Every year, Jason Whitlock puts out his grades at the end of the year, and while this is usually a very entertaining read, his bias for and against certain players and coaches (especially this year) skew the grades into an entertainment piece and not something so serious. So, here are my grades for the entertainment of the AP community. Enjoy!
Jamaal Charles: Emerged as the legitimate offensive threat the Chiefs have lacked since LJ lost his speed, shiftiness, and other value nearly three seasons ago. He has the homerun threat that Chiefs backs, Priest and LJ included, have never really had. Something else that never gets mentioned is his ability to pass protect and receive. While these were major liabilities with LJ, they are now strengths and allow for a more diverse offense. Charles' only problem is the fumbling issue, which, like many elite NFL backs before him, will be his primary concern going forward. His talent outweighs this liability to an extent that the A+ is still deserved. After all, he hasn't come close to fumbling as much as Adrian Peterson.
Ryan Succop: Succop was one of the most reliable kickers in the league, and he is only a rookie. Add to this that he was exceptional on kickoffs (the only return TDs allowed were on good kicks w/ poor coverage) and has a premier power leg; this kid should be a Chief for a very long time. Notes: won the Washington AND Pittsburgh games.
Brandon Flowers: While some receivers this season put up tremendous fantasy numbers against the Chiefs secondary (S. Smith 2, Sims-Walker, Austin, Gaffney), it usually was not at the expense of Flowers. He is a great ball corner with excellent instincts and hands (save for the dropped INT against Oakland in KC which would have won the game). Flowers' skill exposes the relative weakness of Brandon Carr, who actually is not that bad but is constantly picked on. Flowers also is a stout run defender and sure tackler. His swagger is something the rest of the defense needs to gain.
A- (I've given too many A grades already)
Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt finished just out of the top 5 in net punting this year, but he is still widely considered one of the best punters in the league. Josh McDaniels the boy wonder even called him one of the greatest of all time. Praise aside, this was not Dustin's best year, though he is still a valuable field position weapon.
Tamba Hali: Just when everyone had given up on Hali as a Herm Era bust, Hali changed positions and became the only pass rushing threat the Chiefs possess. In addition to his career high in sacks (8.5), he drew a lot of holding penalties and was generally solid against the run (Denver and Cleveland games aside, where those teams kept running stretch plays at Hali knowing he was going up the field too quickly). His job is safe, and he is now a fan favorite.
Glenn Dorsey: This is a surprise and probably a shock to a lot of people, considering he only registered one sack this season (in the season finale no less) as a defensive end. However, his job is not defined by sacks but by how many blockers he occupies. He excelled at this and was stout against the run. He proved the adage that your worth can be measured by your absence. He missed 6 quarters of football spanning the second half of the Buffalo game and the entire Cleveland game, during which opposing teams racked up well over 400 yards rushing. His return made a huge impact in the Cincy game. He can continue to improve with us or be valuable in a trade, as he is probably still more desirable as a DT in a 4-3 scheme.
Derrick Johnson: Considering he was only on defense for about 20-25% of the defensive plays, he made some of the biggest plays of the year (Baltimore interception and Denver interceptions). He has a nose for the ball and is excellent in pass coverage. He even had a couple good blitzes this year and improved against the run. His tackling could still use some work, and he needs to realize he must play within the scheme if he wants playing time from Todd Haley. The athleticism is obvious.
Brodie Croyle: His only action came against Baltimore, where he almost led one of the bigger upsets of the NFL season. Moreover, he brought the first Todd Haley blow up of the season (SNAP THE FUCKING BALL!!!), which is great for entertainment's sake. He was nominated by his teammates for the NFL's courage award for his comeback following his knee injury. He is a fan favorite and very talented, but probably will only get to be a backup for his career.
Brian Waters: I noticed Waters more this season than I have in years past, and that's not good for offensive linemen. He is still an elite guard, but he looked lost at times this year and struggling to work with his fellow linemen. That said, he is still obviously our best, and that is why he gets a B. In addition, his work off the field deserves some leniency.
DeMorrio Williams: Where did his season come from? I had this guy cut before the season, but he played and worked hard, enough to keep a much more athletic Derrick Johnson off the field. He was solid against the pass and covered the width of the field against the run. He was a sure tackler, and while his job may not be the safest, it's probably safe to assume he'll be back as one of Haley's favorites.
Ryan O'Callaghan: The forgotten acquisition that seemed to provide the stability our line needed. He does not stand out on the line, and that is very good. He was never noticeably smoked for a sack and generally was effective as a run blocker for Charles. He is young and apparently improving, in addition to being a Pioli guy from New England. He should get to start at RT next year (assuming we don't draft a T and move Albert to RT as opposed to guard)
Chris Chambers: His arrival in KC brought a semi-reliable receiver to the offense. He announced his presence with authority in the Jacksonville game and became one of Cassel's favorite targets. However, he had some drop problems at key moments and at times did not come back for the ball, leading to tips and interceptions. He probably will start next season as our 2nd WR, but that does not mean we won't look to upgrade at the position through the draft or with a big name acquisition in free agency.
Alex Magee: The other draft pick that succeeded. He produced pressure and was solid against the run whenever he saw playing time this season. He is raw but very talented. He may push for a starting position in the next two seasons.
Andy Studebaker: He performed admirably on special teams all season and filled in with perhaps the best no-name performance of the season in the Pittsburgh game. This guy is a coach's dream and is safe as far as a roster spot. He needs to continue to get better (due to limited athleticism) to have a future as a starter, but I'm glad this guy is on our team.
Mike Vrabel: Though I doubt he still wants to play here, he steadfastly provided leadership to the other linebackers and defenders. Studebaker credits him with his development and success. Vrabel, though slowing with age, is still a VERY reliable tackler and can rush the passer some. He is probably the most disciplined player on the team, rarely free-lancing.
Leonard Pope: A Haley acquisition that saw the field immediately, he was better than our other tight ends for longer. He is a mediocre blocker but an enormous target downfield. He made some nice plays towards the end of the season. We'll see if he can retain a job next year, as tight end is still an area of need.
Jon McGraw: He has been my least favorite player for years, but he proved his worth this year. He is a hard-hitting and hard-nosed player willing to sacrifice himself for the team on both special teams and defense. While he lacks the speed to start at safety, we had to have him in several games. Every team needs a Jon McGraw.
Brad Cottam: He gets my award for most unfortunate injury of the season. He was noticeably progressing as a blocker AND receiver, finally making use of his enormous frame. His hands proved to be reliable, and Haley noticed. I hope he can fight back from the leg injury and return without missing a beat, and his job depends on that.
Corey Mays: The best run-stopping tackler on the team, Mays sticks and stops runners without allowing another inch. He does not run laterally that well and is a liability in pass coverage. He blitzed well at times and should be kept, but perhaps not as a starter.
Matt Cassel: The franchise QB has yet to prove his worth, but you can't blame him with all the drops, crappy protection for 75% of the season, and a high number of tipped passes. All of those things are a QB's nightmare. He stayed healthy despite getting sacked a lot. He also showed poise towards the end of games, leading important drives in the Dallas and Pittsburgh games. It appears he is more comfortable in a faster paced offense, and it seemed he got more comfortable late in the year. His big interception games against Denver and Buffalo were largely not his fault, and his stats don't reflect his worth just yet. He still needs to prove himself to win over the KC fans.
Coach Todd Haley: His renegade "F*** it" attitude was apparent all season, seeming to have the knowledge that these players could not play the football he wanted to play. His fourth down decision-making, while delightfully aggressive, often left me scratching my head (go for 4th and 6 from your own 45 and then punt on 4th and 1 on their 37?). The offense evolved over the course of the season, with its new weapon, and different elements showed up week after week (different sets, more motion, more play action, more screens), to the point where we resembled a legit NFL offense. Haley needs effective receivers for his offense, but he did not have those. His patience with some players but not others was also puzzling. I loved Haley for the first 8 or 9 weeks, but soured on him late in the season for some of his decisions. I suspect he knows and will learn from the mistakes he made. Hopefully an offensive coordinator (Weis hopefully) will make him a better game manager. Another former head coach as a defensive coordinator (Crennel) would also help in this regard, while also improving the defensive scheme.
Brandon Carr: A very talented corner, Carr had a bullseye on his back all season with the emergence of Brandon Flowers on the other half of the field. Teams repeatedly targeted him, but he actually defensed a fair number of passes and still retains the skills to be a starter. He needs to make a better adjustment and fix his zone coverage, as his hips are often open too late in his drops, leading to wide open underneath receivers. I feel less comfortable about him now than I did at the start of the season, but the context of Brandon Flowers is important when evaluating Carr. Also, do not forget the awful safety play this season that may have led to Carr's overly cautious zone coverage.
Barry Richardson: He started a game at LT this season and had to fill in for Albert on several occasions. In general, this did not go as poorly as it could have. While he likely has no starting future at any position with this franchise, he may be a good backup to keep around.
Branden Albert: A major regression this year has made him either expendable or movable to G or RT. He commited a very high number of penalties for the position while allowing an increased sack total. Couple that with a relative inability to stay healthy, and this is the grade. The raw talent is still there, but he may need to gain the weight Haley made him lose in order to be effective.
Wallace Gilberry: A development project that is coming along nicely, Gilberry has pushed the front line defensive linemen into a tough position to justify their starting jobs. Gilberry is not that talented but is relentless and produced a high sack total relative to his playing time. He may have earned an invite back to the team next year, but he is probably not the solution to any of the team's front 7 problems.
Wade Smith: Someone finally stepped up and did not embarass himself at RG. After the Mike Goff failure and the Andy Alleman experiment, Smith (a natural center) played admirably and did not stick out like a sore thumb. He is probably a below average guard for the league, and he certainly blocked well enough to potentially force a decision on Rudy Niswanger at C. He overachieved as to his talent, and that is why he gets a C+.
Travis Daniels: Though he was not active that often, his time at Nickelback (awful band, useful position) allowed him to make some plays and get a look. He was more effective than Maurice Leggett this season (in his limited action), and showed he can be a fairly effective blitzer. His future is probably as a fringe roster player for us or another team, but his efforts deserve a better grade than those that will follow.
C (the mode, for stat geeks)
GM Scott Pioli: It's hard to say whether it was normal ticket-selling BS or actual confidence, but Pioli seemed to act like this team would be competitive this season. The lack of talent at WR and on the OL early handcuffed his first year head coach and his chosen franchise QB. The lack of depth at LB and S ruined the defense, and his draft left A LOT to be desired, with only two guys playing up to potential (Succop and Magee). His waiver wire pickups weren't the best either, but did add some depth or limited improvement. He needs to make a splash this offseason and help both sides of the ball to overcome the talent-mess he has now.
Ron Edwards: This guy is somehow still around, and considering he was the only active nose tackle for weeks, he deserves some credit. However, his job should be in considerable jeopardy. Most nose tackles need to absorb at least two blockers, and I cannot recall that happening on one occasion with Edwards. He made plays occasionally, but he is not good enough for our defense to be a good 3-4 team.
Jovan Belcher: He was a wrestler! (I think I heard announcers mention this at least a dozen times during games this season) The problem is that he is undersized and not instinctive enough to make plays. His overtime stop against Pittsburgh was probably and will probably be the play of his life. Other times, he gave a little too much ground when making tackles, was often late getting his head around in coverage, and playing a lot of chase. He did not rush the passer well. He probably saw the field more than Derrick Johnson for some reason.
Dwayne Bowe: People have been calling for Bowe's head since the start of the season, but the fact remains he is our best receiver. On any given day, or play for that matter, his raw talent can win a game. However, the drops have to stop. For Bowe's part, he knows it. What gets lost in the shuffle however is the number of targets Bowe got relative to his drop total. Compare that with Bobby Wade, and you'll find that Bowe's hands really aren't THAT bad. Bowe's water pill suspension is forgivable, and I think Bowe will improve despite rumblings he is really unhappy here and with Todd Haley.
Sean Ryan: For Jason Whitlock, who does not remember anything about Sean Ryan, he is the guy that was catching passes in the middle of the field at the beginning of the season when no one else could. He scored a TD in the Baltimore game, and actually made some fantasy leagues as a starter due to his early usage. Injuries and the emergence of Cottam and Pope hurt his time. While he was a good pass catcher, the guy simply could not block to save his life. Several times early in the season he was the lone culprit for sacks (or the coaches for having him one on one with linebackers or something). He will have a tough time competing for a roster spot next year, but he was better than some of his teammates at the position.
Tim Castille: You can't help but root for this guy. He is the fullback/halfback/special teams combo guy that made an impact immediately when we had no more running backs. He would have had a much higher grade in my book if it wasn't for that "worst halfback pass ever" attempt in the season finale. By all accounts, Castille is a hard worker, and Haley loves him. He'll get a camp invite, but may struggle to make the team. Hat tip for the catch in the Cincy game as well.
Mike Cox: I'm not sure why he's still on the roster other than Chan Gailey was here when the year started. He is a very average blocker for a fullback, with okay hands and no real ability to run or make anyone miss. I'd be very happy if he is gone next year.
Andy Alleman: He was the first new try at RG after Goff was injured, and he played alright. I'd judge him as a work in progress, but his versatility on the line will help him keep a job.
Maurice Leggett: A very poor showing for the reigning Mack Lee Hill Award winner. He seemed confused at times on defense, was burned in man coverage a few times, and he ended up injured. His athleticism is still a major attribute, and I hope he doesn't find his way off our roster. He needs to be healthy and back.
Terrence Copper: He was really just a special teamer all year, but he was actually good at his job. Therefore, he gets no worse than his C. Bobby Wade should be jealous.
Tyson Jackson: He finds this grade due to his expectations. He played very well at times, but he was constantly double teamed due to the ineffective Ron Edwards and outside pass rush. His inconsistency is something to be expected out of a young defensive lineman, and he is learning a new position. I will guarantee his next year will be a breakout season if we can find a true nose tackle to keep double teams away from Jackson.
Dantrell Savage: Savage was productive when he played this year. He had a burst that showed what a fast back could do in our system even before Charles got much of a chance. He returned kicks better than some of our other guys, and he could block in pass situations. He will have a hard time making the club next year, but he is good enough for the practice squad or to keep waiting for a phone call come injury time.
Ike Ndukwe: He saw very limited action at the start of the season at RT and did not play all that well. He was expected to perform better, but it never materialized. His limited playing time actually might help his grade, because I don't really know what a full season of him would have looked like. He was inactive for a majority of the season.
Jarrad Page: Page just cannot stay healthy, and that is a recipe for free agency under the Haley regime. Page's track record in this regard just isn't good at all. When healthy, he can be one of the better players on defense, but that just can't be relied upon anymore. Because of Page's injury, we had to watch slow and old Mike Brown all season.
Quentin Lawrence: Another guy who was not active much this season, but he did show some bursts on kick returns late in the season, but not nearly as nice of a burst as we were promised on draft day, when it seemed returns might be his only playing time.
Rudy Niswanger: He is the weakest link on the offensive line, and he is likely to be replaced through the draft, free agency, or by Waters or Smith. He is a reliable anchor, not allowing a pass rush to get through the middle to the QB, but he also cannot move even average tackles off the ball on running plays. Some of his blocking calls (or confusion about them) can be blamed for a good number of sacks this season. He improved over the course of the season, however, and his grade improved for this reason only.
Dajuan Morgan: I was excited to see him getting some playing time at the end of the year, but he really did not seize the opportunity by producing plays. He played below average for the position, but probably still should've seen some time over a certain older safety who couldn't catch anyone or take proper angles. Morgan will likely not play again in a Chiefs uniform.
Javaris Williams: The mysterious small-school phenom had a very rough introduction to the NFL. His two carries in the Steelers game both produced losses. He fumbled once in very limited action, and he also appeared to be slow and indecisive. We'll have to see how patient Haley and Pioli are with their own draft picks, and Williams will be a good test case.
Lance Long: The hard-working kid that some dubbed Wes Welker Lite really did not bring much to the table. He was too small to go over the middle, too slow to be a deep threat, and not elusive enough for short screens. Somehow, he kept getting playing time and was repeatedly asked to do these things. He caught the ball well, but there was simply nothing he could do with it given his athleticism. Haley loves him; I want him gone.
Thomas Gafford: Like linemen, the long snapper should never be noticed. That was not the case with Gafford, who nearly single-handedly lost the Cincinnati game. He also had several errant snaps in the FG game this year, most of them saved by former team MVP Dustin Colquitt. In a game where these guys can be brought in one week and the next, we should spend a good couple days this offseason looking to replace Gafford.
Donald Washington: The raw and young rookie corner showed the flashes of his athleticism. Unfortunately, his playing time when Flowers was injured saw him repeatedly targeted and picked on. He played admirably on special teams, but he probably should have stayed at THE Ohio State at least another season. He is a guy to watch and who may get better with more offseason work (he was limited in spring practice because of some obscure NFL rule that applied to Ohio St. players).
Bobby Wade: He who cannot catch should not play. His breakout first game quickly turned sour in the weeks that followed. He was decent at getting open, but once he (rarely) caught the ball he could not make anyone miss or outrun anybody. He was more talented than Lance Long, but a little less useful. His punt return experiment was laughable (hey, let's put a guy back there that will catch the punt but can't outrun or make anyone miss). He also constantly yelled back at Haley on the sideline after getting yelled at, which for most even talented players is not good. Bobby Wade needs to go.
Mike Brown: Brown made some of the bigger plays of the season, with his interceptions in Oakland and a couple others. However, they were usually tipped balls and nothing more than an aware play (nothing really HE did). He rarely could run with receivers in coverage, constantly was taking bad angles on lateral and cutback runs. He LOST the Jacksonville game by himself by allowing two touchdowns. He got better tackling as the season went on, but he may have played his last football. Hopefully that's the case for the Chiefs.
Jake O'Connell: The rookie tight end logged three NFL drops before his first catch, and ended up with more drops (4) than catches (2) this season. He had a big third down drop in the Cincy game (why throw to a guy with 3 drops and 1 NFL catch on third down?). He better be a good blocker, because he just is not a valuable asset to the passing game. As a rookie with Haley and Pioli, he will be another good test case as to how patient those two are with their own draft picks.
Mark Bradley: He was cut by the end of the season, and his talent made itself clear throughout the season. He was elusive in routes and generally a problem for defenses. He was also a problem for Matt Cassel, as Bradley could not catch. It was embarassing at times watching him run awesome routes only to drop the perfectly thrown ball. Haley had enough and had to get rid of him; I would have done it sooner.
Mike Goff: He didn't play long, and he didn't stay healthy. Both things were good for the Chiefs. He only does not get a F because of his veteran presence early, for whatever that was worth.
Dion Gales: Though he was only active for a couple games, he was what made Glenn Dorsey's absence shocking to the conscience. He played about half the snaps in the Cleveland game, and there were numerous occasions with him on his back or inexplicably driven 20-30 yards down the field by the opposing lineman. This kid does not belong in the NFL.
Larry Johnson: The most controversial KC sports figure, maybe ever, finally got to his limit. Unleashing homophobic slurs and getting into arguments with Chiefs fans over Twitter is just awful. Calling a guy like Haley just a golf pro is also shameful. His return to the field against KC with Cincy led to what looked like a punch, and Marvin Lewis abruptly sat him. Good riddance to this punk. His loss opened our eyes and the world's as to Jamaal Charles, the lone A+.
Kolby Smith: You hate to see guys that show promise like Smith get hurt repeatedly. Another season and another knee/ankle injury. It will be sad if he's played his last down.