In part two of our five-part, 2013 Chiefs Camp preview, Connor Dawson and Desmond Bailey discuss players who could have strong camps and emerge as potential stars on the team:
BAILEY: At the wide receiver position, many have been eagerly anticipating the emergence of Jon Baldwin as a complete player who can take some pressure off of Dwayne Bowe as a quality #2 option. However, it just hasn’t happened despite stellar training camp showings by Baldwin in the past. So I’m looking down the depth chart at a guy like Junior Hemingway - the 2012 7th-round pick out of Michigan – to seize the spotlight.
Hemingway has good speed ( 4.5 40-yard dash), quickness (6.59 3-cone…that’s elite), strength (21 reps on the bench press) and size (6-foot-1, 225 lbs) with exceptional hands. He attacks the ball, is physical, and can make plays post-catch. At Michigan, he didn’t get much of a chance to shine as the Wolvernines unorthodox offense was centered around Denard Robinson and his dual-threat capability. With a more traditional scheme and QB, Hemingway’s Anquan Boldin-like skillset might’ve shined through and made him a much earlier pick in the draft.
With one pro season already under his belt, he’ll have honed his route-running and have a better grasp of what’s required to excel. He already created some buzz during OTA’s and drew high praise from QB Alex Smith. I expect that momentum to carry him into St. Joseph.
DAWSON: Awesome points about Hemingway. I loved to watch him in college at Michigan. For me, though, my guy is about as far down the depth chart as you can get. Fullback Toben Opurum from Kansas is my rising star on offense for 2013. Undrafted, Opurum played linebacker and defensive end at Kansas for three seasons, and was consistently one of their top defenders. But out of high school, Opurum was a highly touted halfback who was able to power his way through offensive lines. He finished him freshman year with over 500 yards rushing on 133 attempts. He has a very strong lower body that helps him pound through the line of scrimmage.
Although he is a long shot to make the team, Opurum has the ability to be a shifty lead blocker for Jamaal Charles and a quick reacting pass protector for Alex Smith. His experience on defense will help him predict the attack plan of pass rushers and his time at running back helps him with the offensive mindset. It really was a great move by the Chiefs and I think it could pay off fairly quickly.
BAILEY: Good call on Opurum! Definitely one to keep an eye on. You know something, Connor? I think the Chiefs might’ve scored big in undrafted free agency this year. Another UDFA to lookout for along with Opurum is WR Rico Richardson out of Jackson State. I’ve no doubt he reminded coach Andy Reid of eagles WR DeSean Jackson. I expect to hear Richardson’s name quite a bit in daily camp updates around the net.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, here’s a player that is pretty impossible to hide on the depth chart or anywhere else for that matter – 2nd-year nose tackle Dontari Poe. I think what we have here is the perfect storm of Poe’s natural gifts and skills combined with a defensive scheme that emphasizes attacking upfield.
Although Poe – at 6-foot-4, 350 pounds – has the body and power of a traditional space-eating, two-gap 3-4 nose tackle, he also has the speed/athleticism of a much smaller, one-gap penetrating 4-3 DT. That’s a rare combination that I’m sure new d-coordinator Bob Sutton is eager to unleash on opposing offenses.
Poe showed more consistent glimpses of dominance towards the end of the 2012 season and is a hard-worker eager to get better. I think he’ll have a very impressive camp as he flourishes in Sutton’s system which will feature Poe as more of a one-gap, penetrator thus enabling him to be more disruptive and get after the quarterback. It’s going to be a big camp for the big man.
DAWSON: In terms of Poe, I also see a huge season coming from him, simply because of the one-gap scheme he will be involved in. I really think that Sutton has the perfect system for Poe.
But when I think of breakout players on defense, I think of Frank Zombo, the linebacker we picked up from the Green Bay Packers. The fourth year man out of Central Michigan has had some playing time in the past. As an undrafted free agent and worked his way to a starting position. And not only did he get a starting spot for the Packers, he started in the Super Bowl. Zombo is a very underrated, yet injury prone player. After a great first two years, he struggled with being healthy and he was not offered a contract this past off-season, parting ways with Green Bay.
In Kansas City, he will provide some great depth to the defense, as well as another solid pass rusher. He will become a headline name at training camp as he will show people why he was a starter on a Super Bowl team. If he stays healthy, he will be a factor on the defense.
Next: Off Guard…a look at the offensive line