Nick Jacobs: Predicting Chiefs’ 53-man roster for 2021 season

Additional roster cuts coming Aug. 24 and 31
Chiefs 49ers Football
Posted at 12:46 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 14:13:52-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs have their first preseason game under their belt.

Players have had the chance to shine under the lights, but that also means that teams will begin to pare down their rosters over the next few Tuesdays before settling on a final 53-man roster for the 2021 season.

The Chiefs announced five roster moves Tuesday morning in the first wave of cuts.

Kansas City waived tight end Evan Baylis and wide receiver Antonio Callaway with an injury designation. If they clear waivers, they will go on the team's injured reserve list for the season with no chance to return unless they reach an injury settlement and become a free agent.

The Chiefs placed running back Elijah McGuire on injured reserve, ending his season but allowing Kansas City to retain his rights.

Finally, Kansas City waived defensive back Manny Patterson and released wide receiver Chad Williams, a vested veteran who is allowed under NFL rules to sign with another team immediately.

LISTEN | Nick Jacobs analyzes the good, bad from Chiefs' preseason opener

The Chiefs would benefit from an addition at the "X" receiver spot and potentially could add depth at cornerback or safety, but the roster overall is in arguably the best shape it has been in during Chiefs general manager Brett Veach's tenure.

Here is a current projection for the final 53-man roster based on my observations at camp and during the preseason game. The on-the-bubble designation are spots where I think the final roster battles are being fought over the next two weeks:

Quarterbacks (2)
Patrick Mahomes and Chad Henne

The Chiefs may put their third quarterback on the practice squad, because they will likely need the roster spot for offense or defensive line this season.

Buechele showed promise in the two-minute drill in Saturday's preseason win at the San Francisco 49ers, while Gordon looked erratic on his deep throws.

Practice Squad potential: Shane Buechele
Cut: Anthony Gordon

Running backs/Fullback (4)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon and Michael Burton

The Chiefs have a very strong backfield that compliments one another well.

Edwards-Helaire is a well-rounded back. McKinnon is a good pass protector with great acceleration and could be lethal in the Chiefs' passing game, while Williams has picked up where he left off at the end of last year as a bruising back who has found his acceleration again.

Thompson has shown a better burst and increased power this camp. He could really shine over the next two games with increased reps and could warrant a trade, if the Chiefs elected to move on.

Burton is going to be a strong special-teams performer and can make the roster off that alone.

Trade potential: Darwin Thompson
Cut: Derrick Gore

Wide Receiver (6)
Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, Mecole Jr., Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp and Cornell Powell

Brett Veach and his front office have a tough decision on the sixth and potentially seventh receiver spots.

Marcus Kemp and Daurice Fountain are both making strong pushes for a roster spot with their ability on special teams and the targets they have received during camp and preseason.

Kansas City might be able to sneak Powell onto the practice squad.

On the bubble: Daurice Fountain, Marcus Kemp and Cornell Powell
Practice squad candidate: Cornell Powell
Cut: Gehrig Dieter, Maurice Ffrench, Dalton Schoen and Darrius Shepherd

Tight End (4)
Travis Kelce, Jody Fortson, Blake Bell and Noah Gray
Kelce and Fortson have been the best tight ends at camp and it isn't close.

Fortson provides the team a more reliable version of Demetrius Harris. He is similiar in athletic ability but has much more reliable hands.

Bell is on the roster for his ferocious ability as a blocking tight end as well as his ability to contribute on special teams.

Finally, Gray has work ahead of him on timing routes and improving his blocking as well as athletic ability, but all four should make the 53-man roster.

Offensive Line (10)
Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, Lucas Niang, Mike Remmers, Austin Blythe, Nick Allegretti, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Andrew Wylie

The Chiefs are going to have a tough time settling on their offensive line cuts this year, but that's a great problem to have in August.

The starting five appear to be set with Remmers and Wylie providing tackle depth.

Blythe is the top interior backup and Duvernay-Tardif, who returns from opting out to help treat COVID-19 patients in his native Canada last year, is a solid backup. If LDT waived his no-trade clause, he could find a starting spot on another roster.

Trade potential: Nick Allegretti, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Andrew Wylie
Physically Unable to Perform list: Kyle Long
Practice squad candidate: Yasir Durant
Cut: Wyatt Miller, Prince Tega Wanogho and Darryl Williams

Defensive Line (9)
Chris Jones, Jarran Reed, Tershawn Wharton, Frank Clark, Mike Danna, Derrick Nnadi, Khalen Saunders, Taco Charlton and Joshua Kaindoh

The Chiefs have another good problem along the defensive line with three quality pass rushers that are in danger of not making the cut.

Ward and Tyler Clark both shined against the 49ers and could play themselves onto the roster, especially if there is an injury before the final 53 is determined.

Saunders had a strong showing with the first-team defense and likely locked in a roster spot as the fourth rotational defensive tackle.

Okafor still could make the roster but there is a ton of promising young talent that doesn't have the same wear and tear injury-wise, which has been an issue during his time in Kansas City. Danna has had a strong camp, making Okafor expendable.

On the bubble: Alex Okafor, Tim Ward and Tyler Clark
Cut: Alex Okafor, Demone Harris, Austin Edwards and Malik Herring

Linebackers (5)
Willie Gay Jr., Anthony Hitchens, Nick Bolton, Omari Cobb and Ben Niemann

If it were up to me, I would move on from Ben Niemann, because Omari Cobb and Riley Cole both show more long-term promise and have better athletic abiltiy.

But Niemann seems to have a great grasp of the scheme and can provide help on special teams.

Dorian O'Daniel's only chance to make the roster is as a four-phase special teams performer, but in my version he's cut because he can't provide help at the linebacker position and other numbers force them to keep five instead of six. Sorensen can help act as a linebacker in sub-packages.

Practice squad candidates: Omari Cobb and Riley Coley
Cut: Dorian O'Daniel, Darrius Harris and Emmanuel Smith

Cornerbacks (5)
L'Jarius Sneed, Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes, Deandre Baker and Rashad Fenton

The Chiefs have one of their better cornerback rooms during the Steve Spagnuolo era.

Keyes is potentially on the bubble and could find himself on the practice squad depending on his eligibility, while Lammons had a strong performance Saturday at San Francisco and can help a great deal on special teams.

On the bubble: BoPete Keyes and Chris Lammons
Cut: Dicaprio Bootle and Zayne Anderson

Safeties (5)
Tyrann Mathieu, Daniel Sorensen, Juan Thornhill, Will Parks and Armani Watts

Will Parks has flashed as a blitzer off the edge and is a physical tackler in run support. Watts will make the squad if the game continues to move too fast for Key during the next two weeks.

Watts has a leg up because of his ability on special teams.

On the bubble: Armani Watts and Devon Key
Practice squad candidates: Devon Key
Cut: Rodney Clemons and Marlon Character

Specialist (3)
Harrison Butker, Tommy Townsend and James Winchester

The Chiefs are set here.

Roster breakdown

  • Offense: 27
  • Defense: 23
  • Specialists: 3

On-the-bubble breakdown

  • Wide receivers: Daurice Fountain and Marcus Kemp
  • Defensive ends: Alex Okafor, Tim Ward and Tyler Clark
  • Cornerbacks: BoPete Keyes and Chris Lammons
  • Safeties: Armani Watts and Devon Key

The nine players above are battling for four or five roster spots depending on potential numbers at other positions or trades.

These players all can compete on an NFL roster, but may potentially get caught up in a numbers game as the Chiefs try to get down to 53 players.

Pay attention to their snaps on special teams, which will go a long way in determining their fate with the Chiefs over the next two weeks.