The Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason roster review series makes its stop at strong safety today. For those new to the format, we compare the Kansas City starter(s) at a given position to their AFC West compatriots. Previous posts have covered both lines, tight end and free safety, with links included below.
Jon McGraw is listed as the starting strong safety on the Kansas City depth chart right now, although he has played both over the course of his ten-year NFL career. The elder statesman of AFC West strong safeties, he doesn’t have really good speed in running with a receiver in the slot, thus leaving the Chiefs vulnerable to an offense that spreads the field. His problems tackling in the open field are just as acute. In short, this is a weak spot for the Chiefs.
Denver’s David Bruton is still just 24 years old and according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc., has work to do in route recognition. However the same scouts praise his ability to read blocking schemes, a reason he’s more effective as an extra defender against the run than he is against the pass. This does leave Denver vulnerable to a tight end that can release quickly and win a speed battle against Bruton.
The scouts give the highest grade in the division to Oakland’s Tyvon Branch, although not by a lot (on a scale of 1-100 all four AFC West starters rate in the 60s). But even here, he is considered a strong safety whose greatest value lies in defending the run rather than the pass. If this review were done for the purpose of grading the Raiders we might note that Branch may be miscast on a team already stocked in the front seven but needing help in pass coverage.
San Diego’s Steve Gregory lacks physical size, at 5’11” 195, the only starter at this spot under the 6’0” and 200 lb thresholds, and his speed isn’t anything to wow you. But the scouts do praise his work in recognizing routes and reading the eyes of the quarterback. Because of his size, he’s a liability against the run, but his smarts make him an effective cover man underneath.
If Kansas City had a young starter at strong safety it might be worth their while to wait and see how he developed, given the general lack of talent among their rivals. But with McGraw a veteran with no hope of improvement and a history of injuries, this is a spot that has to draw the attention of Scott Pioli in free agency and the draft.