Allow me to widen the lens quite a bit for one post.
We are at the very start of what's likely to be a very long year. A mere handful of wins and a top five selection in the '09 Draft seems probable.
So before you get eaten up by pessimism over the course of the year, keep in mind that this season is merely the starting point for an arduous process that values long-term patience, not short-term satisfaction.
To illustrate that point, allow me to pontificate about what the continued rebuilding process looks like next year. I speculate about who might be traded, who might be let go, who might be drafted and who might be promoted.
This is how the second year of our rebuilding process might look, after the jump. If you enjoy hypothetical chin-scratching as much as I do, this is your entry.
First off, I suspect that Clark Hunt will give Herm and Peterson one more year, so those two positions will remain unchanged into 2009.
1. Free agency. But first, what are we going to do in free agency? I will not speculate names, but I will say that, true to their word, the Chiefs will have very limited play in free agency. I suspect they'll pick up about two players at very deep positions in 2009's free agency pool: interior lineman and kicker. They may go fishing at MLB, but I don't like the depth there. Both OG and K are deep, and the Chiefs have enough cap room that they can snag a proven K at Josh Brown-type numbers, and/or a rising OG who hits the market.
2. Draft. I've caught flack for this, but I just don't see Tony G remaining with this team into 2009. I suspect he'll be traded during the offseason or even during 2008 for a midround draft pick (or higher?), giving the Chiefs 8 total picks. Nonetheless, I'll just predict seven picks:
1. WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
2. QB Curtis Painter, Purdue
3. DE Derek Walker, Illinois
4. MLB Daniel Holtzclaw, Eastern Michigan
5. OG Paul Fanaika, Arizona State
6. OLB Tyrell Sales, Penn State
7. OG Curtis Crouch, North Carolina State
To be mostly realistic, I would suspect only two of these rookies to be starters on opening day: Walker at strongside DE and Holtzclaw manning down the Mike. Crabtree, Painter, and Fanaika will all sit behind their incumbents, always breathing down their neck to start. I suspect they could be starters by the end of the season.
3. Depth Chart. I'll go position-by-position here.
Quarterback: Croyle, Thigpen, Painter. Croyle will have had an iffy year, missing several games in addition due to injury. Therefore, the Chiefs believe he is no longer the answer, and will put their new hopes in Curtis Painter. Huard is let go, and Thiggy gets a shot as backup. Croyle remains the starter on a short leash, and Painter will take a year to develop.
Running back: LJ, Charles, Smith, Savage. There's a very low probability that the Chiefs lose LJ, Charles, or Smith, seeing how this trio is a great combination of size, speed, and abilities. Savage is the only question mark, and I love Savage, I just think some other team is going to snatch him before we hold him on our practice squad.
Tight end: Cottam, Merritt, Allan. Having traded off Tony G, Cottam is now our starter, which isn't a problem becuase in addition to his great size, he can be a big target for the QB. Behind him are two of our 7th rounders from years past, Merritt (who'll be our primary blocker), and Allan (more of a receiving type).
Wide receiver: Bowe, Franklin, Crabtree, Darling, Robinson. Bowe continues to hold down the #1 spot, and Franklin gets a shot at the #2 after a year of sitting behind Darling (kept as a backup) and Webb (RFA, won't be been resigned). Crabtree will probably be starting by the end of the year, but who knows.
LT: Albert, McIntosh
LG: Waters, Fanaika
C: Niswanger, Smith
RG: FA pickup, Crouch
RT: Richardson, Taylor
This assumes, of course, that Albert shows enough promise at LT to remain, and Richardson shows enough promise at RT to get promoted. I suspect we're heading for another disaster on the right side with Jones and McIntosh. I doubt the Chiefs would resign Jones, and McIntosh will finally get to go back to LT, albeit as a backup. We'll take a stopgap perhaps for RG yet again, and Fanaika will wait in the wings while Waters finishes out what might be his last year.
Starting: DE Hali, DT Dorsey, DT Boone, DE Walker
Rotational: DE Johnston, DT Tyler, DT McBride
There may be another UDFA in the mix or something, but this should be our working DL. I suspect the Boone experiment at DE will have failed in 2008, and Johnston won't have taken off juuuust yet. Walker is a rather large question mark, but obviously this team won't be able to compete just yet in 2009; they can dedicate a top pick in 2010 to an elite DE if need be. Tank will have improved, but I suspect that Turk will be on his last legs, and on the verge of getting cut.
MLB: Holtzclaw, FA pickup or UDFA. There's a huge question mark around the MLB position next year. I do think the Chiefs will try finding one in FA, but I doubt they'll find anything more than a scrub. Holtzclaw can make it work in the middle, but he may not be starting material yet. Nonetheless, he'd be the best by default and we'll see what he's made out of.
OLB: Johnson & Williams, Rumph, Sales, UDFA.
With the dear departure of Donnie Edwards, Demorrio Williams will finally get his shot to start in KC opposite Johnson and Holtzclaw. Rumph has done nothing but earn raving reviews at camp this year, so I suspect we'll be seeing him next year alongside the new rookie Sales, fighting for playing time. Also, every year the Chiefs always seem to accumulate UDFAs at this position, so it wouldn't surprise me if they continued that trend.
CB: Flowers & Carr, Leggett, Patterson, UDFA or two. Corner will be a welcome change from 2006's slow old fogies. Now the Chiefs are loaded with youth. Carr will have proven himself a worthy heir to Surtain. Leggett and Patterson may be serviceable in reserve time and I definitely think we'll see another UDFA jump on board.
S: Page & Morgan, Pollard, McGraw. I actually think Pollard would be great trade bait, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's what happened. He's underachieved, but still boasts a lot of upside if somebody wants to grab for him. With the acquisition of Morgan, who may outplay him in 2008, he may also be expendable. Nonetheless, this is my tentative lineup right now.
Special teams. The kick return game could be finally up to speck for this team after the loss of Dante Hall in 2007. Robinson returning punts and Charles returning kicks may finally give us something to look forward to. Colquitt and Darche will keep doing their jobs -- the major question lies at kicker. The Chiefs were active, but unsuccessful at landing a premier kicker this offseason. Next year, a lot of big names become available, including Stover, Gould, and Kasay. I say the Chiefs drop a big paycheck on one of the younger guys.