Analysis Opinion

Five Kansas City Chiefs players looking to revive their careers in 2020

The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off of one of the most impressive seasons in franchise history, one that culminated in a Super Bowl LIV victory. It would be fair to assume that there aren’t many places to improve on a Super Bowl roster, but surprisingly that isn’t the case for the Chiefs. They have multiple areas of their team that could use improvement from their performance in 2019. Mainly the changes need to be made defensively, but the offensive line also had struggles last year. Each unit has average depth, but there is a small group of players that will need improvement in 2020. Most of the players on this list have never reached their full potential, and one has begun to regress over the last couple of years due to injury. Improvements will be a necessity for all five of these Chiefs in 2020 if they hope to revive their careers.

1. Dorian O’Daniel, LB, (#44)- Since entering the league back in 2018 out of Clemson, O’Daniel has struggled to get an opportunity at meaningful playing time in Kansas City. It’s not clear as to why he has struggled to see the field when he is playing his physical ability allows him to make big plays. He has a rare blend of speed and physicality that would make him the perfect weak side LB on third downs, which will allow him to move freely and cover the pass. His speed and coverage ability are his biggest strengths, and this position alignment will put Willie Gay Jr playing strong side. I wonder if O’Daniel struggles with the mental side of the game. It’s the only thing that makes sense, because the raw talent is there. O’Daniel will need to fix whatever has stunted his development in 2020 if he has any hopes of reviving his career. 

2. Anthony Hitchens, LB, (#53)- The polarizing things about Anthony Hitchens during his time in Dallas were his football I.Q., his physical style of play, and his versatility. He has yet to reach the high expectations Chiefs Kingdom set for him coming into Kansas City back in 2018. I feel like he showed signs of improvement in 2019, which could bode well for him heading into the 2020 season. With the addition of Willie Gay Jr, I expect that Hitchens will get to play the MLB or Mike LB in Spagnuolo’s scheme. With a $12.6 million cap hit in 2020, Hitchens will have to show vast improvement to make his production worth that kind of money. If not, I don’t know if he will be in the fold for the Chiefs in 2021 without a contract restructure.

3. Breeland Speaks, DE, (#57)- The start to Breeland Speaks career has been disappointing. Unfortunately, after showing flashes of brilliance at times in 2018, Speaks suffered a season-ending injury in training camp last year that forced him to miss all of 2019. It’s frustrating since he seemed out of position on the outside in Bob Sutton’s scheme, but the switch to a 4-3 was going to allow him to play his natural position where he had the most success in college. The big question mark with Speaks since the 2018 season is his work ethic, and commitment to staying in football shape. Before his injury in camp last year, Speaks reported to St. Joseph noticeably heavy in comparison to 2018. He hopefully is committed to staying in shape and can find a way to cement himself in the DE rotation opposite of Frank Clark. I am expecting big things out of former second-round pick Breeland Speaks. He will need to live up to such expectations if he plans on reaching his potential and reviving his career in Kansas City in 2020. 

4. Taco Charlton, DE, (#94)- This situation might be the most polarizing on this list. You have a guy here in former Dallas Cowboys first-round pick Taco Charlton, who has all the talent in the world but can’t seem to put it all together. Although Charlton has shown flashes of potential, his effort on the field has been questionable at times. I see this as his primary issue when turning on the tape, but I do think that his situation in Dallas wasn’t the best considering the pressure that comes with being a Cowboys first-round pick. At times he seems interested in making plays, but since he doesn’t possess elite speed, he has to rely on technique and power. These two approaches are hard to execute if you are in a scheme that doesn’t fit your style. He seemed unable to handle the pressure in Dallas and wasn’t a scheme fit for Miami. The time for Charlton to show the world what he is capable of is now in Kansas City. Opposite of his good friend and former college teammate at Michigan Frank Clark, Taco will fit the scheme in a way that should maximize what he is good at and hide some of the functional athletic flaws that he has displayed in the past. If he can’t succeed in Kansas City, I don’t believe he will succeed anywhere. This year is imperative for his future, and I think if Taco can make the roster he will show signs of improvement in 2020 and revive his disappointing career.

5. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OL, (#76)- This is the one player on the list that some Chiefs fans may find surprising. In the past, you could argue that LDT was an elite level up and coming guard in this league. Unfortunately, injuries have seemed to stunt his development, and his game has declined in recent years. The team recently restructured his contract, which will give them the ability to cut ties with him after 2020 if he doesn’t show the potential he once flashed. His potential helped him secure his original five-year, $42.4 million deal he signed back in 2017, but he hasn’t shown the level of growth the team hoped for. He has a great story, and has helped many people using his medical degree during COVID-19, but if he can’t return to his old form we may be entering our last year of seeing Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in Kansas City. The bottom line in Kansas City now is if you can’t consistently protect reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes then the front office will find someone who can.

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