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2020 Chiefs positional preview: cornerback

Our Kansas City position preview series continues with cornerbacks.

NFL: JAN 19 AFC Championship - Titans at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As training camp progresses over the next few weeks, the AP Nerd Squad continues to break down the Chiefs roster position by position. We’re working from the top of the depth chart to the bottom, briefing you on how we think each position group will play out.

The cornerback group will be a rather young one in Week 1.

Here’s what you need to know about the Chiefs’ cornerbacks:

“The guy”

Charvarius Ward has come a long way in a short amount of time, and he’ll be the clear cut leader of the room in Week 1.

Ward has been thrust into a leadership role for the cornerback group with the absence of Bashaud Breeland due to suspension. Your best ability is availability, and Breeland is going to miss time for off-field mistakes. Had that not been the case, I’d likely be discussing the man who had a very good postseason and capped it off with an interception in the Super Bowl.

Ward is still an ascending player who started every game for the Chiefs last season in his first full year. He found success last year in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme — primarily pressing and attached at the line of scrimmage to a receiver. Still young and relatively inexperienced, Ward should continue to grow and develop through his first contract. As the roster sits, he will be the most experienced corner entering Week 1 for the Chiefs.

New kid on the block

The Chiefs spent a fourth-round pick on L’Jarius Sneed — a safety in 2019 at Louisiana Tech who Spagnuolo will return to cornerback — his original position.

Sneed’s cornerback tape is better than his work as a safety. When the Bulldogs asked him to switch to get more players on the field, he obliged for the benefit of the team. He profiles exceptionally well for this defensive scheme. Sneed has the length, size, athleticism and physicality that Spagnuolo covets. He can press successfully at the line of scrimmage and has more than enough long speed to carry vertically with receivers.

What’s more — he’s a willing tackler who will play well on special teams. We could get a glimpse of him early in the year given Breeland’s absence.

Sleeper candidate

Rashad Fenton might be the frontrunner to start opposite Ward in Week 1.

Fenton saw some playing time late in the year — including the Super Bowl. His best work has been when he’s been given the opportunity to play outside. There isn’t a ton of experience in this group, but Fenton got the majority of his in the most important games of the season at the end of the year.

If he can continue to build off of the end of last year he could use the opportunity early in 2020 and not look back.

Best battle

It’ll be a battle between Fenton, Sneed and free agent signing Antonio Hamilton starting opposite Ward in Week 1. I want to throw rookie seventh-round pick BoPete Keyes into the mix. but he’s currently on the non-football injury list and it’s unknown what his status will be for the season.

Fenton has a leg up on the other two with a year in the scheme and some promising moments at the end of the year. Hamilton has the most years in the league but has primarily been a special teams ace — his defensive snaps have been limited to this point. Sneed is the most talented of the three but has the steepest learning curve. I’d prefer to see him thrown into the fire early in some capacity on defense to see what the Chiefs have in their fourth-rounder.

There is still time for the Chiefs to add a veteran into the mix if they don’t like what they’re seeing with their young options during training camp.

Poll

Who will start opposite Charvarius Ward at cornerback in Week 1?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Rashad Fenton
    (1697 votes)
  • 4%
    Antonio Hamilton
    (114 votes)
  • 16%
    L’Jarius Sneed
    (387 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (84 votes)
2282 votes total Vote Now