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Chiefs 53-man roster projection 2.0

With only a week and a half in the books, we have a few changes to the projected initial roster.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs OTA Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs head into their day off from training camp in St. Joseph on Tuesday after eight full-team workouts, including three practices in pads. They will return to the practice field on Wednesday (full schedule here).

The one — and only one — roster cut happens on August 30 this year.

As always, my projections are based upon things I’ve seen, heard and hypothesized (Go back and read 1.0 here). Let’s dive in:

Offense (26)

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs OTA Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks (3): Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert, Shane Buechele


There has been a very apparent pecking order after Mahomes at Chiefs training camp: Gabbert gets the second-team reps and Buechele the third-team reps. Kansas City’s most recent practice (a 10-10-10) saw Gabbert get three of 10 initial plays with the first team as Buechele watched. Still, I’m sticking to my guns from the first projection: the league’s owners approved the “emergency quarterback rule,” allowing each club to put a third quarterback in should the first two quarterbacks be out of the game due to injury. The third quarterback must be on the 53-man roster, but he would not count on the active 47 (or 48) man game-day roster. Many teams, including the Chiefs, will keep a third quarterback.

Running backs (4): Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Deneric Prince


Pacheco seems to do more and more every day, but he has yet to shed that non-contact yellow jersey. What that has meant is Edwards-Helaire taking top-team reps to start camp. While I believe that as soon as Pacheco is ready, he will be inserted in that position, head coach Andy Reid likes Edwards-Helaire enough that I feel he will keep a place on this team. In my first projection, I said Prince was a lock to make the roster, and everything I have seen so far at camp has only reinforced my claim. Forget just in the running back room; Prince has shown himself to be one of the best pass-catchers, period, on the team — and he is slated to be the starting kick returner. I can’t help but wonder if Prince pushes McKinnon for offensive snaps — should he display an ability to protect the passer by camp’s end. Kansas City has been smart with McKinnon early in camp, saving the 31-year-old’s juice for when it counts: that final stretch of the season and into the playoffs.

Fullbacks (0):


There is no fullback in camp. There is, however, a Danny Shelton.

Wide receivers (7): Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice, Richie James, Justin Watson, Justyn Ross

IN: Justyn Ross

I’ll be the first to admit that, all offseason, I didn’t see a way for the Chiefs to include 2022 undrafted free agent Justyn Ross on the roster. The first four names on this list are assured roster spots — and though James and Watson aren’t “household” names, special teams coordinator Dave Toub likes James for the punt-return job, and Reid has been open with how much he values Watson for what he brings to the table. Both James and Watson also come with guaranteed money tied to them for 2023. So how could you include Ross?

Camp changes things. Throughout the first week and a half of training, the Chiefs have given Ross plenty of looks with Mahomes, and they have not been afraid to tell you about it on social media. To Ross’ credit, he has made the most of his opportunities — and more critical than that, stayed on the field. Meanwhile, Toney found himself on the injured list no less than 10 minutes into his first practice.

Toney underwent surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus last week, and although Kansas City has said there is a “chance” he will be ready for Week 1, my inclination is the team is careful to rush him back. Toney makes the 53-man roster, allowing the team to add him to injured reserve with a designation to return the following day. Thus, even though this list says I am keeping seven receivers (for the first time in the Reid-Chiefs era), the club will roster six receivers for Week 1. In this scenario, Toney would be eligible to return Week 5.

Tight ends (3): Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Jody Fortson

OUT: Blake Bell

Hey, relax. The Chiefs are only getting rid of Blake Bell for 24 hours. Based on a relationship between Veach and Bell that dates back to this regime’s first Super Bowl title in 2019, perhaps there will be a handshake deal in order for Kansas City to release Bell at the deadline only to sign him back the next day. At the roster deadline, only veterans with four or more accrued seasons are released rather than waived, which means none of the other 31 teams could claim Bell. This allows Veach to work with him on a procedural move. As mentioned, seven receivers quickly become six and three tight ends quickly become four. Fortson recently had his shoulder popped back in. If that lingers, Matt Bushman could push to make the first roster.

Offensive linemen (9): LT Donovan Smith, LG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, RT Jawaan Taylor, Nick Allegretti, Wanya Morris, Lucas Niang, Darian Kinnard


Nothing from the opening days of training camp has led me to change this room. However, I did move Morris one spot ahead of Niang, as I think Kansas City currently likes him better for the first tackle off the bench (he mixed in with the first team during the team’s most recent workout). Allegretti can play either guard position or center, and Kinnard has transitioned to guard, primarily working as the second-team right guard this camp. In 1.0, I mentioned Prince Tega Wanogho and Austin Reiter for the practice squad. Add Mike Caliendo to that list.

Defense (24)

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive tackles (4): Chris Jones, Charles Omenihu, Derrick Nnadi, Keondre Coburn


Thus far in camp, Omenihu has established that he will be a versatile piece for this defensive line, and I think he has been lining up outside more with Mike Danna missing so many practices because of a calf injury. We’ll continue to list him as a defensive tackle for this exercise. Tershawn Wharton remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after tearing his ACL in October — which is where I think he stays to start the year, missing the first four weeks of the season. Daniel Wise and Matt Dickerson have been rotating next to Nnadi with Jones out of camp, but they seem to me like better fits for the practice squad considering we still don’t expect the holdout to bleed too far into the preseason.

Defensive ends (5): George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Malik Herring, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, BJ Thompson

IN: Malik Herring
OUT: Carlos Dunlap

I had veteran Carlos Dunlap here in my first projection, but the longer the situation draws out with Jones, the less likely I think Dunlap will find his way back to the roster. As our lead analyst Ron Kopp mentioned in our Sunday camp report, Herring has been impressive — and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said he noticed his improvement year over year. That’s all been enough for me to make the switch from Dunlap to Herring. Perhaps Kaindoh, a former fourth-round pick for the Chiefs, sticks around on the practice squad.

Linebackers (5): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Drue Tranquill, Leo Chenal, Jack Cochrane


No change here from the first projection. Early in camp, Tranquill has shown he can play all three linebacker positions, and Cochrane had 316 snaps as a four-corps special-teamer (kick coverage, kick return, punt coverage and punt return) last year. The linebacker room will go five deep.

Cornerbacks (5): Trent McDuffie, L’Jarius Sneed, Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams, Nic Jones


Losing Nazeeh Johnson is a more significant blow than meets the eye because not only was he already Toub’s star gunner; he was also playing well enough on defense to threaten the third cornerback job split by Watson and Williams. A torn ACL sends Johnson to the season-ending injured reserve, and rather than keeping another young corner (I have liked what I have seen from Kahlef Hailassie and Ekow Boye-Dowe), safety Deon Bush makes this projection thanks to his special teams acumen.

Safeties (5): Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Chamarri Conner, Mike Edwards, Deon Bush

IN: Deon Bush

Before the Johnson injury, I was already considering adding Bush back and removing Edwards, even though the Chiefs did guarantee him just over $1 million. Bush (and his 317 special-teams snaps in 2022) make him an easy add, given the injury to Johnson, and Kansas City (as you can read below) went five or fewer cornerbacks at the deadline under Spagnuolo in both 2020 and 2019. I wonder if a young defensive back could make things interesting at the back end of this room.

Specialists (3)

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

The status quo.

Under contract, not counted on active roster (3)

Reserve/PUP: Tershawn Wharton

Reserve/Injured (out for season): Nazeeh Johnson, Isaiah Moore

Position quantities at the 53-man cutdown since 2013

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

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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