In this series, we're looking at 60 players who have a chance to make the Kansas City Chiefs' 53-man roster for 2023, figuring out whether they're locks or on the bubble.
We're organizing them into eight categories: roster cornerstones, quality starters, adequate starters, replacement-level players, quality depth players, non-roster players, rookies and those whose evaluations are incomplete.
What is a replacement-level player?
These players are playing meaningful or maybe even starter-level snaps that should be upgraded. Sure, some of these players might flash at times, but overall, playing a starting role in the NFL is going to expose their weaknesses.
What is a quality depth player?
Essentially, a quality depth player doesn't see the field much. His use dictates how he is evaluated. For instance, if Derrick Nnadi were not the team's primary defensive tackle and only played a few snaps a game, he would translate to quality depth rather than replacement level.
Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi: Nnadi is a one-dimensional player who has struggled at times at defending the run. While he still holds value, it would be nice to see rookie Keondre Coburn push for the role, making Nnadi more of a rotational player.
Defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton: Rehabbing a torn ACL, Wharton is entering his fourth year in the league. His lack of size makes him vulnerable against the run. His upside is mainly in his pass-rushing — but with just 5.0 sacks in the past three seasons, limitations exist.
Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire: There's an outside chance Edwards-Helaire doesn't make the team. There have been many factors that have brought him to this point, but injuries and lack of breakaway speed have made him replaceable.
Tight end Jody Fortson: Fortson's role on the team is somewhere between blocking wide receiver and pass-catching tight end. Late last year, the coaching staff opted to keep him active over Blake Bell. His blocking needs to continue to grow if he will be a viable third tight end, especially without a fullback on the roster this year.
Wide receiver Justin Watson: He's been a nice role player, but playing 43% of the snaps over players like Skyy Moore can't continue into 2023. Similar to Nnadi, If Watson's role were more limited, he would be more quality depth.
Wide receiver Richie James: One player that could be upgraded is James. With 569 yards last year, he's had NFL success. However, looking at what might have been the worst receiver core in the league (New York Giants) might be the reason for the volume. James' ability on special teams and as a role player on offense is something to watch in 2023.
Offensive guard Nick Allegretti: With 12 career starts, Allegretti has proven he's a solid backup offensive lineman. He's been consistent and had success at times as a starter.
Safety Deon Bush: A core special teamer, Bush has made some plays for the defense as well. He's a perfect fill-in for an injury and a great fourth safety.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert: With 48 career starts and a career passer rating of 72.4, Gabbert can get you through a game or two without Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have been diligent in always having a veteran backup behind Mahomes.
Tight End Blake Bell: Bell has predominantly been a backup in Kansas City, and last year began with a significant injury. The emergence of Noah Gray as a blocker has limited his role. Gray offers a higher upside as a pass-catcher, so you feel good about Bell as a backup.
Defensive tackle Danny Shelton: With over 70 career starts, Shelton is an experienced veteran who fills a singular role — a nose tackle that is behind Nnadi in the depth chart.
Offensive tackle Lucas Niang: As much as the Chiefs stated they had confidence in Niang this offseason, they added three other tackles to the mix (Jawaan Taylor, Donovan Smith and Wanya Morris). A pandemic opt-out and injuries have complicated Niang's time in Kansas City. Ultimately, his body has held him back. He showed some flashes starting in 2021 and is a fine fourth tackle.
Center Austin Reiter: Having a center who started and won a Super Bowl with Patrick Mahomes can't be viewed as a bad thing. He has an obvious role within the offensive line and knows the scheme well. He's sitting behind one of the best centers in the league, but if the Chiefs were to lose Creed Humphrey for some time, they'd be in fine hands.
The bottom line
Looking at this portion of the roster, it's encouraging that several players could easily become quality depth if their roles changed. It shows that the roster has potential answers to some of its weaknesses.
No NFL roster has 60 great players; it's just not possible. Another standout here is how much depth the Chiefs have in the trenches — that's something Andy Reid has always emphasized.