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Chiefs preseason roundtable: 8 questions and 24 takes on Kansas City's preseason

I set out to get some of the AP contributors to argue over some of the key questions surrounding the Chiefs this season. Here's what we got...

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1. Which Chiefs player will be the most improved this season?

Joel Thorman: Give me Phillip Gaines. He came on strong in the second half of last season and turned in a strong offseason. He will be relied on heavily with Sean Smith missing the first three games. And then even when Smith does come back, Gaines will have to play inside and outside which is a difficult task. He has the ability to do it and based on his work this offseason I believe he will.

MNChiefsfan: It's gonna be Eric Fisher. Barring that ankle being a lingering issue, he's going to stun people this year and finally (FINALLY) look like a first round pick.

Stagdsp: I'm indecisive, so I'm giving two. 1.) I'm all aboard the West-bound train this year after seeing him in camp and vs. Arizona. Charcandrick West is a near lock to make the team, and may be given an opportunity to take some snaps away from Knile Davis.  West can take over Cyrus Gray's role and hopefully expand that role over the coming season. 2.) Jaye Howard. The man is huge, and looked unblockable in camp. He bulked up and will attempt to fill in for Dontari Poe this year, and look to earn himself a contract like Allen Bailey did. Howard has always had the quicks but adding strength and bulk could make him a force on the inside.

2. The position group where the Chiefs can't afford an injury:

Joel Thorman: Easily tight end. Receiver would rank up there too but the drop from Travis Kelce to the next tight end is bigger than the drop off with any receiver. James O'Shaughnessy looks like a nice rookie but ultimately he's a fifth round pick out of Illinois State with no NFL experience so it wouldn't be fair to rely on him so much if Kelce were out. The Chiefs are in trouble if tight end goes down. Honorable mention: Nose tackle (wait a minute...)

MNChiefsfan: Tight end. If Travis Kelce goes down I'm terrified. Demetrius Harris is not getting healthy. I'm regretting Anthony Fasano's release more and more as time goes by, as having a reliable tight end is going to be a necessity in this offense.

Stagdsp: Offensive tackle: With Fisher already fighting and injury and Jeff Allen hurt, this already thin group is approaching anorexia. Donald Stephenson has a chance to really win a job and be "the guy" but so far I'm not sure he's doing it. If the other two are healthy by roster cut time ... Stephenson could be on the outs, and they'll really be working without a net at offensive tackle.

3. Which UDFAs will make the roster?

Joel Thorman: LB Justin March is injured but he was getting first team reps so I believe he will stick whenever he comes back from his injury. I'm not sure the numbers will work out but DL David Irving has enough potential that I would want to keep him around.

MNChiefsfan: Everyone has their favorite theory on UDFAs. None of them knows anything. I'm gonna cheat and go with 2014 undrafted free agent Jarrod Pughsley because he looks like an NFL lineman. No, I don't have any better justification than that. I'm really mad that March got hurt, by the way.

Stagdsp: I'll go with ... Nobody currently on the team. Kenny Cook looks like a practice squad guy after being a popular pick in OTAs, Justin March was a near lock before his injury, Irving is an intriguing specimen but could also be on the practice squad. Maybe John Dorsey scoops a guy off waivers but if Cook, March and Irving are not on the 53, and James Winchester is the long snapper then there may not be an UDFA on the 53. Which is unusual, and could indicate a very strong Chiefs roster.

4. Where does Paul Fanaika fit on this team?

Joel Thorman: Guessing he's a reserve guard. The Chiefs have Ben GrubbsJeff AllenZach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as guards already and all of them have gotten first team guard snaps before Fanaika. So he's a backup.

MNChiefsfan: If he were able to contribute at right guard he'd be getting snaps after Fulton's performance against the Cardinals. I think he fits as emergency depth... and even then I'm afraid.

Stagdsp: Fanaika is the primary veteran backup at right guard and right tackle. He's slowly getting more first and second team reps (as far as I can tell from reports) and according to Terez Paylor has seen time at right tackle. He's got the size and strength to be a mauler at either spot, and I don't believe his roster spot is in any real jeopardy, contrary to what certain other bloggers on this site may say.

5. Who wins the final WR spot?

Joel Thorman: I'll go with Frankie Hammond. The Chiefs played him last year and seem to like him. I'm tempted to pick Fred Williams here but I want to see him continue to do what he's done.

MNChiefsfan: Let's go with Fred Williams. Because that would be fantastic and it'd be great to see a preseason star actually make it.

Stagdsp: I was hoping this post would create some controversy and argument so I'll go out on a limb here ... Junior Hemingway grabs the last wide receiver spot when healthy. Hammond, Cook and Williams all get cut and hope for practice squad jobs. I'm not saying I love Hemingway's game but I just have a feeling that he has one influential guy in his corner (his name rhymes with Mave Robe). Cook and Williams have more upside as actual, productive wide receivers on offense but Hemingway has carved out a role for himself and might be given another year to do it.

6) Which recent early draft pick worries you the most?

Joel Thorman: I'm probably most worried about Eric Fisher because I think he's more important to the Chiefs success than Dee Ford (at least right now). Fisher had a solid first preseason game but now he's hurt and will miss some time. Fisher needed this preseason so I'm disappointed to see the injury. The Chiefs have enough line questions so they need competent play out of their left tackle.

MNChiefsfan: Dee Ford. He didn't look any different to me Saturday than he did last year. Remember Justin Houston's rookie preseason? He was DOMINATING second and third string guys. Ford is not. There's still plenty of time but I'm getting concerned.

Stagdsp: To be honest, I'm not REALLY worried about any of them. The Chiefs have shown patience with their draft picks, and have the veterans and coaching staff to develop these talented guys. I'm fairly confident Fisher will be good this year, as long as he's  healthy. Ford looks the worst of the three but he has an elite physical trait (first step) and the right attitude (from what we can see). It takes most human outside linebacker a while to become well rounded players, and there's a full season of development ahead for Ford to show progress.

7. Is Knile Davis good?

Joel Thorman: Yes I believe he is in certain situations. For the Chiefs offense though, they need more flexibility out of their backs. They need better pas blocking and pass catching which is why Davis makes me nervous sometimes.

MNChiefsfan: Not really, no. Incredible physical specimen but not necessarily a football player from what I've seen. West should get his touches based on, you know, six carries or so. Because preseason. And I'm not really kidding.

Stagdsp: I'm going against the recent grain and saying YES, he's a good second back. He's a very different player than Jamaal (most all human running backs are) but he has that breakaway ability that the Chiefs need on offense and as a kick returner. When given the ball more than 16 times a game, he's averaged 93 yards per game, and 1.4 touchdowns per game (that .4 touchdown really is the difference between winning and losing). The point is, Knile can help the Chiefs grind out wins if he's carrying the load, and he has the ability to break a long touchdown on a reception, rush or return. That's enough for me (for now).

8) Which long snapper do you prefer?

Joel Thorman: Gotta go with the one who proposed at Wrigley FieldAndrew East.

MNChiefsfan: I want to see them have Alex Smith be the long snapper. It's perfectly safe, and it'll add to his value and make his contract more palatable to those who don't care for him as a quarterback.

Stagdsp: I like East because he seems to have been able to make some tackles in kick coverage and catches on fakes in college.  I'll go with Winchester ... because, well, it's a sweet name for a guy who makes a living snapping the ball. Hell, I don't have a clue here, really.

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