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Chiefs 53-man roster projection 3.0

With the final cut set for Tuesday, let’s take one final crack at predicting the team’s initial roster.

NFL: MAR 01 Scouting Combline Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up their preseason on Thursday night with a 17-10 win over the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs’ roster currently stands at 80 players, but it will need to be cut down to 53 by Tuesday, August 30. With that, we’re taking one final crack at the Chiefs’ 53-man roster.

As always, my projections are based upon things I’ve seen, heard and hypothesized (Go back and read 2.0 here). Here we go!


Offense (25)


Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Quarterbacks (3): Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Shane Buechele

IN: Shane Buechele

My first two iterations of the Chiefs’ 53-man roster did not include Shane Buechele — but something tells me that after he put together a 166-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Packers, the Chiefs know that if they don’t keep him, he will be claimed elsewhere. When faced with that decision in 2021 — as the Arizona Cardinals tried to poach him — the Chiefs added him to the 53 to keep him on the roster. The change-of-guard won’t happen this year because Chad Henne comes with a more-than-$3 million cap penalty — but my way-too-early prediction is that the Chiefs make the move to Buechele as the backup in 2023.

Running backs (3): Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, Isiah Pacheco

NO CHANGE.

No change in the running back room from projection 2.0 — even though Ronald Jones rushed for 43 yards in the preseason finale.

“I thought RoJo (Ronald Jones) ran hard,” said head coach Andy Reid after the game. “He had good vision. And shoot, I don’t think he did anything to hurt himself in our eyes, whatever happens to him down the road here. But I thought he did a nice job for us.”

Reid’s telling us that he appreciates Jones, but his “down the road” — in my mind — signifies that in the coming days, the Chiefs will likely be trying to trade him for a Day 3 pick. Not helping Jones is the fact that rookie Isiah Pacheco showed out with the backup offensive line, with whom Jones struggled with in earlier preseason games. Stay tuned.

After breaking his thumb — and signing an injury settlement — Derrick Gore is a free agent, and I suspect he will be back on the Chiefs’ practice squad once he is healed up.

Fullbacks (1): Mike Burton

NO CHANGE.

Reid can’t quit the fullback! You know this.

Wide receivers (6): JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Daurice Fountain

NO CHANGE.

In my opinion, the first five wide receivers are set — and have been for a couple of weeks. The only remaining question is whether Corey Coleman or Cornell Powell did enough to unseat Daurice Fountain, whom we know the Chiefs like on special teams. Coleman looked to be a pretty good option as a returner and Powell had a much better camp than I believe any of us were anticipating, but I can’t see them taking out Fountain — especially after he showcased a bit of offensive upside against the Packers; Fountain displayed some juice on the 29-yard near-touchdown. If the Chiefs can, I believe they try to retain both Coleman and Powell on the practice squad, likely ending the Kansas City story of Josh Gordon.

Tight ends (4): Travis Kelce, Jody Fortson, Noah Gray, Blake Bell

NO CHANGE.

Blake Bell had hip surgery and is out for the foreseeable future, but the Chiefs haven’t placed him on injured reserve. Doing so before the 53-man roster cut would end his season. Since they haven’t made that roster move yet, I believe the Chiefs perhaps see Bell coming back down the road, so he will make the initial 53 before being placed on the Reserve/Injured (injured reserve) list, from which he can return as soon as the Chiefs have played four games. The Chiefs still have a lingering need for a veteran blocking tight end, so look for someone outside the building to possibly show up in Kansas City during the first few weeks of the season.

Offensive linemen (8): LT Orlando Brown Jr., LG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, RT Andrew Wylie, Geron Christian, Nick Allegretti, Prince Tega Wanogho

OUT: Darian Kinnard, Austin Reiter (temporarily)
IN: Prince Tega Wanogho

Leaving fifth-round pick Darian Kinnard off of the initial 53-man roster will likely be the most controversial decision of this entire article, but I simply don’t think he showed enough this preseason to warrant a roster spot. In past roster competitions, rookies would at least have one opportunity to mix in with the first team at a position up for grabs — and during raining camp, we never saw that once with Kinnard; he took the majority of his St. Joseph reps with the third team. Geron Christian, on the other hand, mixed in with the ‘ones’ for a few days. I believe the Chiefs trust Christian and Prince Tega Wanogho more than Kinnard, who may need a year of seasoning — if not a switch to an inside position. Remember: the Chiefs recently waived another fifth-rounder, wide receiver Cornell Powell, and he is still with the club. The practice squad should be an option. Keeping only eight offensive linemen seems ridiculous — and it is. Backup center Austin Reiter has been agreeable to Chiefs’ roster moves in the past, and I think he will temporarily be cut to allow for Bell to be moved to injured reserve before being re-signed. Nick Allegretti is “Mr. Reliable,” and he can play both guard positions in a pinch. Lucas Niang is set to miss at least the first four games of the season on the Reserve/PUP (physically-unable-to-perform) list.


Defense (25)


NFL: AUG 07 Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Defensive tackles (5): Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton, Khalen Saunders, Danny Shelton

IN: Danny Shelton

Entering training camp, I really had my doubts about Khalen Saunders making this roster, so kudos to him. Entering his all-important fourth season, Saunders came to camp in shape and has had a good preseason. Taylor Stallworth’s road to the team became blocked — both figuratively and literally — by the mass that is the 345-pound Danny Shelton. There aren’t many players like Shelton in the NFL, and I think Brett Veach may feel like he “got one” by bringing him into camp late.

Defensive ends (5): Frank Clark, George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Carlos Dunlap, Malik Herring

OUT: Joshua Kaindoh

This was one of the tougher decisions of the final projection. I could almost just as easily see the Chiefs keeping Kaindoh over Herring — even though Herring strained his oblique in Thursday night’s game. Kaindoh is a former fourth-round pick, but Herring has shown slightly more throughout the offseason and preseason. Kaindoh registered a sack against the Packers, but has he really played well enough to think a team would claim him? My gut tells me, “No.” I do believe the Chiefs try to keep Kaindoh in the building on the practice squad.

Linebackers (5): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Elijah Lee, Darius Harris, Leo Chenal

NO CHANGE.

Leo Chenal has come a decent way in my mind since the words in my last projection. (This is part of the reason we do a few of these). A fresh draft pick this year, Chenal was never really in any danger of being cut, but I wondered if he would need a redshirt year of sorts. Thursday night showed me that during his rookie year, he is likely going to have a legitimate early-down role with the club. It’s a positive sign for the Chiefs that he showed such progress over the last couple of weeks. As mentioned last time, in the base, Elijah Lee has taken most of the SAM reps, with Darius Harris serving the Chiefs as a backup MIKE. Cutting linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. is going to be difficult, given he has been guaranteed $1.7 million. Sometimes the writing is too much on the wall, and a roster spot becomes more valuable than cash spent. For the Chiefs, I fear this is one of those cases.

Cornerbacks (6): L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, Rashad Fenton, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson, Chris Lammons

NO CHANGE.

I think the first five spots in the cornerback room are locked in. Here is the only question: will the Chiefs keep a sixth cornerback — and if they do, will it be Chris Lammons, Nazeeh Johnson or Dicarpio Bootle? Johnson was a seventh-round draft pick this year, but when you make 10 picks (five of which are defensive backs), you probably go in knowing you’re going to have to snip one. I like the Chiefs to continue to develop Johnson on their practice squad. Bootle has been the backup nickel for a while now — but to special teams coordinator Dave Toub, I think Lammons provides too much value. Lammons’ late-game interception against the Wahington Commanders — even though it was against the backups — helps his case here.

Safeties (4): Justin Reid, Juan Thornhill, Bryan Cook, Deon Bush

NO CHANGE.

The only possible question would be the last spot in this room. Safety Deon Bush could have had a better time on defense Thursday night, but I think he is too important to Toub’s special-teams unit.

“You know how we used Armani Watts last year? He’s that guy,” said Toub of Bush.

At 286, Watts was third on the team in 2021 special-teams snaps.


Specialists (3)


Placekicker Harrison Butker, punter Tommy Townsend and long snapper James Winchester

NO CHANGE.

This never changed and was never going to change.


Under contract, not counted on active roster (2)

Reserve/PUP: OL Lucas Niang

Reserve/Injured (out for season): WR Justyn Ross

Chiefs position quantities at the 53-man cutdown since 2013

Here’s a look at Chiefs position quantities throughout the years since Andy Reid took over the Chiefs in 2013:

Chiefs’ offensive roster by positions

Year QB RB WR TE OL FB Total
Year QB RB WR TE OL FB Total
2013 3 3 6 3 8 1 24
2014 3 5 5 3 9 1 26
2015 3 3 6 3 8 1 24
2016 3 4 6 4 8 1 26
2017 3 2 6 3 9 1 24
2018 2 4 6 2 10 1 25
2019 3 4 5 3 9 1 25
2020 2 3 6 4 9 1 25
2021 2 3 5 4 10 1 25
2022 3 4 5 3 9 1 26

Chiefs’ defensive roster by positions

Year DL LB CB S Total
Year DL LB CB S Total
2013 7 9 4 6 26
2014 6 9 5 4 24
2015 6 10 5 5 26
2016 6 9 6 4* 25*
2017 7 9 6 4 26
2018 6 9 5 5 25
2019 10 6 4 5 25
2020 10 5 5 5 25
2021 9 6 6 4 25
2022 10 4 6 4 24

*Eric Berry had a roster exemption at the 53-man roster cutdown in 2016 and was included in most cutdown listings.

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