‘Hard Knocks’ Star Among 2 Surprising Cuts on Early Chiefs Roster Projection

Andy Reid Chiefs

Getty Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach (left) Andy Reid stands alongside team owner Clark Hunt (right).

After posting strong attendance across OTAs and mandatory minicamp, the Kansas City Chiefs are currently breaking from formal practices before training camp opens on July 28 on the campus of Missouri Western State.

With over one month to go until summer sessions kick into high gear, KC Sports Network’s Kent Swanson has taken a swing at projecting the team’s final 53-man roster for Week 1.

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2 Dual-Threat Playmakers Left Off Early Projection

While much can and will change between late June and the conclusion of the preseason in late August, Swanson’s initial exercise included a few surprises on offense, including nearly one dozen offensive linemen and two notable omissions: running back Jerick McKinnon and wideout Antonio Callaway.

Here is the full 53-man breakdown:


  • Quarterbacks (2): Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
  • Running Backs (4): Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson, Michael Burton
  • Wide Receivers (5): Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Cornell Powell
  • Tight Ends (3): Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Noah Gray
  • Offensive Line (11): Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Kyle Long, Lucas Niang, Mike Remmers, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Austin Blythe, Trey Smith, Andrew Wylie, Nick Allegretti

  • Defensive Line (10): Frank Clark, Taco Charlton, Mike Danna, Joshua Kaindoh, Tim Ward, Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Jarran Reed, Tershawn Wharton, Khalen Saunders
  • Linebackers (5): Anthony Hitchens, Willie Gay Jr., Nick Bolton, Ben Niemann, Dorian O’Daniel
  • Defensive Backs (10): L’Jarius Sneed, Charvarius Ward, Rashad Fenton, Mike Hughes, DeAndre Baker, Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, Dan Sorensen, Armani Watts, Devon Key
  • Specialists (3): Harrison Butker, Tommy Townsend, James Winchester
  • The KCSN analyst points to special teams ability as a key reason why both McKinnon and Callaway could find themselves on the outside looking in once Brett Veach, Andy Reid and company finalize this year’s 53.

    “Special teams is a critical factor at the bottom of the depth chart, and while Callaway is a proven NFL contributor from a talent perspective, how can you cater to that when he’s like the third option at best at receiver? There are four able bodied special teams players in the group I selected — Dave Toub is happy,” Swanson wrote.

    Will McKinnon & Callaway’s Versatility Be Enough?

    McKinnon, 29, was signed by Kansas City on April 30 after the reigning AFC champs had shown interest in Giovani Bernard before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The dual threat-playmaker returned from a two-year absence due to ACL complications to play a full 16-game slate with the San Francisco 49ers in 2020, posting 572 scrimmage yards (319 rushing) and six touchdowns.

    In theory, the Chiefs could view McKinnon as another veteran presence to spell Edwards-Helaire and rotate into the game on a more situational basis, filling the role of the since-departed Le’Veon Bell. However, his one-year veteran deal worth just north of $1 million reflects a minor commitment — one the front office wouldn’t hesitate to move on from if necessary — for a potentially higher return on investment.

    Callaway, 24, is perhaps the most intriguing player to watch this summer — and not just because of his memorable offseason on “Hard Knocks” in 2018. Once a highly rated college prospect with electrifying 4.41 speed, the former Florida standout fell to the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft due to a number of red flags. Despite flashing his raw skills with 43 receptions, 586 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie, multiple off-field issues quickly derailed his once-promising career by late 2019.

    With 15 wideouts currently on roster and competing for about half as many spots, Callaway faces an uphill battle to win a job. But, like McKinnon, the fourth-year playmaker also offers experience in the return game, an area the Chiefs could be looking to transition with last season’s top returners, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle, expected to be more involved in the passing game.

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    Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!

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