The NFL is forever about talent and opportunity, and perhaps no group of players best captures that spirit like undrafted rookie free agents.
Their path to the final roster won’t be easy, of course, but the Chiefs’ 2015 class of college free agents will have a chance to prove they belong and with history on their side.
The Chiefs began the first week of the 2014 regular season with wide receiver Albert Wilson, safety Daniel Sorensen and kicker Cairo Santos on the 53-man roster.
The trio helped the Chiefs extend the NFL’s second-longest streak of at least one college free agent on the Week One roster to 12. Only the Indianapolis Colts have more, a streak that reached 16 seasons last year.
General manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid started the past two seasons with five total undrafted college free agents: Wilson, Sorensen and Santos in 2014, and quarterback Tyler Bray and outside linebacker Josh Martin in 2013.
Players who enter the NFL as an undrafted free agents can carve a niche and contribute in Kansas City.
The Chiefs opened the 2013 season with 13 players who started their career as a college free agent: Bray and Martin; quarterback Chase Daniel; wide receiver Chad Hall; tight end Sean McGrath; defensive linemen Mike DeVito and Anthony Toribio; linebackers Akeem Jordan, Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses; defensive backs Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker; and long snapper Thomas Gafford.
That number increased to 16 to open the 2014 campaign, with Daniel, DeVito, Martin, Zombo, Abdullah, Parker and Gafford returning to join Wilson, Sorensen and Santos. The remaining six players were wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., tight end Demetrius Harris, offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach, defensive lineman Damion Square, linebacker Josh Mauga and defensive back Kelcie McCray.
The Chiefs currently have 14 undrafted rookie free agents on the roster, barring moves between now and when rookies, quarterbacks and select players report for training camp on July 28.
Some of the players will make a hard push in St. Joseph, Mo., to make the final roster. Other could land on the team’s practice squad before being elevated to the active roster, such as what happened with running back Charcandrick West in 2014..
Here is an overview of the rookies hoping to extend the Chiefs’ streak to 13 seasons with at least one college free agent on the Week One roster:
• Running back Keshawn Hill, Sam Houston State: Hill joined the Chiefs following a successful tryout in rookie minicamp. Hill, who measures 5-9, 211 pounds, gained 1,150 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns on 195 attempts in his senior season. He also brings special teams experience, totaling 971 yards on 41 returns in college.
• Wide receiver Kenny Cook, Gardner-Webb: At 6-4, Cook is the tallest of the 12 wide receivers currently on the roster and he could add more bulk to his 218-pound frame. But Cook certainly turned heads during organized team activities and minicamp, and could make a push if he carries over those performances to training camp when the pads come on. Cook finished his college career at Gardner-Webb as the school’s third-leading receiver with 188 catches.
• Wide receiver Donatella (Tello) Luckett, Harding: The 6-0, 211-pound Luckett was a first-team All-Great American Conference selection in 2014 and finished his career with 79 receptions for 1,625 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also has special teams experience as a returner in college.
• Wide receiver Jeret Smith, McMurry: Smith attended rookie minicamp and mandatory minicamp on a tryout basis before signing on June 19. The 6-0, 215-pound Smith totaled 54 catches for 1,143 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season, and finished his college career as McMurry’s all-time leader in yards receiving (2,729).
• Center Garrett Frye, Georgia Southern: Frye, who measures 6-5, 290 pound, offers versatility at center and offensive tackle.
• Center Daniel Munyer, Colorado: The Chiefs signed Munyer following a successful rookie minicamp tryout. The 6-5, 305 pound Munyer can also play guard.
• Guard Marcus Reed, Fayetteville State: The Chiefs claimed the 6-3, 345-pound Reed off waivers from the Green Bay Packers on the first day of mandatory minicamp.
• Defensive tackle Charles Tuaau, Texas A&M-Commerce: The Chiefs need to find a big body to offer relief to starter Dontari Poe, who has logged more than 1,000 total snaps in two straight seasons. Could the 6-5, 310-pound Tuaau, who is currently the second-heaviest defensive lineman on the roster behind Poe, be that player?
• Defensive end David Irving, Iowa State: The 6-7, 272-Irving, who has an 87 ¾- inch wingspan, is an intriguing prospect off the edge.
• Inside linebacker Justin March, Akron: The 6-0, 222-pound March appeared in 45 games in college, totaling 250 tackles (125 solo), 3 ½ sacks, four interceptions, 15 passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
• Outside linebacker Sage Harold, James Madison: Harold, who measures 6-4, 245 pounds, led the Colonial Athletic Association with 13 1/2 sacks his senior season.
• Cornerback Justin Cox, Mississippi State: The 6-1, 191-pound Cox makes the transition from free safety to cornerback, and had his moments during OTAs and mandatory minicamp where he displayed his 4.36 40-yard dash. He has the size, speed and versatility the current Chiefs regime covets.
• Cornerback Kevin Short, Fort Scott Community College: The Chiefs signed Short on July 10 after he went undrafted in the NFL Supplemental Draft. The 6-2, 185-pound Short hasn’t played meaningful football since 2012 before he transferred to Kansas. Short sat out the 2013 season, left the team in 2014 and never played a game for the Jayhawks.
• Long snapper Andrew East, Vanderbilt: The 6-1, 239-pound will battle James Winchester for the starting job, signaling the first time in seven seasons the Chiefs will open the season with a new long snapper.
Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.