This Saturday, September 5 is the day the Kansas City Chiefs (and the rest of the NFL) have to cut down to their
final initial 53-man roster. It will be far from final, because a flurry of transactions will take place immediately afterward. This is also because by rule, the team is required to wait until the 24-hour waiver deadline has passed to move players to injured reserve with the ability to return — and also form the newly-expanded practice squad.
The unusual offseason rules also mean that the Chiefs are cutting from 80 players instead of the usual 90, so fewer players will “see the Turk” than in past seasons. In fact, if this prediction were to be correct, as few as eight of the 80 man roster won’t still be with the team in some capacity on Monday. But even that doesn’t account for the handful of moves we can be sure Brett Veach will make in acquiring new players via trades, waiver claims, and free-agent signings.
With input from the AP Nerd Squad and this week’s podcast, here’s our final (near) consensus roster prediction. You’ll notice a few changes from our 1.0 version, including the practice squad, a couple of roster battles and new additions.
Quarterbacks (2): Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
We’ve got the Chiefs sticking with the two-quarterbacks-on-the-active-roster strategy this season, even with COVID-19. The expanded practice squad allows Matt Moore and/or Jordan Ta’amu to stay with the team and be ready — just in case disaster strikes.
Running backs (4): Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, DeAndre Washington, Darwin Thompson
Assuming the Chiefs keep four running backs and a fullback, there’s little doubt that these are the guys. Each of them brings slightly different styles and has some ability to be a factor in the passing game. Given the wear-and-tear of an NFL season, having depth at this position is a must.
Fullbacks (1): Anthony Sherman
The Sausage returns, unchallenged in his role as fullback, special teams fumble-forcer and returning entering-with-style champion.
Wide receivers (6): Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Marcus Kemp
Because the Chiefs keep only two active quarterbacks, there’s room for another receiver. The sixth wideout might be the most sought-after spot on the roster. Most of us have Kemp winning a competition with Gehrig Dieter, Jody Fortson and kick returner Justice Shelton-Mosley.
Tight ends (3): Travis Kelce, Nick Keizer, Deon Yelder
At this point, there’s no question about the top two guys on this list. The debate is between Yelder — who has been injured, but has shown some ability on special teams and as a blocker — or newcomer Ricky Seals-Jones, who is known only as a receiver. If he’s healthy enough to go. we’re sticking with Yelder.
Offensive linemen (9): LT Eric Fisher, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Austin Reiter, RG Andrew Wylie, RT Mitchell Schwartz, Mike Remmers, Jackson Barton, Daniel Kilgore, Nick Allegretti
With the addition of Osemele, the starting offensive line looks settled now. Remmers is your super-utility backup. The questions start behind him, where the Chiefs likely keep either Jackson Barton or Greg Senat as backup tackles. Then, newcomer Daniel Kilgore and Nick Allegretti round out the squad, backing up at center. Our assumption is that Martinas Rankin starts the season on the PUP list.
Defensive tackles (4): Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Khalen Saunders, Tershawn Wharton
The potential surprise here is Wharton, who bulked up and stepped in on the interior, apparently drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff. If he doesn’t make the 53, he’s sure to get an offer to join the practice squad. Or — more likely — he could be the guy that makes the active roster until Mike Pennel’s suspension ends, and then joins the practice squad.
Defensive ends (6): Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Taco Charlton, Mike Danna, Breeland Speaks
We think the top four EDGE players are pretty solid here after Steve Spagnuolo mentioned Charlton as a “three down player”. The final spots come down to Danna, Speaks and Tim Ward. For the initial roster, we’re predicting spots go to the two guys in whom the Chiefs have invested draft capital.
Linebackers (5): Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Willie Gay Jr., Ben Niemann, Darius Harris
In a break from the norm, we’re predicting the Chiefs keep only five active linebackers. The versatility of Wilson and Niemann make it possible to save a roster spot, leaving Darius Harris as the only other backup. One of the more notable cuts we’re predicting is Dorian O’Daniel, who has carved out a special teams role in his tenure, but nothing on defense. We think Dave Toub has added enough other contributors that they could move on from O’Daniel.
Cornerbacks (5): Charvarius Ward, L’Jarius Sneed, Antonio Hamilton, Rashad Fenton, BoPete Keyes
Safeties (5): Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, Daniel Sorensen, Tedric Thompson, Adrian Colbert
Going light on linebackers means they are heavy on defensive backs, with 10 guys making the initial cut. It makes sense, too. With Bashaud Breeland suspended and Thornhill just coming off of a major injury, the Chiefs will want to keep some extra depth here. Keyes gets the final cornerback job based on his upside; Thompson and Colbert each bring a slightly different skillset to safety.
Placekicker Harrison Butker, punter Tommy Townsend and long snapper James Winchester
No mystery left here — other than answering this question: just how many All-Pro nods will Tommy Townsend get?
Practice Squad (16)
Note: Up to six players (noted with an asterisk) can have unlimited years of experience.
*QB Matt Moore, *OL Greg Senat, *DE Demone Harris, *TE Ricky Seals-Jones, DE Tim Ward, WR Gehrig Dieter, OL Yasir Durant, WR Jody Fortson, S Rodney Clemons, LB Omari Cobb, DB Lavert Hill, WR Justice Shelton-Mosley, QB Jordan Ta’amu, OL Darryl Williams, DL Devaroe Lawrence and DL Braxton Hoyett
Under contract, not on active roster (8)
Reserve-Exempt (Suspended): CB Bashaud Breeland, DT Mike Pennel
Reserve-Injured: CB Alex Brown, LB Emmanuel Smith
Reserve-PUP: OL Martinas Rankin
Reserve-Opt Out: LB Lucas Niang, G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, RB Damien Williams
S Armani Watts, LB Dorian O’Daniel, WR Maurice Ffrench, TE Daniel Helm, OT Ryan Hunter, WR Kalija Lipscomb, RB Elijah McGuire and S Chris Lammons