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Insider Blog: The Under 25s

Posted Jul 16, 2010

Word of the Chiefs young talent is starting to leak

The Chiefs 2010 off-season has brought a number of key additions on both sides of the football. Kansas City’s rookie class boasts a handful of collegiate All-Americans who are expected to compete for starting positions upon arrival in St. Joseph. Unrestricted free agency also saw suitable additions, landing an All-Pro rusher to pair with one of the game’s brightest young stars and a Super Bowl tested offensive lineman was added to the mix as well.

The player additions this off-season were both exciting and, to state the obvious, much needed. But the Chiefs are a bit of an anomaly when it comes to other teams who have posted similar records over the past few seasons.

The Chiefs, like many low-win teams at the end of the 2009 season, were a squad in needed of a roster facelift. But unlike many of those same low-win teams, Kansas City wasn’t in dire need of a complete overhaul. Young talent was already a part of the roster.

Some of the gameday skill was hidden, and still remains untapped today, while other prospects of talent emerged out of the developmental stages as the season came to a close – see case study #1 in RB Jamaal Charles. Add in a boatload of second and third-year players with an opportunity to see significant playtime in 2010 and a core for the future starts to show signs of materialization.

As a result, head coach Todd Haley placed one of his primary areas of emphasis this off-season in overseeing the progression of the club's young, emerging talent. It’s no secret that the Chiefs success for 2010 will be closely correlated with the marked improvement of second and third year players on this roster (this is particularly evident on the defensive side of the football, as was visited in June’s Insider Blog: The Big Pack).

Exactly how much the Brandon Carr’s and Tyson Jackson’s of the Chiefs roster progressed this off-season is anybody’s guess, and we’ll find out shortly when training camp begins just 14 days from now. But for the folks who just can’t help but make predictions, here is a portion of an in-depth analysis conducted by Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders (via ESPN Insider).

The following (in italics) was published on ESPN.com yesterday…

2010 Organizational Rankings

These rankings consider all players who will be 25 or younger as of September 1, 2010 -- regardless of where they were drafted or how many games they've started. After compiling a list of eligible players for each team, we compared the groups on a variety of factors. We weighed issues like upside versus established production, quantity versus quality, and current staff versus historical ability to develop rookies when it comes to evaluating the talent available to each NFL franchise.

In the end, we put together these rankings with help from the rest of the crew at Football Outsiders. The capsules represent a synopsis of thoughts as to why the team is ranked where they are and who the important young players are for the franchise. However, we should point out that talent under the age of 25 does not equal talent overall. In the NFL, a couple bounces of the ball can turn an average team into a wild-card contender -- but it takes real time to build a team that can challenge for a Super Bowl title. Some of the teams near the top of our list are still a couple of years away from that point, and their rank is more about promise for the future than promise for this upcoming campaign.

Using these guidelines, Barnwell ranks the Chiefs the third best organization in the NFL.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
The secret isn't out yet in Kansas City, but it's about to be -- the Chiefs have one of the best developing cores of talent in the game. They're deepest in the secondary, where fifth-overall pick Eric Berry will play safety behind a strong young tandem of cornerbacks: Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers. They will be joined by a fourth young starter, but incumbent Jarrad Page has requested a trade, which makes it likely that fifth-round pick Kendrick Lewis will start instead. Even nickelback Javier Arenas is a 22-year-old rookie. The front three features 2009 first-rounder Tyson Jackson and 2008 first-rounder Glenn Dorsey, though Dorsey has struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded him before the draft. The Chiefs also have an underrated group of developing players on offense, led by breakout star Jamaal Charles, who was the best running back in football during the second half of the 2009 season. Dwayne Bowe, for all his off-field antics, has shown a decent amount of promise despite playing alongside a litany of middling quarterbacks. He could be joined by 21-year-old Dexter McCluster, who will play the slot as a rookie after converting from running back during the offseason. Left tackle Branden Albert is a serviceable starter at worst, and third-round guard Jon Asamoah is likely to start in 2011. If Kansas City suddenly emerges in the league this year, guys like Charles, Carr, and Berry are going to be household names.

Where Barnwell is wrong is that the secret is already out in Kansas City, at least among many in the Chiefs fan base. It’s outside Kansas City that players like Jamaal Charles and Brandon Flowers are kept buried under the radar. Still, most of these same fans also realize that potential alone doesn’t win football games.

With team success come individual accolades and national exposure. For that to happen, the Chiefs “Under 25’s” will have to take the next step together, as an entire unit. If that can occur, better days will be on the horizon.

“Those second-year, third-year guys have to develop,” Haley said.

Just two weeks from today we’ll get our own first-hand look at the progression of the Chiefs “Under 25s.”

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