Building a winner: How the Chiefs turned over their roster and emerged among the elite

The Chiefs take on the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC divisional-round playoff game on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium with arguably the strongest team in Andy Reid’s six seasons in Kansas City.

How is it the strongest? The team’s 12-4 record matches the best in the Reid era, for starters, and unlike the team with the same mark in 2016, this one played against a first-place schedule.

Oh, and Patrick Mahomes, a strong candidate for NFL MVP, is the quarterback.

A few more notes on the 53-man roster:

  • As of mid-week, offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif wasn’t on it. He’s still on injured reserve. He could be activated at any time, but the Chiefs don’t have to make an official move on him until next week.

  • Proving an NFL roster is in a constant state of flux, nearly half of the 53 — 26 players — joined the team after last season. Four of those players — safety Ron Parker, linebacker Frank Zombo, running back Charcandrick West and offensive lineman Jeff Allen — were previously with the Chiefs, confirming the team values playbook knowledge when making need-based free-agent signings during the season.

  • About a quarter of the Chiefs’ roster has experienced something the others have not: a playoff victory in a Kansas City uniform. Fifteen guys on the roster were part of the Chiefs’ 30-0 victory at the Houston Texans in the wild-card round after the 2015 season.

Here’s how the 2018-19 Chiefs were built, sorted by general manager:

Carl Peterson


P Dustin Colquitt (Draft, Round 3): The ageless punter is having one of his best seasons, is a Pro Bowl alternate and stands as the last connection to Peterson and former coach Dick Vermeil.

Scott Pioli


S Eric Berry (D-1): Is he playing vs. Indy or not? The Chiefs have lost both games in which Berry has played, but his presence would be a huge boost.


OLB Justin Houston (D-3): Big-play Houston has returned this season. He’s a key figure for a playoff run.

DE Allen Bailey (D-3): Having a solid season and leads the defense with four recovered fumbles.

John Dorsey


T Eric Fisher (D-1): The overall No. 1 pick arguably is having his best season and made the Pro Bowl.

TE Travis Kelce (D-3): When you’re featured in a McDonald’s commercial, you’ve hit the big time. His 103 receptions this season set a team record.

TE Demetrius Harris (college free agent): Receptions (12) were down (18 last year), but he owned a career-best 13.7 yards per catch in 2018.

FB Anthony Sherman (trade-Arizona): Named to his first Pro Bowl, Sherman provided a highlight touchdown reception in opener at Chargers.


OLB Dee Ford (D-1): Big year for Pro Bowl-bound Ford with 13 sacks. Also matched the team best with 29 quarterback hits.

RB Spencer Ware (FA): Chiefs leaned on Ware after Kareem Hunt’s dismissal, then Ware got hurt.

S Daniel Sorensen (FA): Appeared in seven games after missing first half of season and picked up fifth career interception.


C Mitch Morse (D-2): For second straight year, Morse missed a chunk of the season with an injury, this time a concussion.

WR Chris Conley (D-3): Five touchdowns were a career best this season. Two fumbles were a career worst.

CB Chris Nelson (D-3): One of two defenders to start all 16 games, and snared a team-best four interceptions.

LS James Winchester (FA): Huge fumble recovery on a punt, a play he started with the snap, in the opener.


DE Chris Jones (D-2): A sack in a NFL-record 11 straight games and 15 1/2 overall make this easily the best of Jones’ three seasons.

S Eric Murray (D-4): Shook off an injury at midseason but lost playing time late. Only 59 defensive snaps in last four games.

WR Demarcus Robinson (D-4): Has a touchdown reception in each of the last three games.

WR Tyreek Hill (D-5): Always a threat to score when he touches the ball, Hill now ranks among NFL’s top wide receivers. Seeks first postseason touchdown.

OT Mitchell Schwartz (undrafted FA): Outstanding season for the NFL iron man who surpassed 7,000 consecutive snaps in 2018.

John Dorsey, Brett Veach


QB Patrick Mahomes (D-1): Postseason success is final frontier for the player who exceeded all expectations. Chiefs need him to become Playoff Pat.

OLB Tanoh Kpassagnon (D-2): Lacked a defensive snap in three of the last four games

K Harrison Butker (FA): Four missed extra points are a concern but only three missed field goals.

DE Justin Hamilton (FA): Late-comer essentially replaced Jarvis Jenkins on defensive line. The run-stopper has appeared in last four games.

WR Marcus Kemp (FA): Hard-working special-teams speedster got his first NFL reception this season. He’s seeking his second.

LB Reggie Ragland (trade-Buffalo): A season below expectations for the starting linebacker

OL Cam Erving (trade-Cleveland): Former first round pick was having his best year until a late-season knee injury

Brett Veach


OLB Breeland Speaks (D-2): Third in snap counts among outside linebackers, but snaps have trailed off late in season.

DT Derrick Nnadi (D-3): Leads drafted rookies in starts, with 11, but left last game with a concussion.

LB Dorian O’Daniel (D-3): Chiefs have leaned on the athletic O’Daniel’s pass-coverage skills and play in space. Injury kept him out of practice this week.

CB Tremon Smith (D-6): Value is as a kick returner, where he averages nearly 27 yards per return.

OL Khalil McKenzie (D-6): A redshirt year for McKenzie, who hasn’t been active for a game.

OL Andrew Wylie (FA): Solid season after stepping in at right guard for injured Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

WR Sammy Watkins (UFA): Will he try to go on injured foot in postseason? Watkins makes offense better.

LB Anthony Hitchens (UFA): Team’s top tackler is a Pro Bowl alternate.

QB Chad Henne (UFA): Veteran backup to Mahomes finally got into a game in Week 17.

DT Xavier Williams (restricted FA): Kansas City native started first few games and is now part of the interior-line rotation.

RB Damien Williams (UFA): Replaced Kareem Hunt (dismissed) and Spencer Ware (injured) and has performed admirably.

LB Ben Neimann (CFA): Made the team with a good training camp is solid on special teams.

RB Darrel Williams (CFA): Has made the most of his shot as backup running back.

CB Orlando Scandrick (FA): Veteran lost playing time late in the season. Only three snaps against Raiders

S Ron Parker (FA): Injuries to Eric Berry, Daniel Sorenson prompted Chiefs to bring back the veteran Parker. Played only six snaps against Raiders.

LB Frank Zombo (FA): Like Parker, Zombo was signed after injuries started piling up.

G Jeff Allen (FA): Yet another former Chiefs player back in the fold. Allen has started past three games with Cam Erving injured.

C Jimmy Murray (FA): Reserve center has had snaps in two games.

TE Deon Yelder (FA): Signed to the practice squad in October.

WR Gehrig Deiter (FA): Friend of Patrick Mahomes recently caught first NFL pass ... from backup QB Chad Henne.

RB Charcandrick West (FA): Chiefs love bringing back old friends, and West rewarded them with touchdown grab at Seattle.

WR Kelvin Benjamin (FA): Talented receiver still adjusting to offense.

CB Kendall Fuller (trade-Washington): Battled through broken bone in wrist late and missed only one game.

CB Charvarius Ward (trade-Dallas): Suddenly a key player in the secondary, with 129 snaps in last two games.

S Jordan Lucas (trade-Miami): Started four games, including the season finale. Chiefs have trusted him more lately.

OL Austin Reiter (trade-Cleveland): Filled in for injured Mitch Morse at midseason and offense kept rolling.

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