Position evaluation: Chiefs could have youth movement at CB position

Nov. 15, 2015; Denver; Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (21) celebrates an interception against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Nov. 15, 2015; Denver; Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (21) celebrates an interception against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

The Kansas City Chiefs face a challenging offseason at the cornerback position with a lack of experience.

Marcus Peters, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, accounted for half of the 16 interceptions totaled by the Chiefs in 2015.

But the top three cornerbacks on the current roster combine for four years of experience if Sean Smith tests the market in free agency.

SEAN SMITH: The seven-year veteran out of Utah is a quality press-coverage corner who shines when he is allowed to press at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the defender.

Smith has solid recovery speed when beat off the line of scrimmage or closing on route in off coverage. The 6-3, 218-pound Smith has solid ball tracking skills, great speed for his size and a smooth hip turn when turning and getting up field in trail position. He communicates very well with other defenders on the field to adjust responsibilities based on the formation.

Smith will likely be well compensated on the open market by another team, but warrants consideration of the franchise tag if Kansas City chooses.

MARCUS PETERS: The first-round pick finished the season with 1,037 defensive snaps, showing an impressive ability to read the routes and close quickly once the ball is in the air.

Peters is arguably one of the better ball tracking corners in the NFL and is able to adjust coverage quickly and take the correct angle.

His biggest challenges headed forward are eliminating the occasional hop in his footwork off the initial press, smoothly rotating and closing on the receiver from the trail position and not biting on the double move.

Peters is aggressive in run support and doesn’t hesitate in taking the proper pursuit angle to shut down a smoke route or screen pass.

PHILLIP GAINES: The second-year corner had very good potential headed into the season before sustaining a torn ACL in Week 3.

Gaines enjoyed a strong training camp matched up against wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Gaines was able to routinely stay in Maclin’s hip pocket and timed deflections correctly. He did not panic when getting beat and utilized his speed to close the ground.

STEVEN NELSON: The third-round pick only saw 53 defensive snaps in his rookie campaign as he transitioned to nickel cornerback, but flashed his ability against Houston Texans DeAndre Hopkins in the first round of the playoffs.

Nelson is quick in his backpedals and quarter turns, but will likely need to get strong in press coverage.

JAMELL FLEMING: The fourth-year corner didn’t appear comfortable in the system on tape.

Fleming struggles with some of the techniques he was being asked to perform. He was forced more to read, mirror and react without getting his hands on the receiver, all of which led to a lot of guessing and some big plays given up. The former Oklahoma Sooner appears more comfortable in an off-coverage zone that allows him to attack the route at the stem.

MARCUS COOPER: The third-year veteran has seen his defensive snaps reduce from 645 in 2013 to 287 in 2014 and 94 this past season. Cooper arguably has never appeared to recover from Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning testing him at Arrowhead Stadium in 2013.

Cooper struggled in training camp last year with maintaining good positioning to deflect passes and keeping the position while attempting to track the football.

ALSO ON ROSTER: Keith Lewis, Deveron Carr

OUTLOOK: The Chiefs will need to find a quality replacement if Sean Smith leaves in free agency. Kansas City could need as many as three corners to ensure stability at the position with two unknown factors in Phillip Gaines injury and Steven Nelson’s inexperience.


Nick Jacobs is a contributing writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @Jacobs71.