Chiefs final 53-man roster projection: Could the rookie-heavy lineup leave veterans without spots?

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The Kansas City Chiefs open the 2022 NFL regular season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 11 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

This promises to be a different type of roster this season for the Chiefs, who made 10 draft picks this year. They probably won’t keep of them all, but rookies will still claim a larger chunk of the roster spots than they have in recent years.

Two veterans who may not make the roster are running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver Josh Gordon. Otherwise, the most difficult roster decisions appear to be on defense, where the Chiefs may go heavy on the line after adding veterans Carlos Dunlap and Danny Shelton during training camp.

The roster will be cut to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Aug. 30. Here is a projection:

QUARTERBACK (2): Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne

The Chiefs never had in any serious competition for Mahomes’ backup. The job was Henne’s throughout training camp. The question is whether they retain a third quarterback in Shane Buechele. But it’s difficult to justify the roster spot for someone who doesn’t figure to play.

RUNNING BACK (4): Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, Isiah Pacheco, Michael Burton

Ronald Jones never got any traction on the depth chart in training camp or during the preseason. He play at all in the first half of the team’s second preseason game — the one that offers the best look into the team’s thinking — and he didn’t touch the ball once all afternoon. It appears the Chiefs are ready to move on without him.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Daurice Fountain

These players were consistently the top six wide receivers at training camp as Kansas City looks to replace Tyreek Hill’s production. Josh Gordon didn’t show enough at camp to break into this group, and it looks like his remaining days with the team are limited.

TIGHT END (4): Travis Kelce, Jody Fortson, Noah Gray, Blake Bell

The Chiefs appeared set on keeping four players here before Bell injured his hip in the preseason opener, but now there is a bit of a question there. They will likely keep him on the 53-player roster to begin the season if there’s a significant chance he could return at some point during the season. Otherwise, he will go on injured reserve, and the Chiefs might search for a replacement.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Orlando Brown Jr., Andrew Wylie, Joe Thuney, Trey Smith, Creed Humphrey, Geron Christian, Prince Tega Wanogho, Nick Allegretti, Austin Reiter

These might be the most difficult decisions on offense for the Chiefs, at least beyond the starting five. The Chiefs spent most of training camp waiting for backups other than Allegretti to claim a roster spot. A waiver claim, particularly at tackle, wouldn’t be a surprise.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10): Frank Clark, Mike Danna, George Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton, Khalen Saunders, Danny Shelton, Malik Herring

The Chiefs have some depth at these positions after their training camp additions — including Dunlap and Shelton — so don’t expect them to trim extensively here.

LINEBACKER (5): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay, Elijah Lee, Leo Chenal, Darius Harris

The Chiefs may keep six players here. If they do, free agent addition Jermaine Carter is the logical choice to stick with the team.

CORNERBACK (6): L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, Rashad Fenton, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson, Chris Lammons

McDuffie, Williams and Watson are all rookies. McDuffie is the lone rookie starter, but with Williams and Watson also expected to play a bit, the Chiefs might have to suffer through some growing pains. Still, the Chiefs are encouraged about where all three players are headed.

SAFETY (4): Juan Thornhill, Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Deon Bush

This is another spot where much is new. Cook, the third safety, is a rookie, and Thornhill is the only member of the group who played for the Chiefs last season.

SPECIALIST (3): K Harrison Butker, P Tommy Townsend, LS James Winchester

The Chiefs will have the same kicker, punter and snapper for the third straight season.

Source: ESPN

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