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Kansas City Chiefs Breakout Candidates

Kansas City Chiefs Breakout Candidates: A look at some of the new faces primed to make an impact this season.
Kansas City Chiefs Breakout Candidates

The Kansas City Chiefs endured an exceptionally eventful offseason. The jettisoning of fan favorites, Eric Berry and Justin Houston, headlined the roster turnover. Chiefs general manager Brett Veach spent the summer unloading other burdensome contracts as well. On top of all this, was the entire Tyreek Hill saga. Kansas City was forced to plan for a future without their star receiver. The events this offseason have opened up opportunities for young players to take the next step. Here’s a look at a few breakout candidates for the Kansas City Chiefs this upcoming season

Kansas City Chiefs Breakout Candidates

Mecole Hardman

The day of the draft was a complete nightmare for the Kansas City Chiefs front office. All the scouting and preparation during the past year led up to this day. You evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses, upcoming free agents, and create your draft board. Hours before the draft, a local Kansas City news station released audio of Tyreek Hill threatening his girlfriend. The story caught on like wildfire. It seemed Tyreek Hill might fall by way of Ray Rice and be banned from the league. This likely forced the Chiefs to reconsider their entire draft just hours before it started. Turns out, they needed to grab a receiver far earlier than they expected.

Enter Mecole Hardman. The 5’10” 187lb wide receiver was as close of a mold as you could get to Tyreek Hill. Experts wondered whether he will be able to fill the role of a conventional wide receiver. While he did run a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine, Hardman had little experience playing as a traditional receiver. Georgia used Hardman very similarly to the way Andy Reid has used Tyreek Hill.

With defenses devoting so much attention to the likes of Tyreek Hill (who won’t face any suspension), Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins, Hardman is likely to find himself in some fantastic mismatches. He may even get some time at the number two receiver position, considering Sammy Watkins hasn’t played a complete season since his rookie year. Additionally, Andy Reid always finds creative ways to use exceptional athletes. Hardman will be no different.

Charvarius Ward

For a team that ranked second-worst in passing yards allowed, they had very little change amongst the defensive backfield. Bashaud Breeland was the only significant cornerback signing. This is likely in part due to what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo thinks of Charvarius Ward. It wasn’t until the second half of the season that Ward saw any playing time for Kansas City. He would be a household Chief name had his interception not been called back after Dee Ford lined up offside in the AFC Championship game. This season, expect Ward to have a larger role.

Due to his size, length, and physicality, look for him to be playing out wide occasionally. His play is similar to that ex-Chief Sean Smith. Like Smith, Ward is good at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and staying attached at the hip in man coverage. He also has good length, allowing him to break up a lot of passes. What gives him such great potential is his ball skills. It’s something that players either have or don’t. Ward has an eye for the ball and frequently takes aggressive routes to it. This aggressiveness is something the Chiefs have been missing ever since the departure of Marcus Peters. This will help him stand out amongst the young defensive back group this season. He has as much big-play potential as any other defensive back on the roster if not more.

Alex Okafor

This offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs changed their defensive scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3. This made changes at the edge-rushing positions necessary. Frank Clark grabbed headlines as the big new addition to the Kansas City front, leaving  Alex Okafor overlooked. The Texas alum has the perfect build for a 4-3 edge rusher. His strength and long arms allow him to be more physical from the three-point stance than Dee Ford was. Having Okafor at the edge should improve the Chiefs run defense as a whole. What makes Okafor a breakout candidate is the attention that will be paid to Chris Jones and Frank Clark. They will see the majority of the double teams leaving Okafor with the easiest path to the quarterback. Expect to see some big number from Okafor this season

Kansas City’s offseason was built around getting younger and faster. They created space for competition at multiple positions, challenging players to step up their game. Everyone must prove their worth to get time on the field. Alex Okafor, Charvarius Ward and Mecole Hardman seem to be in the best position to do so in 2019.

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