Two years ago the Kansas City Chiefs were a surprise playoff team, thanks in no small part to a defense that was among the NFL’s best. Last year, injuries devastated the team’s defense, and while the Chiefs finished a respectable seventh in total defense the big plays dried up and Kansas City watched the postseason on TV.
Those injuries have unfortunately carried over into 2015. Nose tackle Dontari Poe recently underwent surgery for a herniated disk, but teammate Derrick Johnson told the team’s website (via SB Nation’s Joel Thorman) that Poe is holding up well all things considered.
“Yeah, I talked to him,” Johnson said. “He’s doing well. He has to go through this process and get better. When he gets ready to get back out there on the field, we’ll be ready for him. He doesn’t need any words of encouragement, he’s very self-motivated and he can’t wait to get back out there with us.”
That’s all well and good, but it’s awfully hard to advise investing much draft capital in Poe as even a lower-end weekly starter in DT-required IDP leagues given his uncertain status for Week 1.
Johnson was himself one of the Chiefs felled by injury last year, tearing his Achilles in the season opener. At 32 Johnson is much closer to the end of the line than the beginning, but he told Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star he’s eager to prove he still has something left in the tank.
“It feels great (to be back),” Johnson said. “Your body is your moneymaker, so whenever you can have that back, be back with the guys, that’s the exciting part. Football is not perfect, regardless. But to be out of it like I was last year and to actually have this training camp to get back to form before that first game, it’s going to be big for me.”
If that return to form means a rebound to top-20 IDP status, Johnson would be one of the better values at his position this year given a late-July ADP outside the top 35 at My Fantasy League.
Johnson may have plenty to prove in 2015, but for outside linebacker Justin Houston it’s more a matter of something live up to – like the contract extension that made Houston the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history.
Houston told Adam Teicher of ESPN he’s ready to start earning all that coin. “I just made sure I was busy at all times,” he said. “I knew the guys here were working and I knew the strength coaches would have these guys in shape so I didn’t want to show up out of shape. Whenever I got that call, I wanted to make sure I was ready.”
Houston should also be ready to give fantasy owners a hefty return on their draft-day investment, especially in leagues that award highly for sacks.
From Week 7 on last year, safety Ron Parker ranked sixth among defensive backs in fantasy scoring. That gives the Chiefs three safeties (Parker, Eric Berry and free-agent addition Tyvon Branch) who have demonstrated top-10 IDP upside at some point in their NFL careers.
Unfortunately, there are only two safety spots, and plenty of questions surrounding the group.
Branch lost most of the past two seasons with the Oakland Raiders to injuries. No one expected for Berry to be anywhere close to a return to action after being diagnosed with lymphoma last year. However, he’s back at practice and drawing the awe of teammates according to Paylor.
“To be honest, I really felt like I didn’t deserve to be in the room,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “That’s the truth. I felt like I was undeserving to be in there with him, talking about that.”
Now, back at practice and ready for game action aren’t the same thing. But it appears that Berry could be good to go when the games begin to count. Toss in veteran Husain Abdullah, and the Chiefs safeties are a murky mess.
There’s a good deal of fantasy potential to be had here, but until we have more certainty as to who is going to slot where any pick spent on a Chiefs DB is going to be a somewhat speculative one.