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Five candidates for most improved Kansas City Chief in 2018

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Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

As much fun as the NFL Draft, free agency and trades are, we often overlook perhaps the most important factor in whether or not the 2018 Kansa City Chiefs will be better than the 2017 version: player development.

Here are some Chiefs whose development and potential improvement could mean a lot to the overall success of this season:

1) Patrick Mahomes

We’ll start with the obvious. Mahomes takes the reigns in his second NFL season, and expectations are high—rightfully so, given the promise he’s shown and the fact that he’s in the absolute perfect situation to succeed.

He had a year to learn under a great teacher in Alex Smith, a tremendous coaching staff, a chance to start a live NFL game against starters, and he already led a two-minute game-winning drive. Oh, and he’ll have elite offensive weapons all around him this season with Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt and Sammy Watkins.

There’s no mistaking the fact that the team’s fate largely rides on the right arm of Mahomes. If he is who we think he is, they’ll win a lot of games with him, and everything will be different (in a good way). It’s not just the fact that they’ll have an explosive offense. It’s the confidence that comes when you have a QB that can literally win games for you. It’s the receivers knowing that a play is never over because the QB can throw it from anywhere at any time. It’s the motivation for the defense and special teams units to get the ball back in the hands of the offense, knowing that they are never out of a game. Nothing is more important to this team than the development of its franchise quarterback.

2) Tanoh Kpassagnon

Last season, whenever Kpass got on the field, expectations were low. He was a known “project” with elite athletic traits, but he had a long way to go before he’d be ready to contribute. So, whenever he was able to make plays, people got excited about the future of the original Chiefs “giant EDGE.”

Then, the draft came around and the team opted to trade up to select Breeland Speaks, a player we assume will have a similar role. Many immediately believed that it reflected poorly on the progression of Kpassagnon, and Brett Veach’s comments fueled that fire.

“We see Speaks as a guy where it will be Justin (Houston), Dee (Ford) and Speaks, and Tanoh (Kpassagnon) can still develop,” Veach said.

But, anyone who watched the Chiefs in 2017 knows that they need (a lot) more pass rush help across the front seven. We saw what happens when they depend on one or even two guys to get to the quarterback. Brett Veach, in my opinion, is taking steps to make sure that this problem doesn’t happen in 2018.

By having a full rotation of versatile EDGE players, along with Chris Jones, Bob Sutton can attack offenses with varying packages of rushers coming from inside and outside.

Kpassagnon should absolutely be in that mix this season. How much he’s involved, and what impact he makes depends on his development. The quicker he can prove he’s ready and the more plays he makes early on, the better for his future and for the Chiefs. If he and Speaks both pan out, the pressure will squarely be on Dee Ford to prove he belongs. But, I absolutely think there’s a role, a need and a roster spot for all of these guys in 2018 and beyond.

3) Eric Murray

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Chiefs cornerback Eric Murray (21) in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Chiefs safety group, I believe there’s hope that Armani Watts becomes the early “starter” and that Daniel Sorensen becomes more of a role player. But, if there’s one guy that could transform the depth chart if he improves, that might be Eric Murray. Drafted as a cornerback who was making the transition to safety, Murray seemed to struggle in 2017. He certainly has the aggressiveness and toughness the team likes from their defensive backs, but he’ll need to improve in coverage in order to earn significant snaps this season.

4) Parker Ehinger

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Training Camp
Parker Ehinger blocking for Charcandrick West at 2016 training camp.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sticking with Ehinger here over Witzmann partially because I agree with the concept that Ehinger has more upside as a left guard. He’s got the athleticism and ability to move that make him a great fit, and (to my eye) worked well alongside Eric Fisher on the left side as a rookie. I’d also love to see Ehinger step up and win the job, because it frees Witzmann up to help out at tackle or guard as a versatile backup.

5) Cam Erving

Kansas City Chiefs v New York Giants
Cameron Erving #75 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on from the sideline in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants on November 19, 2017 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The news that Cam Erving is performing well thus far as a center in the offseason program was a welcome surprise from Andy Reid’s first press conference. Drafted as a center, Erving played some guard in Cleveland and struggled, especially with his play strength. Erving will be playing for a new contract in 2018, as will the guy he’s trying to back up, Mitch Morse. Given the fact that there are always injuries along the offensive line, Erving (along with Witzmann) will be keys to keeping this offense rolling through a 16-plus-game season. Erving has a chance to revive his career in a dramatic way in Kansas City by proving that he belongs.

Poll

Who (other than Patrick Mahomes) will be the most impactful improved Chief this year?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Tanoh Kpassagnon
    (1114 votes)
  • 13%
    Eric Murray
    (289 votes)
  • 25%
    Parker Ehinger
    (536 votes)
  • 8%
    Cam Erving
    (191 votes)
2130 votes total Vote Now