Kansas City Chiefs: Final 53-man roster prediction for 2021

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - AUGUST 27: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass during the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium on August 27, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - AUGUST 27: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass during the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium on August 27, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs still have some adjustments they need to make to get down to their final roster for the 2021 season.

It’s that time of year for the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s time for the Chiefs to make some final cuts to get down to 53 players following the last pre-season game. With the roster adjustments, some careers will be launched, saved, or possibly ended, based on the decisions of Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs’ front office.

Each year we see familiar storylines.

There are surprise undrafted or free agent signings who emerge from the pack to push for a roster spot. There are draft picks who never even challenge for a spot. There are veterans who once looked safe but get caught in the numbers crunch.

Often injuries help make the decision making process more straightforward. Putting players on Injured Reserve is a less painful way to punt on making a tough choice now.

Some young players remain anonymous throughout the pre-season and hope just to make the Practice Squad. Those are easy decisions, too. But then it gets down to the last half dozen players who really have a shot at making the roster. If they get cut, there’s a good chance another team will take a flier on them, so you have to be careful.

The last thing the Chiefs want to do is cut a guy who could come back to haunt them in Denver, LA, or Las Vegas.

So here’s how things could shake out.

Kansas City Chiefs: 53-man roster predictions

Quarterbacks (2)

I think that Patrick Mahomes kid is going to make it. Call it a hunch. Reid also loves the stability and veteran presence of Chad Henne. Those two are the quarterbacks for this team this season. The Chiefs cut Anthony Gordon, so Shane Buechele looks like a surefire candidate for the practice squad. Buechele has acquitted himself well this preseason and Henne will eventually need to move along.

I like having a talented young quarterback in the system until that happens.

Running Backs (3)

This is the first position where we are going to have to say good-bye to a regular Chiefs player.

Jerrick McKinnon is to blame. He’s just been too good. Veach took a flier on the oft-injured RB and it looks to have paid off. McKinnon is lightning quick, catches well, and has experience.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the bell cow and a possible future star for this team. That shouldn’t change and 2021 looks to be a potential breakout year for Edwards-Helaire if he can avoid getting bit by the injury bug.

That leaves Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson. One of them gets to stay and one has to go. Unfortunately for Thompson, he looks like the player likely to get cut. It’s not that he isn’t a good player. But McKinnon and Edwards-Helaire fill the “quick, small, shifty” running back role. We don’t need three of those guys.

Williams is bigger and more of a bruiser. That is a change of pace that gives Reid more flexibility. And we all know Andy loves twists and tweaks in the playbook.

Fullback (1)

I’m still not over the departure of Anthony Sherman. One of my all time favorites. However, the Kansas City Chiefs acquired Michael Burton this off-season to fill the role. I’m not certain the Chiefs need a fullback. Could one of the tight ends fill that role when needed? Blake Bell at fullback every once in a while sounds interesting.

The question is, does Burton replace Sherman’s special teams prowess? If he does, then he makes it. If he doesn’t, Kansas City has an extra roster spot to use on either side of the ball.

Wide Receiver (6)

This is another hotly contested position that is going to require the Kansas City Chiefs to cut a talented player.

Let’s start with the locks. Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman are your starters. Honestly, after those two, there aren’t any guarantees in my mind. I think Robinson, Pringle, and Kemp are safe. Pringle has upped his game this pre-season and Dave Toub loves Kemp on special teams.

I don’t know if Demarcus Robinson – entering his 6th year with the Chiefs, mind you – is an ascending player or one that has hit his ceiling.

He’s not a special teams star, he’s not remotely the fastest wide receiver on the team. His hands are average for an NFL receiver. Yes, he’s a good guy, he knows the team and the playbook. He’s easy to keep and hard to cut.

But other hard decisions await if you keep Pringle, Kemp, and Robinson. Gehrig Dieter, Maurice Ffrench, Cornell Powell and Daurice Fountain are all fighting over one spot. French looks like an ideal addition to the practice squad. Same with Cornell Powell who looked good early but has disappeared in the last two weeks.

Between Dieter and Fountain, there isn’t even a choice in my mind. Daurice Fountain has earned his spot with his play on the field. If you cut Dieter, I’m not sure other teams will rush to scoop him up. If you cut Fountain, I think he could come back to haunt you. I’d rather face Dieter in a Chargers uniform than Fountain.

Therefore, I keep Fountain and cut Dieter. And yes, I know Dieter is one of Mahomes favorite guys. But it’s time to move on from a player who really doesn’t add anything on the field.

Remember, it’s not personal. It’s the NFL.

Tight End (4)

Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, and Noah Gray are all making the team. Gray may have regressed a little, but if you cut him, he won’t make it to the practice squad. Some team will scoop him up.

That would seem like plenty of tight ends. Most NFL teams get along fine with three.

But the Chiefs have a Jody Fortson problem. You see, he’s just been too darn impressive. Fortson started his career as a big wide receiver. That didn’t go as planned so the Chiefs asked him to bulk up and convert to tight end.

Turns out that was an inspired idea. Now the 6’6” Fortson isn’t a big, slow receiver. He’s a big, fast tight end. It’s all about perspective, I guess. So far, the transition is going so well. Whereas Dieter and Fountain might get picked up by other teams if they’re cut, Jody Fortson may become a starter on other teams if the Chiefs cut him.

Fortson makes the team and I can’t wait to see how Reid finds ways to use the enormous red zone target.

Offensive Line (9)

Orlando Brown Jr, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, and Lucas Niang look to be your starters. Mike Remmers, Andrew Wylie, and LDT are your trusted veteran rotational/replacement pieces. Allegretti is still learning and improving.

That’s nine. The only question is if Prince Tega Wanogho has made enough of an impression to unseat Allegretti, LDT, or Wylie.

While those three are primarily interior linemen and Wanogho is a Tackle, a roster spot is a roster spot. And good Tackles are harder to find than replacement Guards.

As of writing this, Wanogho is on the outside looking in. A great showing in the last pre-season game could change the dynamics. I suppose Yasir Durant is in that argument, too. However, Durant seems to be behind Wanogho right now.

It’s also fair to say that LDT is not the player he was before his year off. He could be a surprise cut or trade. He can still play, but he is a descending player, not an ascending one.

Duvernay-Tardif’s contract may save his job this year, but I believe it will be his last season with the Chiefs.

Defensive Tackles (4)

This is quick and easy. Jarran Reed, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton, and Khalen Saunders are in. Chris Jones can also fill in there so the position is stacked.

There really isn’t any other competition unless some unforeseen star gets cut from another team and the Chiefs want him. I doubt that happens. This is a very good interior.

Defensive Ends (6)

With Jones shifting to DE, the numbers start to get murkier. Frank Clark is on the team. However, he may be in legal jeopardy of missing some games. Alex Okafor is also a lock.

I believe Mike Danna is ready to shine this year and has more than earned his spot on the 53.

That leaves one spot for Joshua Kaindoh or Tim Ward.

To me, Tim Ward is the obvious choice to make the roster. All he does is make plays. In two pre-season games he has two sacks and a forced fumble. That is what you call making a case for yourself.

I like Kaindoh and his potential, but that’s all it is right now. If you are in a tight game and need an extra DE to step in and make an impact, Tim Ward is the easy choice between the two.

Linebackers (5)

The locks are easy to identify here. Hitchens, Gay, Niemann, and Nick Bolton are all going to play a lot of snaps this year.

So who’s your 5th linebacker?

Most of the time, the 5th LB must be a Special Teams stud. Dorian O’Daniel has filled that role but has yet to make an impact as a regular defensive player.

This is O’Daniel’s 4th year in the league and he doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to cracking the regular LB rotation. That’s a problem. With younger options like Darius Harris, Omari Cobb, and Emmanuel Smith, the Chiefs may be at a crossroads with O’Daniel.

I don’t see O’Daniel getting an extension this year or new contract after this year. So why put time and money into a player you’ll likely not keep? The decision for the Chiefs staff comes down to Dave Toub. Is O’Daniel indispensable on Special Teams or can Darius Harris fill in just as well?

I’d like to see the Chiefs keep Harris, get Smith and/or Cobb on the Practice Squad, and see if they can get a late round pick for O’Daniel. It’s time to move on.

Cornerbacks (5)

Now things get interesting.

L’Jarius Sneed and Charvarius Ward start on the outside. Mike Hughes has come on very strong on Special Teams and the slot CB role. DeAndre Baker, finally healthy, looks to be like a player ready to make a contribution.

If he stays healthy, he can help the Chiefs secondary.

Rashad Fenton has been bit by the injury bug and might be in danger of getting cut. I think Fenton makes it based on past performance.

If things fall like this, the Chiefs will then have to possibly cut BoPete Keyes and Chris Lammons. Keyes, in particular, has made an impact with his play during camp. Another team will pick him up if the Chiefs walk away. That’s true of Fenton and Baker, too.

I think the Chiefs can get Lammons on the Practice Squad. I don’t think Keyes will sneak by other teams. Ultimately, it comes down to Fenton and Keyes for the last spot. I think Fenton secures it by a hair. Bootle and Clemons are also Practice Squad candidates.

Safeties (5)

Tyrann Mathieu, Dan Sorensen, Juan Thornhill, and Armani Watts are all locks at this point. Devon Key has been the darling of minicamp, but his play in actual games has been below expectations.

Despite Key struggling, he will fend off the versatile Zayne Anderson for the final Safety spot.

For the Chiefs, the entire Secondary remains an area where one key injury could set off a domino-effect of changes. It’s not a deep group and there are several players with injury histories. I expect to have several DB/S on the Practice Squad for this reason.

Specialists (3)

Butker, Townsend, and Winchester. Sounds like a bad Law Firm. But each is pretty good at what they do on the football field.

We will know soon enough if these predictions are correct. There’s always a chance the Chiefs may pick up a cut player from another team. Weird stuff happens in the NFL on cut day. Let’s hope it goes smoothly for the Chiefs.

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