2014 Review: The Rookies of the Kansas City Chiefs

A look at how the first-year players fared in 2014

FROM THE DRAFT

ROUND 1: Dee Ford – Auburn

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Linebacker Dee Ford, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick in 2014, played in only 122 snaps this season, just 11.5 percent of the more than 1,000 snaps the Chiefs took during the course of the year.

In the 11 games Ford participated in the defense as opposed to just special teams, he played 10 snaps or more in just five of them, and that was partly due to his slow transition from his college position of defensive end, which he played in his five years at Auburn, to outside linebacker.

"I think Dee Ford, what you are doing is converting a defensive end," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said of Ford after the season. "He's standing up for the first time. You still see that great get-off. As you started to see him get more comfortable in that role, you saw him begin to develop a knack to put pressure on the quarterback."

Dorsey's words are true. Though Pro Football Focus negatively rated Ford in pass coverage and run defense, his pass-rush rating was among the best on the team, as he finished fourth among all players.

Also, while he did watch from the sidelines for the majority of the season, he was learning from two extremely wise and experienced teachers.

"I think it was beneficial for him to learn from two of the best in the business in Tamba (Hali) and Justin (Houston)," Dorsey added. "They were more than willing to show him different types of hand placements and the art of playing the outside linebacker position."

Ford's best game of the season was in Week 3 against Miami, when a trip-up of opposing running back Lamar Miller behind the line of scrimmage led to Dontari Poe's game-clinching tackle.

Ford finished with seven combined tackles and 1.5 sacks on the season.

ROUND 3: Phillip Gaines – Rice

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Cornerback Phillip Gaines was the Chiefs' third-round pick out of Rice in 2014, a year in which he made a name for himself.

Predicted by Chiefs general manager John Dorsey to be a special teams gunner immediately, Gaines fulfilled that role by showing raw athleticism right away.

In Weeks 3 and 4, Gaines made highlight reel-worthy plays for the Chiefs' first two wins of the year, and though he was set back by a concussion in Week 5, he returned against the San Diego Chargers in Week 7 to play in 65 percent of the defensive snaps.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was pleased with his performance after the game.

"Gaines, I thought, did a good job on the inside," Reid said in the week after the game. "When he had chances on the outside, he did a nice job there. I came out feeling positive about that."

After Week 7, Gaines played in at least 68 percent of the snaps at cornerback for the Chiefs (including 100 percent of snaps in Week 13 and 14) until December 10, when his second concussion of the year ended his season.

ROUND 4: De'Anthony Thomas – Oregon

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Running back De'Anthony Thomas was the Chiefs' fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and after a strong training camp, he earned the role of starting punt returner for the first game against the Tennessee Titans.

Eager to take advantage of the opportunity, Thomas was disappointed when he suffered a hamstring injury on September 3, and making matters worse, the nagging injury would stick with him for the next four weeks, delaying his debut to Week 5.

When Week 5 finally came around, Thomas was more than ready to hit the field and proved that by scoring the first touchdown of his career on a short screen pass that would later be ruled a rush attempt.

From Week 5 on, Thomas' primary role was the team's punt returner, usually taking between 15 and 25 snaps on offense.

Statistically speaking, Thomas' most effective game was against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16, when he had six catches for 47 yards receiving.

His lone punt return touchdown of the season came against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.

ROUND 5: Aaron Murray – Georgia

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Aaron Murray didn't play a snap all season, but suited up in the last game of the year as the Chiefs backup quarterback when QB Alex Smith went down with a lacerated spleen and the team had to turn to Chase Daniel as its starter.

Even though Murray saw no regular season time, Reid believed he learned from some of the best the league has to offer all season long.

"That room, for a young player, to be in that room and see how you're supposed to do it, I'm saying the quarterback room, is a blessing for those two young guys that are in there," Reid said.

ROUND 6: Zach Fulton – Tennessee

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In one of the draft's biggest surprises, Tennessee's Zach Fulton became the starting right guard for the Chiefs entering the team's first game.

By opening the year as the starter, he actually became the first sixth or seventh-round pick to start for the Chiefs in Week 1 since 1976.

Fulton amassed 997 offensive snaps, which is 99 percent of the plays the Chiefs ran, by the end of the season.

Pro Football Focus ranked Fulton as the team's third-best offensive line starter behind center Rodney Hudson and right tackle Ryan Harris in his first year in the league.

ROUND 6: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif – McGill

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The second sixth-round pick, Lauren Duvernay-Tardif, was inactive every week of the Chiefs season.

The hope for Duvernay-Tardif is that he will be able to compete for a spot on the offensive line in 2015.

UNDRAFTED

Cairo Santos – Tulane

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The rookie out of Tulane shocked fans in training camp when he beat out Ryan Succop for the Chiefs' kicking job.

After missing two of his first four field-goal attempts, Santos rattled off 14 in a row, and finished the season 25 of 30, with his longest kick being a 53-yarder against the St. Louis Rams.

The biggest kick of Santos' year was the game-winner against the San Diego Chargers in Week 7 when he drilled a 48-yarder with 21 seconds remaining in the game.

The Chiefs won the game, 23-20.

"Listen, the kid won the job," Reid said after the Week 7 win. " I felt like he was going to make it … He was due for an opportunity like this. He stepped up and did a heck of a job."

Albert Wilson – Georgia State

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Albert Wilson went from a small-school undrafted free agent to one of the Chiefs' starting wide receivers by the end of the 2014 season.

After tallying only four receptions all year, he combined for 12 in Kansas City's final four games and showed confidence in what seemed like the Chiefs' best possible receiver trio—Wilson, Avant and Bowe.

On the Chiefs' breakup day, Wilson revealed that while he felt the support from the coaching staff, he still has plenty of room to grow.

"Coach (David) Culley thinks I held my own as me coming in and the situation I was in," Wilson said as he bagged up his locker. "He thinks I progressed pretty well for how young I am. He's just letting me know that there's room to get better."

Highlights from the Kansas City Chiefs' 2014 rookies.

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Note:  Article research aided by the football analytics website *ProFootballFocus.com.*

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