With NFL teams mandated to get down from 75 to 53 man by 3 p.m. Saturday, here’s my roster prediction, with the caveat the Chiefs will likely scour the market for upgrades at the backend of the roster.
Also, please keep in mind that suspended players — i.e. Dwayne Bowe and Donald Stephenson — don’t count against the 53-man roster.
Quarterbacks (3) — Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray: After Reid’s revelation regarding Tyler Bray, who apparently suffered ankle and knee injuries, I expect these three to make the roster with Bray headed to injured reserve. How timely.
Running backs (4) — Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, De’Anthony Thomas, Joe McKnight: The top three are no surprise, but I suspect the Chiefs might be wooed by McKnight’s versatility and offensive ceiling, which might be a little higher than Gray’s. Special teams coach Dave Toub has praised Gray’s contributions on his units, however, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Charcandrick West could be a practice squad candidate.
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Fullback (1) — Anthony Sherman: Sherman has emerged as one of the league’s best fullbacks, so there was no way Jordan Campbell was beating him out. But Campbell could easily make the practice squad.
Receivers (6) — Donnie Avery, Albert Wilson, Frankie Hammond, Junior Hemingway, A.J. Jenkins, Kyle Williams: With Bowe suspended for week one, this is an easy decision, at least for this week. The Chiefs are quite fond of Wilson’s upside, while Reid has praised Hammond. Hemingway’s versatility brings value, while Jenkins remains inconsistent but has occasionally shown flashes. The Chiefs could try to sneak Mark Harrison onto the practice squad.
Tight ends (3) — Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris: The first two are locks. Harris didn’t help himself against Green Bay, but there is upside there. The Chiefs already know what they have in Richard Gordon, a veteran who could still be available in a few weeks if they cut him.
Offensive line (9) — Eric Fisher, Mike McGlynn, Rodney Hudson, Zach Fulton, Jeff Allen, Eric Kush, Ricky Henry, Ryan Harris, Jeff Linkenbach: Donald Stephenson will obviously make the team, but he won’t count against the 53-man roster until his suspension concludes after week four. In the meantime, I expect nine to make it, with the Chiefs trying to stash sixth-round pick Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on the practice squad. In this scenario, tackle J’Marcus Webb would get the ax, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs added another body here.
Defensive line (6) — Allen Bailey, Dontari Poe, Mike DeVito, Jaye Howard, Vance Walker, Kyle Love: The Chiefs haven’t been able to get Mike Catapano much work over the past month due to a mystery illness, so it’s hard to count him in this projection. He could easily land on injured reserve. Jaye Howard has performed well in his absence and has seemingly earned a spot, while I’ve got Love edging out Dominique Hamilton due to his experience and the fact the Chiefs can probably sneak Hamilton, who has played well this preseason, onto the practice squad.
Outside linebacker (5) — Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Josh Martin, Frank Zombo: One of the easiest projections on the roster. The first four offer pass-rushing upside while Zombo is an experienced veteran with special-teams chops.
Inside linebacker (4) — Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, James-Michael Johnson, Nico Johnson: Now things get interesting. I’ll go ahead and predict the Chiefs will use their one injured-reserve spot with a designation to return on Joe Mays, which keeps Nico Johnson on the roster.
Cornerback (5) — Marcus Cooper, Sean Smith, Ron Parker, Chris Owens, Phillip Gaines: The first five are no brainers, but one could argue DeMarcus Van Dyke has certainly played his way onto this roster. His recovery speed is a boon in today’s pass-happy NFL, and he’s had a strong preseason. But the high ankle sprain he suffered against the Packers complicates things.
Safety (4) — Eric Berry, Husain Abdullah, Daniel Sorensen, Kelcie McCray: This has been the top four since the beginning of camp. I think Sorensen is safe, but I’ve got the Chiefs keeping the veteran McCray over Malcolm Bronson, who they could probably add to the practice squad. We’ll see.
Specialists (3) — Cairo Santos, Dustin Colquitt, Thomas Gafford: I’ve got Santos beating out Succop, though this is a bit of a coin flip. If the Chiefs are interested in bringing in their own guy and saving money this year, that’s where they’ll go.