the bright lights of the season, while others seem to be on the verge of being a key part of a winning Chiefs team.
Here is where things stand now with the Chiefs best rookies.
1. Nico Johnson (Last Week: 2nd)
Nico Johnson has a sprained ankle. You wouldn’t know it if you watched the way he played Saturday night. Johnson has been everywhere this preseason and in camp, and could end up being the starting middle linebacker at the beginning of the season.
There was a lot of doubt about the Nico Johnson pick when it happened because he was taken after USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a target many Chiefs fans had on their own personal boards. So Johnson’s career with the Chiefs got off on the wrong foot for several fans because of who Johnson was not. But he has won them over quickly with his play in the middle of the field and his aggressiveness (and the fortuitous signing of Tyler Bray).
He won’t be the flashiest of the Chiefs draft picks, but he certainly will be one of the most important throughout this season.
2. Knile Davis (Last Week: 1st)
Davis has proven he can be a playmaker for the Chiefs in special teams. And when he runs with authority and confidence, he shows flashes of being a playmaker out of the backfield, too.
The question is going to be when he is going to consistently be confident, and if he can hold onto the ball. Davis had a critical fumble in the third quarter of Saturday’s game that could have killed the Chiefs chances to win the game. Fortunately for him he returned a kickoff for a touchdown later in the quarter to erase his mistake.
But that opportunity won’t always be there. Davis has to get better at protecting the ball. Once he does that, the Chiefs could have one of the best running back tandems in football.
3. Rico Richardson (Last Week: n/a)
The undrafted rookie is doing everything he can to make this team. He has been one of the few wide receivers to stand out this preseason, and he has the kind of speed and route running ability the Chiefs are looking for in their offensive scheme.
Of all of the undrafted rookies, he has the best shot to make the team out of camp. And with the injury to Tony Moeaki and the situation with Dexter McCluster, a roster spot may be opening up for him.
4. Eric Fisher (Last Week: 5th)
He looked better. Not great, but better.
Fisher still seems to be a step behind on blitz pickups and with pre-snap adjustments, but he improved in his ability to take on defenders one-on-one. There were fewer occasions of him getting beat off the line or being bull-rushed into the pocket, which was a good thing to see.
There is a long way still to go in his development, but it was good to see him have an extended period of success on Saturday night.
5. Tyler Bray (Last Week: 4th)
Ricky Stanzi was let go in the first round of roster cuts earlier in the week, which means Bray is a lock for third quarterback spot on the team. This was anticipated, but having it be official erases whatever doubt may have existed. It is going to take him a couple of years to develop, but if the mental side of his game comes then the Chiefs may have a franchise quarterback on their hands.
Bray is going to see a lot of action on Thursday (one would think) and it will be interesting to compare how he plays this week as compared to how he looked in week one.
Honorable Mention: Bradley McDougald
Number two on the list of undrafted free agents to make the team is McDougald. You’ll be hard pressed to find somebody who hasn’t been impressed with his camp performance, and there is growing concern that he will not make it through waivers in order to be placed on the practice squad.
There is a roster scenario that sees McDougald make the Chiefs. The Chiefs have virtually nothing at cornerback after their top three guys, and their best fourth corner option – Sanders Commings – is hurt. To compensate for this, the Chiefs may carry six safeties – a position in which they are pretty deep. The logic makes sense, but the question is whether or not KC can make the roster numbers work.
Falling Off the List: Travis Kelce (Last Week: 3rd)
Injuries have limited Kelce’s opportunities in games, and when he has played he has struggled in the passing game. Kelce has had issues holding onto the ball, including a potential touchdown pass in the preseason opener against New Orleans.
This could be an issue of pressing and trying to fight through injuries. But the Chiefs need him to be healthy and productive if they want to improve their passing game.