The Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason work wrapped up last week with mandatory minicamp, which concluded on Thursday. The next time we see the team will be on Wednesday, July 27, when they start their public training camp practices at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Until then, we’re relying upon a flurry of reports that have come out of voluntary OTA and mandatory minicamp sessions over the last few weeks. Piecing together some of what we’ve been hearing, let’s take look at a few Chiefs who just might be trending up (or down) at this point in the process.
But as we do, let’s keep in mind that the team hasn’t yet had a padded practice or a preseason game. A lot could change before the first game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, September 11.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Our very own Pete Sweeney may have started this talk, but now it’s sweeping both professional pundits and social media. During the offseason, Valdes-Scantling put in the work with quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Texas — and it’s paying early dividends. Everyone is starting to see that the timing and chemistry between them is already at an advanced level. While the fifth-year wideout was only considered to be a deep threat during his time with the Green Bay Packers, there were hints in his film that he could be more than that in Kansas City. And oh, yes... he is really fast, too.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling recorded the 2nd-fastest speed of any ball carrier last season, reaching a top speed of 22.09 mph in Week 11.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 24, 2022
Since entering the NFL in 2018, Valdes-Scantling has hit 20+ mph 14 times as a ball carrier. Only Tyreek Hill (45) has recorded more among WR. https://t.co/OLS2AP52Yf pic.twitter.com/hFG0vCtzdT
Nick Bolton: 2021’s second-round linebacker exceeded all expectations as a rookie, leading the team in tackles and generally playing at a high level — even when others around him were not. Now — with Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann gone — Bolton is the unquestioned leader among the team’s linebackers. He and third-year player Willie Gay Jr. have formed a tight bond — and a formidable duo — at the second level. Bolton is continuing to grow before our eyes, playing faster and taking command of the defense. He’ll be the MIKE linebacker in 2022, wearing the green dot and calling the defense.
Josh Gordon: Perhaps the biggest surprises of the last couple of weeks have been the persistent reports that Gordon has been looking better — and making plays. Given that he fell out of favor last season — and that the team added a number of wide receivers who are likely above him on the depth chart — he should be considered a long shot. (He also left one minicamp session early with what appeared to be a minor injury). But Gordon has proven that he has the natural ability to play the position, so perhaps we can’t count him out just yet. Watch to see if he still stands out in St. Joseph, because he could force a tough decision on which receivers this team wants to keep.
Others trending in the right direction: cornerback Joshua Williams, tight ends Jody Fortson and Travis Kelce, defensive ends Mike Danna and George Karlaftis, safeties Bryan Cook and Juan Thornhill and defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Derrick Gore: The running back room has become quite crowded since Gore signed on for another year. Not only did the Chiefs draft a speedy back in the seventh round (Isiah Pacheco), but they also added an exciting UDFA (Jerrion Ealy). Both have a shot to make the roster as returners and change-of-pace backs. But then Kansas City re-signed Jerick McKinnon, who was a substantial contributor down the stretch in 2021. Gore’s chance to make the 2022 roster is increasingly murky.
Mecole Hardman: Now beginning the final year of his rookie contract, Hardman has said all of the right things this offseason — and he should be poised for a big year. But he’s been struggling with a hamstring injury — and apparently shaking off a bit of rust with a few drops in minicamp. This is a huge season for Hardman — and we expect big things. He’ll have plenty of chances to get it going in St. Joseph.
Trent McDuffie: Another player for whom we have high expectations is the guy Kansas City traded up to select in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. McDuffie seems to have been fighting a nagging injury — and has been beaten a couple of times in minicamp. Given his stature (and his style of play), we can assume he’ll look better once the pads come on. He’ll be expected to start this season — and hopefully be able of locking down some receivers in coverage. Once he’s able to play with the physicality for which he is known, he can start to show what made him one of the best corners in the draft.
Others trending in the wrong direction: wide receivers Daurice Fountain and Justyn Ross, tight ends Blake Bell and Noah Gray and linebacker Leo Chenal.
Value (sleeper) pick:
Jordan Franks: So far, 2018’s UDFA tight end has been turning heads. Reports of multiple tough catches (including touchdowns) with Kansas City’s second team make us wonder if the Chiefs might have an unexpected position battle on their hands. Travis Kelce is still the best in the business — and Jody Fortson appears to be picking up where he left off. So Franks faces an uphill climb. But Blake Bell has been absent and Noah Gray has been quiet. It’s possible that a door is opening for Franks to win a job in St. Joseph.