While these are not all the players who had a good game, these jumped out and solidified where they stand before Aug. 31.
No. 3: DeAndre Baker
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach’s love for former “busts” opened a new chapter in 2020 with the addition of 2019’s 30th overall draft pick cornerback DeAndre Baker. His time as a New York Giant came to an unceremonious end in September 2020, following his arrest in May 2020.
Baker joined the Chiefs’ practice squad in November 2020, three days after all charges were dropped against him for the previous arrest. He made his Kansas City debut in Week 15 against the New Orleans Saints.
Baker was a quality depth piece until Week 17, where he broke his femur in a non-contact play. While he could not contribute during the postseason, the Chiefs re-signed Baker in February 2021 to a one-year deal.
That faith following injury paid off against the 49ers.
Baker was arguably the best Kansas City Chiefs defender on Saturday and he was certainly the best defensive back. The 49ers targeted Baker six times, and he allowed no completions and had two pass breakups.
All that in limited action is very impressive indeed, not to mention against quarterback Trey Lance, the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback of the future. Baker also had solid run defense, a trait that is good to see from a secondary player.
Baker may have locked up that CB3 role and is almost certainly making this roster.
No. 2: Khalen Saunders
A player who was uncomfortably close to the roster bubble, defensive lineman Khalen Saunders started the preseason with a bang against the 49ers.
The 2019 thrid-round pick out of Western Illinois University started as a candidate to not make the final 53-man roster. Seeing action in only three games in 2020 and logging three tackles during those appearances hardly solidified his spot on the team going forward.
The lack of playing time was not entirely Saunders’ fault, as he suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 1 and returned Week 7. However, head coach Andy Reid explained how Saunders became a common healthy scratch during the 2020 regular season.
Here’s what Reid said in a press conference late last year:
"“You put one up, you’ve got to put one down. That’s one of the negatives of when you get injured. Somebody steps in and does pretty good, then that’s what goes on. He’s definitely a good football player and his time will come here.”"
When a team can make it to a Super Bowl without you contributing, it is hardly a good sign for your future with the team.
But, Saunders may have changed the narrative Saturday night in San Francisco.
While he only accounted for one tackle in the box score, Saunders was all over the field. He received the second-best PFF grade for the Chiefs, only behind a 94.0 grade from fellow defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton.
Saunders showed the coaching staff what he can do with extended playing time. Additionally, he primarily ran with the second-string defense. If this continues through the preseason, Saunders’ roster spot should be just fine.
No. 1: Daurice Fountain
Like Saunders, wide receiver Daurice Fountain needed a quality performance to help him make the Chiefs’ final roster. Leading the team in receiving yards is a good start.
Fountain hauled in four catches. from six targets, for 38 yards. His receptions, targets, and receiving yards all led the Chiefs on Saturday. Those numbers would have led the whole game, if not for an 80-yard touchdown grab from 49ers wide receiver Trent Sherfield.
Fountain was a relative unknown entering the 2021 offseason after having hardly any impact in Indianapolis. He could have been brought in as a camp body following a rookie minicamp tryout session, but Reid and the Chiefs obviously see some potential in Fountain.
Fountain said the following, according to Jordan Foote over at Sports Illustrated’s Arrowhead Report:
"“I just really went into the game today just saying, ‘I’ve got to take advantage of my reps.’ Coach Reid, Joe and everybody else, they’ve been doing a really good job of helping me prepare and get ready for these preseason games just to get an opportunity to go out and showcase my skill.”"
For Fountain to make them, he has to provide more than receiving depth. Work on special teams will help his case, and he got an early opportunity with a 21-yard kick return in the 2nd quarter.
That WR5 or WR6 spot is likely Fountain’s ceiling right now, but every good performance counts as the preseason goes on. Look for Fountain to continue competing and watch his special teams reps, for those will only increase his stock.