Chief Concerns: Mike Buckman (@CCWriterBuck)
Everyone knows that great teams build through the draft, but there are only so many picks. Free agency and trades can bring in needed talent, but those can get costly (in money and picks). To finish building a successful roster, you need to find guys “off the street” who can provide depth. While most street free agents don’t provide much impact, some can come in and prove to be pretty good players. Remember Steve DeBerg? How about Kimble Anders? Or Tony Richardson? Or Brian Waters? TE Sean McGrath and CB Marcus Cooper, both picked up off the waiver wire, are showing they can do more than just fill out a 53-man roster. They are competing and contributing.
Sean McGrath has gone from obscurity to minor celebrity. Although it’s his legendary beard that has gained him notoriety in the league, it’s his contributions as a receiver and blocker that are winning him a job. With injuries to starting tight end Anthony Fasano and rookie Travis Kelce, McGrath was pushed into service pretty early in his tenure for the Chiefs. He has done more than one could reasonably expect from a #3 tight end that was available on the waiver wire. He has hauled in some key grabs over the last three games, including a key third-down conversion and a touchdown versus the Giants. Over four games, McGrath has 11 catches for 126 yards and 1 TD. Extrapolated over a full season, that’s 44 catches for 504 yards and 4 TDs, a productive season for a tight end, especially one that began the year #3 on the depth chart. It’s unlikely he will unseat Fasano for the starting job, but McGrath is showing right now he deserves consideration for the #2 spot over the still-injured Travis Kelce. While Kelce has been logging time on the injury report, McGrath has been logging catches, and could be hearing his name called whenever the Chiefs need their second TE.
While McGrath has been grabbing passes, and a fair share of attention, Marcus Cooper quietly turned in a good performance against the New York Giants in his first extensive NFL action in the regular season. The rookie cornerback was substituted in after 10-year veteran Dunta Robinson was burned on a deep pass by Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. With Brandon Flowers out with a knee injury, Robinson was initially pegged to cover for Flowers. After Robinson kept displaying a lost step in man-to-man coverage, however, Bob Sutton put in Cooper, and he kept his guy in check for the whole game. Not bad for a guy who played most of his college career at wide receiver. Cooper has become the #4 CB the Chiefs were desperately searching for in preseason. After replacing Robinson, the question now becomes, “Could he take over the #3 spot?
Most waiver-wire pickups may make the 53-man roster, but rarely see meaningful playing time. McGrath wasn’t supposed to see extensive playing time, but the Chiefs weren’t supposed to lose their top two tight ends for multiple weeks. Now McGrath is pushing for that #2 spot. Cooper was considered a project who could stick on special teams and as the #5 cornerback, but injury and age found him pressed into duty, and doing a solid job of holding up man-to-man coverage. Now he could be competing for the #3 cornerback spot. Little less than a month ago, these guys lost their jobs. John Dorsey discovered them on the waiver wire, seeming something in them their former teams didn’t. Now they are proving they belong in this league.