Last week ESPN.com and Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. published their list of the top 10 breakout players for the 2012 NFL season and the Chiefs had one player who managed to crack the top 10 in the AFC, safety Kendrick Lewis checked in at No. 9.
While I think Lewis is a solid player and will have a better year this season with the return of Eric Berry, I do not believe Lewis should have been included on the list. Lewis did have three interceptions last season but he often played very far off of the line of scrimmage and wasn’t even involved in many plays because of it. Lewis is just an average player and I don’t see him ever being anything more, certainly not the caliber of someone such as Berry.
While I don’t think Lewis will “breakout” in 2012, there are many other Chiefs who I believe are ready to take the next step as major contributors on the Kansas City roster this season.
Here are the top five Chiefs who are poised to make a major impact in 2012:
1. Justin Houston – Houston just didn’t see enough reps early on last season to put up big numbers but there is no doubt that the ability is there to be a major impact, especially opposite Tamba Hali. Houston came on strong in the second half of the season and finished with 5.5 sacks and 46 tackles. In addition to his ability to rush the passer, Houston also held up very well against the run and was surprisingly good against the pass, as he had four pass defensed. With an entire season ahead of him in 2012, Houston should put up double-digit sack numbers and become a household name in the near future.
2. Jon Asamoah – Asamoah is ready to become a big time contributor at guard for the Chiefs as he enters his third season and by the end of the year he could be the grizzled vet on the interior of the Kansas City o-line. Asamoah played well last season and there is no reason to think the former third-round selection won’t continue to improve in 2012. Asamoah could become a Pro Bowl guard in the next few years if he continues to make strides on what should be a vastly improved Chiefs offensive line.
3. Allen Bailey – I may be higher on Bailey than most, but I think he will be a real impact player down the line for the Chiefs, possibly as soon as this season. Bailey shows very good athleticism for his size (288 lbs.) and because of that he has the chance to make a big impact at defensive end in the Chiefs 3-4 scheme. Bailey has 10 tackles and recorded one sack in limited action last season but he should see increased playing time as he enters his second year in the league. Bailey was at one time talked about as a first-round pick even though he slipped to the Chiefs in the third last year, but I believe he will ultimately show the ability that made him talked of so highly in the first place.
4. Jon Baldwin – I think Jon Baldwin is ready to have a HUGE 2012 season for the Chiefs now that he has a year under his belt and Matt Cassel back at quarterback (yes, I’m aware Cassel isn’t a world beater, but he’s better than Tyler Palko). I could see Baldwin becoming the next Brandon Marshall minus all of the craziness (Thomas Jones is gone and Baldwin is a year older and hopefully more mature now) with his size and ability to snag the ball out of the air in the red zone. The Chiefs failed to utilize Baldwin and his matchup nightmare creating ability, but I think new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will see the error of Todd Haley’s ways and Baldwin will develop into a bonafide No. 1 receiving threat in the very near future, hopefully this season.
5. Shane Bannon – Who? Alright, so this pick may be a bit of a reach but it may also prove true as Bannon has reportedly come ready to compete at fullback this season. All indications are that Bannon has come back looking much bigger and stronger than he was in 2011 and with no real competition at the position, he appears to have a very good shot at being the lead blocker for Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis this season.