Despite no first-round picks, Chiefs rely heavily on rookies
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Chiefs didn't make a first-round selection in this year's NFL draft. That hasn't stopped their rookies from making a major impact.
Whether it's been defensive tackle Chris Jones, their first pick who was taken in the second round, or cornerback D.J. White, taken in the sixth round but suddenly playing as many snaps as anybody on defense, those newcomers are a big reason why Kansas City is off to a 4-2 start.
''It's hard to gauge rookies on what they might contribute,'' said Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick. ''You get the full spectrum. It's different for everyone and every position.''
Still, the Chiefs picked a bevy of guys who have fit in right away, and injuries and poor play have conspired to move them up the depth chart heading into Sunday's game against the Colts.
Take their new defensive tackle out of Mississippi State.
Jones was supposed to learn the ropes behind Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard and Allen Bailey, but a season-ending injury to Bailey changed that plan. Jones wound up starting his first career game in last Sunday's win over New Orleans , playing 38 snaps and putting pressure on Drew Brees.
''He did a pretty good job against that explosive offense,'' Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
If anyone was expected to contribute right away, though, it was the guy taken with the 37th overall pick. But Jones aside, consider the rest of the selections that Kansas City made:
- Fourth-round pick Parker Ehinger, an offensive guard out of Cincinnati, started the opener before sustaining a concussion. He missed three weeks but has started the last two games, which have coincided with some of the Chiefs' best offensive output this season.
- Fourth-round pick Eric Murray, a safety from Minnesota, has been active all five games and had a fumble recovery against the Jets. While he's played primarily special teams, Murray could be their future at the position if Eric Berry cannot be re-signed in the offseason.
- Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, their third fourth-round pick from Florida, has played mostly on special teams. In fact, he played 16 special teams snaps against the Saints.
- Fifth-round pick Tyreek Hill, whose domestic abuse case sent his draft stock tumbling , not only leads the Chiefs in special teams tackles but also has three touchdown catches. One was an acrobatic 38-yard grab against the Saints. And perhaps most important, Hill has said and done all the right things when it comes to the off-the-field issues that plagued him in college.
''Training camp, it was a lot of new faces,'' Hill said, ''but right now I feel pretty good. I'm laughing each and every day. I'm having fun with these guys. The guys are starting to trust me and I'm starting to trust them. Once you get that, you get comfortable.''
- White may be the biggest surprise of the class. The sixth-round selection out of Georgia Tech became a de facto starter with Phillip Gaines dealing with a knee injury, and has 11 tackles and three pass breakups despite getting picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
He fractured his hand against the Saints, but it isn't expected to sideline him long.
''He's obviously a rookie learning to play. The more he plays, I think the better he's going to get,'' Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. ''He's got to battle like heck.''
- Fellow sixth-round pick Dadi Nicolas, a raw pass-rusher out of Virginia Tech, has been learning the ropes while helping out on special teams. He played eight snaps against the Saints.
Even the two draft picks no longer on the team have been making an impact.
Third-round pick KeiVarae Russell, a cornerback from Notre Dame, was surprisingly cut by Kansas City but latched on with Cincinnati, while fifth-round pick Kevin Hogan out of Stanford is expected to start at quarterback for Cleveland this week.
Not a bad haul for a single draft. Especially one without a first-round pick.
Notes: White had an X-ray Monday and promptly had surgery. ... LB Justin Houston (ACL surgery) is unlikely to play Sunday at Indianapolis, though Reid said he's making progress. ''He's just going to come out here and work,'' Reid said. ''We'll see. We'll just see as we go.'' ... OG Mitchell Schwartz missed practice with a sprained ankle. It's unclear whether he will play against the Colts.
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