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All-Underrated Team: Chiefs Offense

Posted Jun 14, 2011

The most underrated offensive players at each position over the past five years

John Clayton of ESPN.com recently released his All-Underrated Team, identifying Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers as one of the NFL’s most underrated players.

“The deepest position on the underrated team was cornerback,” Clayton wrote. “Brandon Flowers of the Chiefs came into the league with Brandon Carr in what was a great draft class for the Chiefs in 2008. Carr was the man-to-man specialist. Flowers was more of a Cover 2 corner, who could read a quarterback and close on the ball to make an interception or tackle.”

Few Chiefs fans would argue with Flowers’ nomination. While he’s been a cornerstone in the Chiefs secondary upon arrival, Flowers has yet to earn any type of individual honor other than a 2008 Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie Team nomination.

Forget Pro Bowl snubs, Flowers has received essentially ZERO recognition outside of Kansas City. Brandon Carr may be one of the most underrated players on the Chiefs roster, but Flowers is among the most underrated in all of football.

With that, Clayton’s list got me thinking about the internal vs. external perception of Chiefs players.

Flowers, for instance, would never be considered an underrated player inside Kansas City’s fan base. Even the most casual Chiefs fan likely knows that Flowers is part of the club’s upper-echelon of talent. He’s a familiar name throughout the fan base.

Leave the friendly confines of The Kingdom and that’s obviously not the case. But let’s stay within the arena we’re most familiar with – Arrowhead Stadium.

Who are some of the most underrated players to strap on a Chiefs helmet over the past five years? There have been classic over-achievers, season-saving reserves and a handful of starters whose accomplishments have sometimes gone overlooked.

Flowers is underrated nationally, but who has gone underrated locally?

This is KCChiefs.com’s All-Underrated Chiefs Team from the last five years – not from a national set of eyes, but from a local perspective. Players are eligible as long as they played in a game from 2006-2010. We’ve selected one player at each position and some of the selections might surprise you.

Let’s start with the offense. Tomorrow we’ll unveil the defense.

WR – Dwayne Bowe (2007- Present)

What a place to start…with a Pro Bowler…real original…way to go out on a limb. Yes, everyone knows who Dwayne Bowe is – Chiefs fans, Broncos fans, Cowboys fans and probably even a few soccer fans – he’s not at all under the radar. But did we all overlook his success prior to the 2010 season?

Bowe has been a lightning rod for criticism throughout his Chiefs tenure and a lot of the frustrations have been warranted. The former first-round pick has struggled with drops, concentration and conditioning among other things. But he’s also just five yards shy from churning out three 1,000-yard receiving seasons over his first four NFL seasons.

No player selected from the 2007 NFL Draft has more catches than Bowe (275) and only Calvin Johnson has more receiving yards (4,191 vs. Bowe’s 3,768). Considering the overall state of Kansas City’s offense from 2007-09, not to mention in the passing game, maybe Bowe’s first three NFL seasons weren’t as disappointing as some of us had believed?

TE Jason Dunn (2000-07)

For the majority of his Chiefs career, Dunn was considered the one of the game’s best blocking tight ends. He played in over 100 games with the Chiefs and helped RB Larry Johnson set a franchise single-season rushing record with 1,789 yards in 2006.

It’s tough to find offensive tackles that can run block as well as Dunn did. Dunn was essentially a sixth offensive lineman who could also run check-down routes and score the occasional touchdown. While Tony Gonzalez enjoyed All-Pro season after All-Pro season, Dunn’s contributions as a reserve tight end were in some ways just as important as Gonzalez’s.

LT Branden Albert (2008-Present)

Each off-season, rumors fly regarding a position change for Albert. By the time Opening Day rolls around, Albert is once again manning the quarterback’s blind side. He’s yet to play anything but left tackle in Kansas City.

The Chiefs have had opportunities to draft a starting left tackle in each of the last two drafts and passed on the opportunity both times. Could Albert decrease those 7.75 sacks allowed last season? Sure. But he’s obviously doing something right.

G – Wade Smith (2008-09)

Smith was a somewhat of a savior for a battered Chiefs offensive line from 2008-09. Though technically a reserve player, Smith started 16 games at center, guard and tackle depending on which position was short-handed at the time.

He’s also continued to give back to the Chiefs since signing with the Texans as an unrestricted free agent in 2010.  Kansas City received a 2011 compensatory pick in exchange for Smith’s departure, using the extra choice to select DT Jerrell Powe out of Mississippi in the sixth round.

C – Casey Wiegmann (2001-07; 2010-Present)

Is it any coincidence that Kansas City’s offensive numbers fell to league lows in a number of categories following Wiegmann’s 2008 departure, but returned to much higher levels upon his return last season? A lot of factors played into the Chiefs offensive improvement last season and Wiegmann’s return to Kansas City was part of the change.

At age 37, Wiegmann increased his consecutive snaps total past the 10,000 mark. If he decides to play again in 2011, betting against that streak would be underestimating one of the toughest players in franchise history.

G – Ryan Lilja (2010-Present)

Brian Waters went to the 2011 Pro Bowl as the representative of a five-man front that paved the way for Kansas City’s league-leading ground game. Though Waters is the clear-cut leader of the Chiefs offensive line, many would argue that Lilja had the finest season of any Kansas City lineman last season.

It’s a shame that Lilja was overlooked as a rookie and wasn’t been able to spend his entire career in a Chiefs uniform. At least the Chiefs got a second chance.

RT – Barry Richardson (2008-Present)

He came out of nowhere to start 16 games last season following a two-year NFL career that included just one start and a trip to the practice squad. Not only did Richardson surprise last season, but he also showed versatility and obvious development when he shifted over for a start at left tackle in place of an injured Branden Albert at Seattle. What ensued would be the Chiefs best offensive day in 2010.

Not selecting an offensive tackle in April’s draft was a vote of confidence for Richardson. It won’t be surprising if he turns in back-to-back 16-start seasons.

QB – Damon Huard (2004-08)

Look no further than the 2006 season when Huard kept the Chiefs on pace despite an Opening Day injury to starter Pro Bowl QB Trent Green. Huard hadn’t started a game since the 2000 season, and the fan base was plenty nervous about him heading under center, but Huard proved his value by setting a Chiefs single-season record and leading the NFL with a 0.4 INT percentage (1 INT in 224 attempts).

He’d keep Kansas City in the playoff race and post a 97.6 QB rating along with a 5-3 record as a starter.

FB – Mike Cox (2008-Present)

Cox has laid a lot of blocks over the last two seasons that have sprung Jamaal Charles for extra yardage. He also owns the battle wounds to show for it. Each season, the max-effort fullback develops a recurring gash across the top of his nose from taking on defenders at full speed play after play. He’s usually bloodied before the end of the first quarter.

Since Tony Richardson left town following the 2005 season, Chiefs fullbacks have had big shoes to fill. Cox serves a different role than the one asked of Richardson, but it’s still an important part of the Chiefs offense.

RB – Jackie Battle (2007-Present)

Has it really been four seasons since Battle joined the Chiefs as an undrafted rookie? Originally a practice squad refugee heading to his second team, Battle has fought to keep hold of his roster spot since the 2007 season. Each year, he’s seen his role with the team grow.

Battle’s staying power has come as a reliable special teams player, but he evolved into Kansas City’s short-yardage running back in 2010. He’s never at the top of the depth chart, but always finds a way to be part of the 53-man roster.

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