The Kansas City Chiefs are entering the fourth year of the Scott Pioli regime, and they have without question the best roster they've had since he was hired. The Chiefs are young and talented at a number of key positions, on both offense and defense.
The biggest question mark for the Chiefs is the quarterback, Matt Cassel. He has been inconsistent in his time in Kansas City, and many believe the Chiefs' success depends on how well he can play. The Chiefs are hoping to get back to their 2010 form when Cassel played well with few mistakes, and the Chiefs led the league in rushing.
Last year the Chiefs suffered from a lack of depth at key positions.
The Chiefs had a rocky 2011 season, firing head coach Todd Haley midway through the year, before finishing the season 7-9. Despite that, they were still in the playoff hunt as late as Week 16. The Chiefs were devastated with injuries early last year as they lost the following players to season-ending ACL injuries in three consecutive weeks: Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles. Matt Cassel also missed a portion of the season with a hand injury, which resulted in Tyler Palko starting several games.
The Chiefs felt they were headed down the right path coming off the division title in 2010 but injuries and other distractions never gave them a shot to consistently compete last season.
Best Free Agent Pickup
Eric Winston, right tackle. You could argue going from Barry Richardson to Eric Winston at the right tackle position is the biggest upgrade at any position this year. Richardson graded out as one of the worst two offensive tackles in the NFL. Winston is regarded as one of the best right tackles.
The Chiefs also lost Brandon Carr in free agency to a $50 million deal with the Cowboys. Replacing him is Stanford Routt, who was cut by the Raiders. The Chiefs also brought in Peyton Hillis, who will be paired with Jamaal Charles, and another former Raider, Kevin Boss, who will be paired with Tony Moeaki.
The Chiefs free agency class comes with a clear focus on offense.
2012 NFL Draft
The Chiefs picked up eight draft picks and 15 undrafted free agents after the draft. First round pick Dontari Poe fills a legitimate need at nose tackle, but he also comes with consistency and production questions from his time at Memphis. The Chiefs found their future starting guard in Round 2 with Jeff Allen, depth at offensive tackle with Donald Stephenson in Round 3 and potentially a slot receiver with Devon Wylie in Round 4. De'Quan Menzie, defensive back from Alabama, was picked in the fifth round, and he could see playing time early in his career.
The Chiefs draft focused on a combination of need and depth. The Chiefs first three picks combined weigh nearly 1,000 pounds, so you can see where they thought they needed help.
From SB Nation's Arrowhead Pride:
The rest of the AFC West should definitely be watching out for the Chiefs heading into the 2012 season. Assuming key players like Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry come back fully healthy, the Chiefs have the best overall roster in the division. The defensive is young and on the verge of breaking out. The offense added quite a bit of talent in the offseason and should be much improved, especially with Charles returning.
The quarterback is a legitimate question mark for the Chiefs, who need Matt Cassel to play like he did during that divisional title 2010 season when he threw 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Even with the major injuries last year, the Chiefs had a shot at winning the division late last season.
They Make The Playoffs If...
Jamaal Charles is at least 90 percent of the player he was before the ACL injury, Matt Cassel has a season similar to what he did in 2010, and the defense becomes a top 10 unit. Charles should come back healthy, as should Berry. Cassel has been inconsistent in Kansas City but he has shown the ability to play well for multiple games in a row. The defense was ranked 12th in the league last year and 11th the year before. A breakout season could be on the horizon.