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Chiefs 53-man roster projection 3.0

The first preseason game is in the books — and Kansas City only has a couple more days up in St. Joseph. Let’s see how the roster has changed since our first projection.

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs returned to St. Joseph Tuesday morning following their first preseason game — a 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The Chiefs are in the midst of three more practices in St. Joseph, which run through Thursday (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 2.0 here). Let’s dive in:

Offense (26)

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

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


Buechele rebounded from an early interception against the Saints to lead the Chiefs back from what was a 17-7 deficit when he entered the game to 21-7 in favor of Kansas City after two touchdowns. Buechele was 11 of 18 for 155 yards and the two scores, including one to fan-favorite Justyn Ross and another to Kekoa Crawford. On the score to Crawford, Buechele could have easily been confused for Mahomes.

I’m not sure there is suddenly a QB2 controversy in Kansas City, as some suggest, but I think Buechele needed that type of outing to ensure the Chiefs kept him on the roster. As mentioned in previous projections, 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. I still find that wrinkle too valuable, and if there were any doubt, Buechele continued to show on Sunday that he could do the job in that dire scenario.

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


I tossed around the idea of the Chiefs trading Edwards-Helaire to the Saints in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick in this projection, considering his peculiar usage in New Orleans.

Mahomes and the first-team offense were only on the field for six plays, and four of the touches went to Edwards-Helaire, who we know is the backup early-down running back once Pacheco is finally cleared for contact. New Orleans just hosted an old Chiefs friend, Kareem Hunt, for a visit, but it was a trip that ended with no contract. That confirms the Saints’ interest in the running back position. Were the Chiefs showcasing Edwards-Helaire, who is from the area and might embrace a change of scenery? I stopped myself short of the wild scenario, even though you could easily talk yourself into its plausibility. The Chiefs have kept four or more running backs at the roster deadline five times since 2013 — and, just a year ago, they surprised us by keeping Ronald Jones on the initial roster, indicating they may favor four backs.

As expected, Prince earned the early kick-return snaps against the Saints, which should mean his spot is safe, even with an underwhelming debut offensive performance after the camp hype. It is worth noting, however, that Perine did see more time with the first team than Prince during Tuesday’s practice.

Fullbacks (0):


There is still no fullback on this roster.

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


A recent report suggested that the organization feels Toney will be ready for Week 1 against the Detroit Lions after having preseason surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus. But I still believe that, when it’s time, Kansas City ends up staying conservative, and Toney will make the 53-man roster only before the team adds him to injured reserve with a designation to return the following day. I continue to think the Chiefs field six receivers for Week 1, with a cautious Toney return set for Week 5.

With Toney missing all of training camp, Kansas City has turned to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore and Justin Watson as its top receivers, though Richie James made the greatest case to push into that mix with his game against the Saints. James showcased speed, tracking ability and reliability in his two-catch, 44-yard effort — and his touchdown came on a tough ball to catch. James already looked to have more snaps with Mahomes during Tuesday’s workout.

I thought Rice and Ross had good showings, as well. I believe Ross’ red-zone touchdown helps build the case of what he can provide for the Chiefs (more on what I mean in the tight end section).

We’ll have to see about Nikko Remigio, who led the Chiefs in receiving yards (71) in the first preseason game. Remigio dislocated his shoulder in Tuesday’s practice. I have liked Remigio for the practice squad since July, but perhaps it is injured reserve instead — all depending on the severity of his injury.

Tight ends (2): Travis Kelce, Noah Gray

OUT: Jody Fortson

I continue to believe the Chiefs move on from Blake Bell for 24 hours, taking Toney’s spot a day later. As mentioned in projection 2.0, there may be a handshake deal for Kansas City to release Bell at the deadline, just 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.

The Chiefs announced Fortson needed shoulder surgery and head to injured reserve on Tuesday, which means he will not make Kansas City’s 53-man roster. Fortson’s red-zone targets are likely to now go to Ross, who also stands at 6 feet 4.

Offensive linemen (10): LT Donovan Smith, LG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, RT Jawaan Taylor, Nick Allegretti, Lucas Niang, Prince Tega Wanogho, Wanya Morris, Darian Kinnard

IN: Prince Tega Wanogho

Wanogho (79.5) and Niang (76.7) earned the top two Pro Football Focus offensive line grades in the Chiefs’ first preseason game. The rookie, Morris (59.4), looked a little raw — which, to be fair, is to be expected. Morris had been getting occasional snaps with Kansas City’s top line in St. Joseph as the swing tackle, but I’m mulling over if that changes after what transpired in New Orleans. Games matter the most when it comes to roster evaluation, and I think Wanogho did himself a big favor with his performance.

I’ll admit: there seems to be room for only one of Wanogho or Niang, so perhaps one is moved (a la Yasir Durant) and Kansas City keeps tight end Matt Bushman, another defensive tackle (such as Danny Shelton or Daniel Wise) or even cornerback Kahlef Hailassie.

Defense (24)

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive tackles (4): Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Keondre Coburn, Turk Wharton

IN: Turk Wharton
OUT: Charles Omenihu

Wharton entered the fold since our last projection, which is fortunate for the Chiefs, who will be without Omenihu for the first six games of the NFL season. Unlike with IR to return, Kansas City does not need to roster Omenihu on the initial list. Wharton missing the game and the practices leading up to it are not an encouraging sign for his ACL recovery. That said, until we hear otherwise, he stays on this list.

As I have mentioned, Wise and Matt Dickerson have been rotating next to Nnadi with Jones out of camp, but they are likely better fits for the practice squad. Shelton appears to have lost a little weight since last season, and I could see him making a case for the roster. Shelton had the line’s only sack against the Saints.

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


No change here, and some promising signs for the back of the room, with Herring (2), Anudike-Uzomah (3) and Thompson (2) all registering quarterback pressures in the preseason game. Joshua Kaindoh had a blank stat sheet.

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


This position group has not changed since our first projection. As a reminder, Cochrane had 316 snaps as a four-corps special-teamer (kick coverage, kick return, punt coverage and punt return) last year.

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


The play of the undrafted free agent cornerback, Hailassie — an almost-Jet — has been impressive, both at camp and then in the game, when he was able to record a leaping interception. I think he is on the Chiefs’ radar, and with that in mind, the potential missed time for Jones after he broke a couple of fingers is worth monitoring.

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


No change at the safety position for this projection. Bush had 317 special-teams snaps in 2022. I think the safeties are pretty much set.

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/Injured (out for season): Jody Fortson, Nazeeh Johnson

Suspended list: Charles Omenihu (six games)

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.


How do you feel about this 53-man roster projection?

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    I strongly agree.
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    I somewhat agree.
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