For the past three offseasons “the right 53” has been a staple of the Scott Pioli/Todd Haley regime. By now, informed Chiefs fans know what “the right 53” means... It means Pioli and Haley don’t necessarily want the best 53, but the right 53. You don’t have to have the most talent to contribute to the Chiefs, you just have to be willing to do your job.
The following is a brief description of each offensive position and MY “right 53”. This list will include only players on the current roster (not potential free agents, although I might squeeze in a suggestion or two). This article will focus on the offensive side of the ball, and I will later post a defensive and special teams version of my “right 53”. So here goes...
QB - On my ideal football team, I have three QBs - the franchise starter, the capable veteran backup and the young project. I believe the Chiefs have two of those three; the starter and the project. Ideally, I would bring in Jake Delhome to fill the QB2 spot, but for now the Chiefs have to go with who they have.
QB1. Matt Cassel - The undisputed starter. Cassel had a pro bowl year in 2010, and he may be ready to take the next step in 2011 with some new offensive weapons.
QB2. Tyler Palko - Despite an impressive showing in Week 2 of this year’s preseason, Palko would not make my list if the Chiefs had a more solid veteran backup. In other words, if Cassel struggles, I do not expect to hear “We want Palko” chants.
QB3. Ricky Stanzi - Stanzi is the young project. He has the size and raw skills to develop into an NFL starter. I’m not sure where is ceiling is exactly, but I wouldn’t expect it to be super high.
RB - I have always liked the ole thunder/lightning running back combo. I like having someone who can run for a lot of yards, but another to take a beating at the goal line for tough TDs or short yardage 1st downs.
RB1. Jamaal Charles - There is really no debate here. Charles might be the best running back in the NFL. Ok, that might be a stretch as long a Adrian Peterson is around. Charles isn’t the most complete RB in the league, but he is certainly in the top three. He slices through defenses better than anyone, and once he breaks into the secondary, forget about it.
RB2. Thomas Jones - Jones really doesn’t have any competition for this spot. He has been used as the thunder to Charles’ lightning, although he doesn’t have much gas left in the tank. At 33 years old, I would expect this to be his last season as a real contributor.
RB3. Jackie Battle - Battle continues to be a project at RB, and I think he continues to get better every year. He will likely never be a feature back, but he could contribute if Charles or Jones goes down with an injury.
WR - I like being deep at receiver. This should be the deepest position on a productive offense, and the fact that no one really stands out as a lock for the #2 spot makes it even more important to have a lot of receivers on the team. You never know who will be the next Miles Austin and burst out of obscurity... Or the next Brandon Lloyd and surprise everyone.
WR1. Dwayne Bowe - Bowe finally came out of his shell in a big way in 2010. He is a good candidate to put up similar numbers in 2011, seeing as its a contract year for him.
WR2. Steve Breaston - He wins this spot by default. He has proven in the past that he can be productive, and I cannot give this spot to a struggling rookie or someone who spells Jeremy with an H.
WR3. Jerheme Urban - Some people say he has the best hands on the team. He has the shiftiness be productive in the slot, and is savvy enough to break press-coverage, which is what a good slot receiver needs to be able to do. However, I doubt he will be targeted often, considering Cassel likes to hit his check-down option before looking at the slot receiver.
WR4. Jonathan Baldwin - The Chiefs 2011 first round draft pick is off to a tenuous start to his career. He has all the raw tools to be a fantastic wideout in the NFL, he just needs to put them all together. I can see Haley treating him just like he treated Bowe; making him earn a spot in the starting lineup. Baldwin will (and should) start near the bottom of the totem pole and work his way up.
WR5. Dexter McCluster - Dex is a perfect scatback. In my opinion, every good offense should have their token scatback. He fits the mold. He has speed, elusiveness and experience at both RB and WR.
WR6. Jeremy Horne - Even though its a longshot, Horne has the potential to be a diamond in the rough. His 6‘2 195 lb frame and 4.4 speed make him a nice player to have on your team. I’m not saying he is the next big thing, but the guy has some talent.
FB - The age of the run-blocking fullback is coming to a close. There are still some out there, but they are not as prevalent as they once were. Fullback is now used more as an offensive weapon out of the backfield nowadays. I’m cool with that. The more weapons, the better. Its not like Jamaal Charles is dependant on his fullback to open up holes for him anyway. He’s not that kind of runner. This team doesn’t need a Tony Richardson, it needs a...
FB1. Le’Ron McClain - Pronounced Lay Ron. McClain should be the fullback on this team for many years to come. He can block when he needs to, but more importantly, he gives the Chiefs his ability to be a goal line bruiser. He carries the ball well, and he can catch passes out of the backfield. He is an offensive weapon, plain and simple.
FB2. Shane Bannon - I guess they need a second fullback in case McClain gets hurt, so that means I have to include one as well. When the Chiefs drafted Bannon, I (and every other Chiefs fan) said, “WHO???” But Bannon has actually shown, in camp, why he was drafted. The guy moves pretty well for a big guy. He is listed at 6‘3 245 lbs, but he looks more like 6‘5 260 lbs. I’m ready to see if he can knock some guys on their arses.
TE - Look at the best tight ends in the league... Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Vernon Davis etc etc. The blocking tight end has gone the way of the blocking fullback. The best tight ends in the league are not primarily blockers anymore. They are pass-catchers first, blockers second. Luckily, we have a couple of guys on our team that fit the bill.
TE1. Tony Moeaki - If he can stay on the field, he can be a playmaker. His biggest knock on draft day was his inability to stay healthy. He missed a lot of games in college, and hopefully that doesn’t carry over to the pros. So far, one year in, he looks good.
TE2. Cody Slate - I can hear you saying, “Cody who?” Yep, that’s right. Cody freakin’ Slate. Hear me out. The guy set receiving records at Marshall (he is 2nd in yards behind Randy Moss). He has great hands, but he can’t block. However, blocking tight ends are almost irrelevant now anyways.
OT - I like my tackles to be big and strong and athletic, but mostly big and strong. I like them to be dirty. I like tackles who are not afriad to knee opposing defenders in the balls or gouge an eye or two while in a pile.
LT1. Jared Gaither - 6‘9 340 lbs. The man is a monster. Left tackle is his natural position, and that’s where this goliath should play.
LT2. David Mims - Mims impressed a lot of people in camp. He is also a monster, standing at 6‘8 335 lbs. His size is only surpassed by his athleticism. I am really excited to see this guy three or four years from now.
RT1. Brandon Albert - I’m not totally sold on Albert as a left tackle, so I say the Chiefs should move him to the right side. He is athletic enough to play over there, and he has always prided himself on his versatility.
RT2. Barry Richardson - Remember when I said I like my tackles to be mean and dirty? Well, Richardson is mean... in a good way. This guy gets amped up, and I would not want to be in his way when he is looking for someone to knock around. He will never be a pro bowler, but when you need a blue collar backup, Richardson is your guy.
OG - Athleticism is the name of the game when it comes to guards. They need to be able to pull and trap well. They are going to be physically overmatched most of the time by defensive tackles, so they need to be able to use leverage to win the battle at the line of scrimmage.
LG1. Ryan Lilja - Left guard is Lilja’s natural position, and its where he fits best, so I like that Haley moved him over.
LG2. Mike Ingersoll - His natural position is at tackle, but I doubt he would make the team as a tackle. He is a great candidate to move inside to guard, seeing as he is athletic and versatile. And anytime you can have an athletic 300 pounder playing inside, you’re in good shape.
RG1. Jon Asamoah - He was the second best guard prospect in the draft last year, and he will show Chiefs fans why cutting Brian Waters wasn’t a bad move.
RG2. Darryl Harris - Hmm..... Darryl... Harris... He appears to be the only other guard left on the roster. Wow, our interior O-line is shallow.
C - Just like the guards, the center needs to be savvy enough to use his leverage against larger and stronger defenders, typically nose tackles.
C1. Casey Wiegmann - At age 38, he is entering what will likely be his final NFL season, and he still plays like he is ten years younger. He is the perfect mentor for...
C2. Rodney Hudson - Some experts had him slated as the best center in the 2011 draft. There is no reason to believe Hudson can’t be a super stud at the center position.
So there they are, the first 26 players on my “right 53”. Todd Haley, if you’re reading this, feel free to hire me to make your personnel decisions for you. Email me, Todd. We’ll talk.