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7 Chiefs to watch if OTAs were beginning this week

Chiefs Wire logo Chiefs Wire 5/19/2020 Charles Goldman
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Organized team activities (OTAs) typically would be just around the corner for the Kansas City Chiefs and the rest of the NFL, but not this year. The COVID-19 pandemic still has players and coaches away from team facilities, so if OTAs happen, it’ll be at a later date.

OTAs mark the first point in the offseason where all of the Chiefs’ players, including rookies and veterans, would be on the field and working together. No live contact is permitted during OTAs, but the addition of 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills advances the offseason program significantly. We’d also be getting an early idea of how the depth chart would look like in Kansas City for the 2020 season.

The Chiefs, of course, have the luxury of returning 20-of-22 starters from their Super Bowl-winning squad. They’ll still need help from every player if they’re to run it back during the 2020 NFL season.

Obviously, there aren’t any OTAs happening this week, but if there were, these are the players that we’d be keeping an eye on.

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OL Martinas Rankin

Acquired from the Houston Texans in a trade for RB Carlos Hyde ahead of the start of the 2019 season, Rankin is a player that should be squarely in the mix to start at the left guard position for Kansas City. He started five games for the Chiefs before suffering a knee injury that knocked him out for the remainder of the year. Depending on where Rankin is in his recovery, he’ll be someone to watch as a potential starter in 2020.

Rankin won’t be unchallenged, however. He’ll face fierce competition from former starting LG Andrew Wylie. Don’t count out rookie players like draft pick Lucas Niang and undrafted free agent Yasir Durant.

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DE Taco Charlton

The newest addition to the Chiefs’ defensive line came by way of Dallas and Miami. Charlton hasn’t yet lived up to his first-round draft status, but now that he is reunited with former Michigan Wolverines teammate Frank Clark, expectations are high. Clark even thinks he can help turn Charlton into a legend.

Charlton’s contract suggests that he isn’t a lock to make the Chiefs, but I’m interested to see where he opens up on the depth chart. Is he going to push to take second-team snaps ahead of someone like Breeland Speaks? This is now a contract year for Charlton, so he should be more motivated than ever to make things work in Kansas City and secure a big payday.

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LB Darius Harris

Harris lost his rookie season to a shoulder injury that kept him on the NFI list. This is an undrafted free agent from the 2019 class who received high praise from Chiefs general manager Brett Veach. He believed that if he were healthy he would have been drafted and he even tabbed him as a future starter in the NFL.

Kansas City added Willie Gay Jr. in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft and I fully expect him to take the remaining starting spot in the Chiefs’ lineup. So where does Harris fit? I think he’ll be competing with guys like Dorian O’Daniel and Ben Niemann for a spot on the 53-man roster with his primary contributions coming on special teams.

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CB L’Jarius Sneed

Kansas City seems to have a perpetual need at the cornerback position and they’re content to address it in unique ways. Sneed is an interesting player because he’s switching back to the cornerback position after playing safety for a full year. How quickly do the Chiefs envision him being able to switch back and adjust to the NFL game? I’ll be interested to see where he lands on the depth chart and what side of the field he lines up at.

They may need a player like Sneed to step up sooner rather than later because starting CB Bashaud Breeland is facing a multi-game suspension to start the season. While Rashad Fenton is probably the immediate next-man-up in Kansas City, they’re one injury away from having to rely on an unproven player.

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WR Jody Fortson Jr.

I thought that Fortson Jr. was one of the more impressive undrafted free agents from the 2019 class. He really impressed me during his final preseason game in 2019 against the Green Bay Packers, catching two passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. He also forced a fumble on special teams during the same game.

I know that the Chiefs’ offense is predicated on speed and Fortson might not have that top gear that Kansas City is looking for. At the same time, I’m so intrigued by his ability to compete at the catch point and box out defensive backs. I’m intrigued to see how much of a jump this player has made in his second season in the NFL.

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P Tommy Townsend

The Chiefs recently said goodbye to longtime punter Dustin Colquitt. They’re going to need a replacement as both a punter and holder for kicker Harrison Butker. Townsend is favored to win the job because he has experience doing both of those things with the Florida Gators.

Townsend won’t be uncontested, though, as he’ll face competition from second-year punter Tyler Newsome. Townsend has the edge as a holder, but Newsome definitely is an athlete to be reckoned with. I want to see how these two players look early on and how the snaps fall. There’s nothing more exciting than watching a punter battle, right?

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WR Mecole Hardman

Hardman is one of the most unique returning contributors on offense. In 2019, he was electric with limited touches on offense and special teams. Expectations are high for the second-year receiver, so high that fellow receiver Tyreek Hill says there is no ceiling for what he can do.

Hardman isn’t going to have an easier time earning more snaps in this offense in 2020. He’ll have to contend with the lizard king Sammy Watkins, who has promised World War III if he doesn’t get his fair share of the action on offense. The Chiefs also return Demarcus Robinson, who took snaps away from Hardman in 2019. What I want to see here is the exact percentage of snaps he takes with the first team and whether his role on special teams remains the same in 2020.

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