Chiefs flying under the radar

While most of the discussion in Chiefs Kingdom the last few weeks has focused on the draft and how rookies will impact the roster, other players are flying under the radar. Let's take a look at how some of these lesser names might impact the Chiefs in 2008.

QB Damon Huard

Recent reports from NFL Network's Adam Schefter suggest the Chiefs are quite high on second-year quarterback Tyler Thigpen. High enough, in fact, that they think he could even challenge Brodie Croyle for the starting job.

At least as it relates to the upcoming season, that story seems to be blown out of proportion. The Chiefs have been set on Croyle since 2007 ended, and it's not like anything has happened recently to give rise to that kind of story, like Thigpen outperforming Croyle in team practices. OTAs haven't even begun yet.

Still, the team does like Thigpen, and it's not difficult to imagine him rising to #2 on the depth chart this year. But if he does, where does that leave Huard?

As scary as it is to admit, Huard might actually still be the best option the Chiefs have. But it makes absolutely no sense for a rebuilding team to play a 35 year-old quarterback, especially when the team's owner has stated that finding a young franchise quarterback is a top goal. Is there any scenario, other than injuries to Croyle and Thigpen, where Huard would see action in 2008?

Both he and the Chiefs must know the answer to that question. With teams like the Green Bay Packers in the market for a veteran backup, however, it seems entirely possible Huard might be elsewhere when the season begins.

But in my opinion, Huard's value as a veteran quarterback who can help mentor Croyle and Thigpen would outweigh the sixth or seventh-round draft pick the Chiefs would likely be offered for him.

WR Bobby Sippio

For a team with such poor depth at wide receiver, the Chiefs haven't done a whole lot to strengthen the position in the offseason. But the moves they did make might have been enough to put the squeeze on the receiver who gained cult-hero status last summer.

Of course, I say that with absolutely no knowledge of how Sippio will perform this year. That's the problem with trying to analyze someone who has been an entirely unknown commodity to this point. Now that he'll have a chance to start off on the same foot with the other receivers, Sippio could easily end up with a roster spot if he performs well during OTAs and training camp.

Barring that kind of solid offseason performance, though, the numbers just don't seem in his favor at the moment. It remains to be seen how many receivers the Chiefs will carry this season, but Dwayne Bowe, Will Franklin, Devard Darling, and Jeff Webb seem like pretty safe bets to be four of them. And sixth-round pick Kevin Robinson will obviously land a roster spot if he handles the return duties.

That's five receivers. If the Chiefs carry six, among the other potential candidates is undrafted free agent Luke Swan from Wisconsin. Though he may have to go on the PUP list due to the torn hamstring he suffered as a college senior, the Chiefs were so set on signing Swan after the draft that Bill Kuharich personally made the phone calls to his agent.

But the team also seemed high on Sippio a year ago when Carl Peterson lamented the fact that they hadn't brought him into training camp sooner. It's not yet known how things will shake out for the former Arena League star, but I'm sure a lot of Chiefs fans are pulling for him.

TE Michael Allan

The Chiefs' seventh-round pick last year, Allan couldn't have been thrilled when he learned that the team had taken two tight ends in this year's draft. And judging by the reactions I saw, many fans seemed to think the writing was on the wall for Allan's future with the team.

But I hope the additions don't mean that Allan's spot is in jeopardy.

When the Chiefs drafted Brad Cottam and Mike Merritt, it was their blocking ability that the staff singled out for praise. And judging by the amount of fullbacks and tight ends the Chiefs are bringing in, it looks as though Chan Gailey is leaving no stone unturned as he searches for the best possible blockers to aid his offense.

On the other hand, when Allan came out last year, he was described as a marginal blocker and much more of a pass-catching threat. Although Cottam may develop into both a blocker and a solid pass-catcher in time, Allan remains the best receiving tight end behind Tony Gonzalez.

The Chiefs are obviously looking for some extra road graders, but I think it would be foolish to part ways with someone who has the potential to be used as an offensive weapon. What if Gonzalez misses a few games? Is Merritt going to stretch the defense?

OT Herb Taylor

In the post-draft analyses of the Chiefs' offensive line, many seem to have sixth-round pick Barry Richardson already penciled in at right tackle. But don't be too quick to discount Taylor, last year's sixth-rounder.

Taylor lacks size compared to Richardson, but 6-foot-3 and nearly 300 pounds is nothing to sneeze at. Richardson may be the better run blocker, but Taylor would have the edge in pass blocking, and a lot of the sacks the Chiefs allowed came from the right side last year.

Even if Richardson does end up at right tackle, what about lining Taylor up next to him at guard? The Chiefs acknowledged the possibility of moving him inside upon drafting him last year. And, frankly, anything sounds better than having Damion McIntosh there. He'll still have a role as a valuable back-up, though.

An offensive line of Branden Albert, Brian Waters, Rudy Niswanger, Herb Taylor, and Barry Richardson may not come together right away, but that's certainly the look of a rebuilding team. And think of the potential down the line – four of those five could be lining up together for the next decade.

CB Rashad Barksdale

There are probably some people reading this who still aren't sure who Rashad Barksdale is. Projected as both a corner and safety in the pros, Barksdale was the Philadelphia Eagles' sixth-round pick last year. After spending his first four seasons playing baseball for the University at Albany, he walked onto the football team in his final year of eligibility and ended up starting ten games for the Great Danes at corner.

He stood out immediately and caught the attention of pro scouts by his third game. Still, due to only having one year of college football under his belt, it was assumed that he'd go undrafted. But the Eagles were impressed by his size, speed, and raw talent – he stands 5-foot-11 and ran a 4.38 at his pro day – and took him in the sixth round.

The Chiefs clearly had their eye on Barksdale too, as they poached him in early September before Philly could add him to their practice squad. In doing so, the team had to guarantee him a roster spot, which is no small detail.

Barksdale didn't join the Chiefs until early September, just a week before the season opener. Naturally, such a late arrival made it difficult for him to factor into the team's plans at cornerback, but he did play in several games on special teams. With plenty of competition expected at the corner position this summer, he has the chance to make his mark.

And as a fan of HBO's The Wire, I have to admit that I'm pulling for him to become not just a starter, but a leader on the team. Then we could refer to the entire Chiefs' secondary as "The Barksdale crew," and I could close columns with random Wire quotes that sound like they're vaguely related to sports.

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