To start a new series off leading up to the Chiefs season opener against Arizona, I thought of a few things I could do for each pre-season game week. The result? I want to bring attention to the guys who are on the roster bubble and may or may not get a chance to play in the regular season, and give my take on the whole "Should there be a pre-season?" question. This series will run through the pre-season, and you can get a better idea on why I believe the NFL needs to consider having minor league affiliates instead of practice squads and guys getting cut. I'll choose three players, and I will grade them, give a short summary, and decide whether or not they will stay after each pre-season, or will get cut/put on the practice squad, giving light to these guys that may benefit from there being a minors system.
Cornell Powell, WR, Grade: B-
Cornell Powell had a bad year last year. On what looked like a guy that could have the potential to climb to an option 3 or 2 position coming out of college, Powell instead got waived before the season started. He's back now though, and is stacking good practices on top of one another. Something that needs to happen if he intends to make a roster spot. I think this week 1 game will be an important determinant to see who makes it out of that well underrated and stacked wide receiver room. Fountain's health seems to be an issue, Justyn Ross is done for the year, which really only leaves Powell, Justin Watson, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman fighting for those final roster spots. I think Powell has the potential to make it IF Watson proves to be underwhelming (Watson has been doing well in terms of special teams, which with these on the bubble spots, matters a ton), and Corey Coleman reverts to well, 1st year Corey Coleman. I predict Watson and Gordon as of now, but we'll see how this first game goes...
Stay or Go: Go...For Now
Ronald Jones, RB, Grade: B
A lot of analysts are throwing out a theory that Ronald Jones could be what Carlos Hyde was to us a year or two ago. Offer up good trade capital for future late rounders or another position of need. The issue is, there's only room for 4 running backs on the depth chart. There are currently 5 running backs listed on the preseason roster. Isiah Pacheco is surprisingly off to an incredible start to camp, the 7th rounder has stacked on good practices, has shown his abilities in special teams, and is great both in the backfield and out catching passes. I believe he gets a 2nd or 3rd spot so long as he keeps up the great camp, which leaves me with Derrick Gore, Ronald Jones, and Jerick McKinnon fighting for a spot as that 2nd or 3rd RB. The 4th plays special teams basically all the time, and the 5th one well, doesn't make the team. Jerick McKinnon showed his abilities in the playoffs last year, if that momentum keeps he easily earns a spot maybe even as the #1 with CEH taking 2. If not and Jerick's age, wear, and tear shows (He's 28, which is like 84 in running back years these days) I think it's Jones and Gore making up the rest, with Gore dropping if McKinnon makes it. Jones stays, just have good games in preseason.
Stay or Go: Stay
Lucas Niang, T, Grade: D
Time is about up for Lucas Niang I think. He hasn't developed because he hasn't been healthy. When he's played, he's shown he can hang well and be a great lineman, but that's when he's played. Niang has spent most of his career on the PUP list, and hasn't made any headway in making it back on this roster with how camp is going. Where is he, you might ask? On the PUP list. The Chiefs have a lot of depth at tackle now that Orlando Brown Jr. is back, unfortunately I don't think Niang survives to the regular season. It's somewhat sad given his potential, but football is a rough game and people get beaten up.
Stay or Go: Go
I tried to keep it pretty balanced in terms of chances of the picks to make it (Good, Okay, Not Great) What you see here though is just a microcosm of what an NFL GM has to go through every preseason. It's not about the star players, it's about having to make a decision as to whether or not someone gets paid, or someone goes home jobless. Many players who struggle on the bubbles of rosters and have to bounce around from practice squad to practice squad, or roster to roster depending on need, don't live very great lives when they're between teams or on the outside looking in. An NFL minors would change that, and while the USFL is emerging as a possible affiliate I think the NFL should just jump right in and name it one, that or create a minor league of their own. More money, more cities, more jobs, and more fans. You could even make it like the Premier League in England, where if one team does well enough they get promoted, and if one does too poor they get relegated. Whatever, I'm just tired of seeing guys like Daurice Fountain, Jody Fortson, Derrick Gore, Joshua Kaindoh, and even for a while there Rashad Fenton. He's one of the lucky ones that made a bit of a name for himself when he got his shot, the rest aren't so lucky. With an NFL minors yes, you have more chances of injury, you have differing playbooks possibly if you do it like farm affiliates in baseball, and there's a few other things that may need ironed out, but I think if you're the NFL the pros outweigh the cons and you have a whole new window of revenue and fan-power. Let me know your thoughts about this in the comments below and on social media, best answers will get featured in the ScorchCast!
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