A recent post at the Mother Ship takes a closer look at the incoming class of 2011 for the Kansas City Chiefs and specifically at what expectations lay ahead of them. It's an interesting exercise given how much fans love the potential more than the proven as we hope each draft pick becomes the next member of the Ring of Honor. Yet it's also important to realize the Chiefs are becoming a veteran club who won the division last year. Simply put, there's not as many holes to fill or opportunities to steal the spotlight.
Consider the case of Tyson Jackson. If he were the Chiefs first round choice this year instead of 2009, the expectations would have been much lower and the spotlight not as bright. Instead, some fans have lost patience with the former LSU Tiger just two seasons into his career despite the time it takes to grow along an NFL defensive line. This has everything to do with rookie expectations meeting a team's current scenario.
Here's where it becomes hard for certain Chiefs rookies to make a giant splash in their debut season. Jalil Brown will have to fight for playing time on anything but special teams given the youth and talent in the Chiefs secondary. You can expect lower-tier players like Donald Washington to try to stave off Brown as everyone involved is fighting for a roster spot. Competition brings out the best in every position, and the Chiefs as a whole will benefit from it. But expectations for a player like Brown should remain low.
While nose tackle is a position of need, Jerrelle Powe is a late round pick who is waiting on a lockout to even look at his first playbook. To expect a rookie defensive tackle who fell to the sixth round to plug the Chiefs hole at nose tackle is simply too much. Instead, a head coach like Todd Haley is going to stick with guys like Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith and use Powe on a rotational basis to bring him up to speed and keep him fresh. Expectations for Powe should remain low, in other words, through his rookie season.
In fact, of all Chiefs rookies, it's Rodney Hudson and Justin Houston that stand the best chance of making a statistical impact. Both players fill one of the few remaining holes on a playoff team, and both also have the skills and ability to step right in.
Despite character concerns, no one doubts Houston's speed rush ability to get around the edge and get to the quarterback. Some believe that Houston needs to develop some other moves, but even with that, Houston will provide a burst opposite Tamba Hali and should enjoy some enticing one-on-one match-ups. In fact, that first game against the Buffalo Bills, who have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, might immediately place Houston on the map. It wouldn't surprise if Houston gets his first sack in his first pro game.
The same can be said of Hudson, who should slip into the starting center spot at some point early this season if he doesn't start there from the outset. Some might point out the transition from guard, where Hudson mostly played at Florida State, but Pioli didn't invest a second-round choice on Hudson to leave him out. The need and value lined up at the ideal time, and it's my guess that Hudson's talents allow him to seamlessly move into the position for the next several years and shore up another hole along the offensive line in the process.
Some might call for Jonathan Baldwin to make an immediate impact, and that's certainly a possibility. After all, the Chiefs receiving options opposite Dwayne Bowe were pathetic at best last year. But the Chiefs offense is accentuated by Baldwin not defined by it, and it's for that reason that expectations for Baldwin's numbers must be tempered. In the end, the greatest statistical impact will most likely be enjoyed by Houston, with Hudson becoming an offensive centerpiece from the outset.