The draft is over, rookie minicamps are already underway, and summer camps will begin before we know it. However, we won’t truly know what the Chiefs’ 53-man roster will look like until after the final pre-season game has been played. This off-season, more than any others in recent years, has seen many vital veterans leave the Chiefs for other teams, whether by not being resigned or by trade.
In response, a large influx of youth has been added to the roster. So, who will make it to the final 53?
This is probably the easiest group to predict. Shane Buechele will likely make the initial roster as a few key players will start the season on the PUP list. Unless disaster strikes, the Chiefs don’t need three quarterbacks, but this will save them from using a practice squad protection on Buechele.
Ronald Jones II
This is where things start to get interesting. The Chiefs will have to decide if they want to carry four running backs and a fullback. Derrick Gore and Jerrion Ealy will both be in competition for the final spot on the roster, but unless Pacheco gets hurt or is just a catastrophe in camp/pre-season, his roster spot seems secure. Ealy and Gore can play special teams and are suitable backups in case of an injury. One or both will make the practice squad where they can be called upon on game days, but in this scenario, Ealy barely makes the roster thanks to some key players landing on the PUP list.
Even though the Chiefs rarely use lineups, including a fullback, they always have one on the roster. There is not much to say here; Burton will play special teams and occasionally appear on offense.
The top four of this group might as well be locked in. It’s the final two spots that could change. Admittedly, Justyn Ross is just a bet based on his pre-injury ability. The Chiefs could red-shirt him for a year, but he is medically cleared according to doctors via Jordan Schultz. If Ross can play to 80% of what he was pre-injury, then he should make the roster easily.
Then you have Josh Gordon. The coaching staff still believes in him for one reason or another. If Ross can’t go, then replace the final spot with Gordon. Cornell Powell is also an interesting prediction. A year ago, Powell was a fifth-round pico but missed the final roster cuts to Daurice Fountain. Suppose Powell doesn’t make the roster this time; he probably never will. Whether it’s Powell or Fountain again, the receiver in this spot will have to contribute to special teams.
The Chiefs will carry three tight ends into the regular season this year, but only because I believe that Jody Fortson will start the year on the PUP list. Once Fortson is ready to play, he will replace someone else on the roster, but for now, this allows flexibility at other positions. This group highlights how the Chiefs desperately need to address TE in the 2023 offseason.
Orlando Brown Jr.
A notable name missing from this list is Lucas Niang. Niang will be on the 53-man roster at some point in the season but will most likely be on the PUP list to start the season. Andrew Wylie can play just about anywhere on the offensive line except center, and Allegretti can play anywhere on the interior. Geron Christian gives you even more depth as a swing tackle in case a disaster happens in-game. The Chiefs love to carry around nine linemen on the roster, so this list is complete once Niang returns.
At least early in the season, I suspect the Chiefs will be tinkering with their defensive line trying to find the perfect combo. Jones and Nnadi are the obvious starters. Tershawn Wharton doesn’t provide much in the run game but can be a designated third-down interior pass-rusher. Saunders and Stallworth will compete for early-down rotational snaps.
News recently broke that the Chiefs placed the seldom-used UFA tender on Melvin Ingram. This means either he returns to the team, he turns into a compensatory pick next year, or he retires. To see our initial reaction to the UFA tender on Melvin Ingram, click here. If Ingram returns, we may see rookie George Karlaftis play inside on pass-rush downs with Ingram and Clark playing on the outside.
Mike Danna has developed into a solid role player. Kaindoh is still the unknown factor as he was injured most of last season. Watch for Malik Herring as well. The Chiefs red-shirted Herring last year, so if he makes a splash in camp/pre-season, he may find a spot on the final roster.
Willie Gay Jr.
Jermaine Carter Jr.
The Chiefs may be building the best young linebacker core in the entire NFL. Bolton and Gay both broke out last year and will look to build upon that. Chenal offers an elite run defense skillset from day one and has immense upside. Carter and Chenal can both play special teams and fill in as needed. Undrafted rookie Mike Rose has a chance to make the final roster as well.
Lonnie Johnson Jr.
The Chiefs drafted three corners, and I would bet on all three making the final roster. They also recently traded for Lonnie Johnson Jr. To see our initial reactions to Lonnie Johnson Jr., click here. Outside of Mcduffie, what do all three of these corners have in common? They are all at least 6’2 with long arms and run around a 4.5 forty-yard dash. Those types of corners are not easy to find, and it’s exactly what Spags looks for. The Deandre Baker experiment is over. Expect a lot of mistakes early with this group. They may be young, but they have sky-high potential as a group.
Like the corner group, the Chiefs lineup at safety is extremely young and only has one player who knows the system. So, expect some early hiccups. Most assume that Reid will fill in for Tyrann Mathieu, but I expect him to play more of a free safety role with Juan Thornhill in the final year of his rookie contract. Look for Bryan Cook to play in the box, and as the season goes on, we may see less and less of Thornhill. Deon Bush can find a role in the rotation and play special teams. Nazeeh Johnson makes the final roster cut as an ideal special teamer.
Special Teams (3)
Long Snapper (1)
Not much to say about this group. Same as last year, and I don’t expect any changes this year. The Chiefs may look to draft a punter in round seven of the 2023 draft to save some cap space, but that’s still a year away.
There you have it, the Chiefs’ way too early 2022 53-man roster. What would you change? Let us know in the comments below.
What are your thoughts on this way too early Chiefs’ roster projection? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.
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