Rosterology 2.0: Projecting Chiefs' 53-Man Roster as Preseason Opener Approaches

Cornerback, tight end remain competitive battles where Chiefs might keep tabs on free agents, trade targets

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first 10 days of training have gone a long way toward answering questions about the 2019 Chiefs, but there's still a long way to go before the team puts together its 53-player roster for Week 1 of the season at Jacksonville.

The Chiefs, surprisingly, haven't made many roster moves during the beginning of camp. The club released tight end Neal Sterling and signed cornerback Michael Hunter, but other than that general manager Brett Veach has stuck with the club that arrived in St. Joseph.

Here's the latest Chiefs Digest 53-man roster projection as of now with breakdowns of position battles still looming and where the team might still be seeking outside help.

QUARTERBACK

Starter: Patrick Mahomes
Backup: Chad Henne
In the mix: Kyle Shurmur and Chase Litton

As expected the only drama comes at the No. 3 quarterback spot, and even the winner expects to land on the practice squad entering the season. Shurmur and Litton appear running neck-and-neck, with each having shown flashes coupled with youthful errors. The two have alternated with the third-team offense, but more often than not it's Shurmur first up in the rotation. The preseason games could go a long way toward sorting out the winner of this battle, but often in the event of a dead heat, the Chiefs often go with the younger player. That would make this a lean in favor of Shurmur.

RUNNING BACK

Starters: Damien Williams, FB Anthony Sherman, H-Back John Lovett
Backups: Carlos Hyde, Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams
In the mix: Tremon Smith, Marcus Marshall and Josh Caldwell

The running back picture looked fairly straight forward two weeks ago, but now plenty of questions swirl around this group. Damien Williams hasn't practiced since July 28 with a hamstring injury and Tremon Smith joined the room just last week. The other problem – no one has stood out so far in camp. Lovett must be labeled an H-back because he's a true tweener – not quite a fullback, not quite a tight end. Marshall has shown definite flashes and could be a project back. Smith looks electric in limited action since moving to the offense, but his status appears closely tied to rookie receiver Mecole Hardman – if the Chiefs don't have complete faith in Hardman in the return game, Smith will make this team.

TIGHT END

Starter: Travis Kelce
Backup: Blake Bell
In the mix: Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer and David Wells

The Chiefs' unofficial depth chart lists Yelder as the No. 2 and Bell third, but the reps on the practice field tilt the race slightly in Bell's favor. The Chiefs are looking for a Demetrius Harris clone, someone who can be an inline blocker, play multiple phases in special teams at a high-level and contribute when needed on offense. Bell fits that description, and his offensive skills have been better than the team expected. If Lovett makes the team as an H-back, both he and Sherman can fill in as a third tight end and save a roster spot here. The sleeper pick is Keizer, he might be the best inline blocker of the bunch.

WIDE RECEIVER

Starters: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson
Backups: Mecole Hardman, Marcus Kemp and Byron Pringle
In the mix: Gehrig Dieter, Rashard Davis, Cody Thompson, Felton Davis, Davon Grayson, Jamal Custis and Jody Fortson

One of the deepest positions on the team and a wide open battle for the final few spots. There appear to be four player vying for two spaces behind Hill, Watkins, Robinson and Hardman. Kemp is the best special teams player of the bunch and Pringle the most polished receiver who can also return kicks. Dieter and Rashard Davis both have practice squad eligibility remaining. Dieter remains out with back spasms, but Davis has flashed consistently since the club signed him following rookie minicamp. Thompson is another strong candidate, but seems likely ticketed for the practice squad given the depth here.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Starters: LT Eric Fisher, LG Andrew Wylie, C Austin Reiter, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and RT Mitchell Schwartz
Backups: G/T Cam Erving, G/C Nick Allegretti, C/G Jimmy Murray and G/C Kahlil McKenzie
In the mix: OL Ryan Hunter, T Pace Murphy, T Dino Boyd, G Zack Golditch, T Chidi Okeke, and G Abdul Beecham

Another deep group where the rotation seems a bit more settled heading into the first preseason game. The starting line looks set with Wylie and Reiter firmly entrenched. Murray is the No. 2 center, and shows more consistency there than Allegretti and McKenzie, but those three consistently makeup the No. 2 line along with Erving and Murphy at the tackles. Hunter also is in the mix and can play multiple positions, but the Chiefs have focused him of late on along the interior.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Starters: LDE Alex Okafor, DT Derrick Nnadi, DT Chris Jones and RDE Frank Clark
Backups: DL Breeland Speaks, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DT Khalen Saunders, DT Xavier Williams and DL Tanoh Kpassagnon
In the mix: DT Justin Hamilton, DT Joey Ivie, DE Rob McCray and DT Cavon Walker
Non-football injury list: DE Tim Ward

Easily one of the two deepest position groups on the team. The starting line looks set, and it's hard to see Speaks or Saunders – selections from the past two drafts – going anywhere soon. Kpassagnon is having another good camp, but that hasn't translated to regular-season success the past two seasons. Williams and Hamilton have both seen reps with the ones at times. Ogbah suffered an oblique strain this week, however, so that may bear watching.

LINEBACKER

Starters: WLB Anthony Hitchens, MLB Reggie Ragland, SLB Damien Wilson
Backups: ILB Ben Niemann, OLB Dorian O'Daniel and OLB Darron Lee
In the mix: ILB Raymond Davison, OLB Jeremiah Attaochu and OLB D'Juan Hines
Physically Unable to Perform list: ILB Darius Harris

The top four looks set, and it's hard to see O'Daniel or Lee going anywhere as well. O'Daniel projects as the backup behind Hitchens, and Lee looks like the team's best coverage linebacker. Davison had a good camp last season and looks strong again this year. Attaochu offers flexibility as a guy who can rush from the edge as well as drop back. Don't be surprised if the Harris makes an entrance sometime this season. The team expects the undrafted rookie ready to return from offseason shoulder surgery by the end of September, and he could become a contributor in the second-half of the season.

CORNERBACK

Starters: Kendall Fuller, Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward
Backups: Rashad Fenton and D'Montre Wade
In the mix: Herb Miller, Mark Fields, Dakari Monroe and Michael Hunter
Injured reserve: Keith Reaser

The Chiefs' offense has made this group look questionable at times, but that's no surprise. However, this position group may need an injection of help via either free agency or the trade market. Fenton expects to backup Fuller in the slot, and Wade can play both outside positions. Miller has been running with Wade on the second-team defense, but Fields offers the most intriguing talent upside of the younger rookie group. Hunter has experience playing in a Steve Spagnuolo defense, and he could rise to compete for a backup job.

SAFETY

Starters: Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill
Backups: Daniel Sorensen, Jordan Lucas and Armani Watts
In the mix: Harold Jones-Quartey and Andrew Soroh

Fans excited over Thornhill have been frustrated seeing Sorensen atop the depth chart at free safety, but don't expect that to continue for long. The pairing of Mathieu up front and Thornhill on the backend with Sorensen as a reliable dime safety is the team's best lineup. Lucas remains out with a hamstring injury, but he should make the team if healthy. Watts hasn't flashed as much as he did as a rookie last season, however, but he still offers a big upside. Jones-Quartey brings experience and Soroh is a hard hitter who play multiple roles.

SPECIALIST

Starters: K Harrison Butker, P Dustin Colquitt, LS James Winchester
In the mix: P Jack Fox

Fox hasn't shown nearly enough consistency to dethrone Colquitt, who at age 37 still has a big leg and most importantly remains one of the game's best directional punters and holders. Fox has an NFL leg, however, and the Chiefs are pouring time and resources into making him into a punter. Wouldn't be surprised to see the Chiefs keep Fox on the practice squad both as a project and someone who can give Colquitt and Butker a break during the practice week. The Chiefs hope both those players will be kicking into February, after all.

Comments (1)
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Chiefly Bacon
Chiefly Bacon

Great read. Only thing I might nit-pick. Colquitt isn't going to need any breaks during the week, unless it's from holder duty.