The Kansas City Chiefs got decent production out of their rookie class in 2013, with Eric Fisher, Knile Davis and Nico Johnson all contributing to the 9-win improvement over the ’12 season. Will the six man class the Chiefs selected in the 2014 NFL Draft enjoy similar success?
First round pick Dee Ford (OLB, Auburn) is going to see some snaps on passing downs at the minimum, presumably in a package that features fellow top notch pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Ford is an explosive edge rusher who shows the bend to be a consistent double-digit sack guy in this league. He’s a quick-twitch athlete with a polished repertoire of pass rushing moves who should thrive in DC Bob Sutton’s penetrating scheme.
Also don’t be surprised if he starts taking snaps away from Hali at some point this season. Hali recently reported to voluntary workouts more than 20-pounds over desired playing weight and will be due nearly $9 million dollars next season, the last of his current deal. With Houston angling for a new long term contract the future likely excludes Hali, so Ford could see more and more time in preparation for a larger role next season.
Phillip Gaines (CB, Rice), the teams’ third rounder, will likely see immediate time on special teams, but could see some time in a relatively thin secondary as the season progresses. Gaines is an acknowledged prospect but one with good upside and an intriguing size/speed ratio at nearly 6-foot 1, 193-pounds and running a 4.38 40-yard dash. He could be forced into action sooner rather than later with the current rate of attrition. Brandon Flowers was recently sent packing, Sean Smith is coming off a DUI, Chris Owens is battling a nagging hamstring injury and Sanders Commings continues taking his time developing.
Fourth round RB/WR/KR/PR De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon) will see snaps in a variety of places and in a variety of different roles. He’ll be to the Chiefs in ’14 what Dexter McCluster was in ’13 (1,202 combined yards rushing, receiving and returning). With his speed, agility and acceleration, he’s a big play waiting to happen and HC Andy Reid will find a plethora of ways to get Thomas the ball in space and let him do this thing.
Sixth rounder Zach Fulton (OG, Tennessee) could also make an impact this fall, especially considering how wide open the RG position is. Rishaw Johnson, Jeff Linkenbach and Fulton will all be in the mix for the starting gig during camp, and Fulton has the tenacity Reid likes in his interior linemen. He needs to work on staying lower and keeping his feet under him, but shows the kind of power blocking to make an impact in the run game.