2012: Branden Albert, Eric Winston, Donald Stephenson
2013: Branden Albert, Eric Fisher, Donald Stephenson, Jeff Allen*, Geoff Schwartz, Steven Baker, Matt Reynolds, Dustin Waldron
*Really a guard, but has spent some time at tackle this offseason.
The top three players on this list are really the ones we care about the most (barring injury). That would include the two starters -- left and right tackle -- and a reserve or swing tackle.
The key difference then is Eric Winston and Eric Fisher. Last year at this time we thought the KC Chiefs were lining up one of the best offensive lines in the game. Winston was a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Branden Albert was entering the all-important contract year. Donald Stephenson was a third round pick. There was a lot of optimism.
And then .... the Chiefs were terrible. That happened.
So why do I think the Chiefs are now better this year? A few reasons...
Branden Albert is in (another) contract year. Players generally play their best in contract years because they're motivated by money (like everyone else in the world). Albert enters his second straight contact year and we suspect he will put on another solid year.
Donald Stephenson gets another year of experience. He actually saw the field last season when Albert went down with an injury. That's valuable experience. Players will make the biggest jumps at the earliest points in their career. Stephenson is a nice looking prospect who offers some versatility. That much hasn't changed.
Then there's Eric Fisher. He hasn't played a down yet but as the No. 1 overall pick we are assuming he will be a productive player. When you compare Fisher and Winston, the market has spoken. Winston is unsigned. Fisher was the No. 1 pick. That's why I give the edge to Fisher.
The reserves are better. Hopefully, everyone stays healthy and the Chiefs don't have to worry about the reserve linemen. But in case they do, the reserves are stronger this year. Geoff Schwartz is a veteran who could fill in at tackle. Jeff Allen is a younger guy who plays guard but saw some time at tackle in camp. He played tackle in college.
So, did the Chiefs improve? Vote in the poll below.