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Chiefs reap benefits from ‘second’ draft class

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, at 2:58 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, at 3:21 p.m.

The Chiefs’ ‘Second Draft’

The Chiefs claimed seven players on waivers during the opening week of the season after NFL teams reduced their rosters to 53 players.

•  Cornerback Marcus Cooper: Cooper, 6 feet 2 and 192 pounds, was two picks from being Mr. Irrelevant when he was taken with the 252nd selection of the 2013 draft by San Francisco. Cooper, a converted wide receiver, was on Kansas City’s draft board during the final rounds, so when San Francisco released him, the Chiefs didn’t hesitate in claiming him.

GM John Dorsey’s take: “He can be as good as he wants to be. He has a lot of ceiling. He can turn and track the vertical throws and catch the ball. He’s got ideal length .. that’s the ideal press corner.”

•  Tight end Sean McGrath: McGrath, 6-5, 247, spent most of the 2012 season on the Seattle practice squad after he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Henderson State. McGrath appeared in two games but had no receptions for the Seahawks but is the Chiefs’ fourth-leading receiver with 15 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown.

Dorsey’s take: “He’s smart, tough, you can trust him. He wants to be a good player.”

•  Wide receiver Chad Hall: Hall, 5-8, 187, played for Andy Reid in 2010-11 in Philadelphia and appeared in 15 games, making 14 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Hall spent parts of November and December on the 49ers’ practice squad. Hall played a season-most 16 snaps last week at Tennessee and caught one pass for nine yards.

Dorsey’s take: “He’s quick, smart, tough, dependable.”

•  Linebacker Dezman Moses: Moses, 6-2, 249, has been part of the kickoff return units that have helped Quintin Demps average 35.2-yards for five returns; and Dexter McCluster bust an 89-yard return for a touchdown.

Dorsey’s take: “He’s a contributing member on special teams who is dependable if something happens to front-line guys. You’re not going to miss much.”

•  Linebacker James-Michael Johnson: Johnson, 6-1, 240, has been another integral member of the special teams. A fourth-round pick by Cleveland last year, he started eight games for the Browns. He has one special teams tackle this season.

Dorsey’s take: “He’s a contributor to special teams … a football junkie.”

•  Defensive tackle Jaye Howard: Howard, 6-3, 301, has been active for one game. A fourth-round pick by Seattle out of Florida in 2012, he appeared in two regular-season games last year.

Dorsey’s take: “He gives you depth on the defensive line and gives you an element of pass rush.”

•  Cornerback Ron Parker: Parker, 6-0, 206, has three special teams tackles for the Chiefs plus a sack/strip/fumble recovery of Dallas’ Tony Romo. He appeared in three games with the Raiders and two with Seattle in 2011 and two with Seattle and three with Carolina in 2012, mostly on special teams.

Dorsey’s take: “He has size and speed, the ability to play special teams and add depth to the secondary.”

Despite picking at the top of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chiefs haven’t received much production from their rookie class. But they struck it big in what can be called their second draft.

Those are the seven players the Chiefs claimed on waivers during the opening week of the season after NFL teams reduced their rosters to 53 players.

The Chiefs, based on their 2-14 record of a year ago, had first crack at every player waived during the first three weeks of the regular season.

And while it’s commonplace for teams to churn the bottom of their rosters and pick up a player or two, the Chiefs’ plucking so many who have contributed so much so soon to a 5-0 start is unusual, if not unprecedented.

Two of the second seven — tight end Sean McGrath and cornerback Marcus Cooper — have started games and scored touchdowns. McGrath caught a touchdown pass against the New York Giants that gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead; and Cooper recovered a muffed punt in the end zone at Tennessee for the first score in that game.

The other five members of the Second Draft — wide receiver Chad Hall, linebacker Dezman Moses, linebacker James Michael Johnson, cornerback Ron Parker, and defensive lineman Jaye Howard — have been primarily special teams players, though.

Parker contributed a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery against Dallas.

“From the first day when we came in as a group, all the coaches told us who they claimed and that they were excited and happy for us to be here,” said Parker, who was picked up from Seattle. “From what it looks like right now, everybody took whatever opportunity they were given and has done well.

“Every week it’s been a new guy who was picked off waivers making a big play. You never who it’s going to be … next week it might be somebody else. I’m just glad everything has worked out the way they pictured it.”

McGrath, also claimed from Seattle, has taken advantage of injuries to Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce. He has started four games, catching 15 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.

Cooper, claimed from San Francisco, started against the New York Giants when Brandon Flowers was out with an injury. He remained at left corner for most of last week’s game at Tennessee, playing 56 snaps, enabling Flowers to cover the slot receiver.

Cooper not only recovered the muffed punt, he intercepted a pass that preserved the Chiefs’ lead in the fourth quarter. Cooper is playing so much in the secondary, special teams coordinator Dave Toub is worried about losing him on special teams.

“That’s the way it is,” Toub said. “Good players end up moving up … I will try to keep using him on punt return when he’s coming off the field, and not having to go back out and play defense. …

“He’s got really good instincts. (On the fumble recovery), instead of just trying to pick it up, he shields the guy, prevents him from getting it and then falls on the ball. Things like that you just can’t teach.”

Cooper is the only rookie among the seven players taken in the Second Draft. The others all came to the Chiefs with NFL experience, including Johnson, a fourth-round pick by Cleveland who started eight games in 2012; and Moses, who started six games last year for Green Bay as an undrafted free agent.

“It’s been a little whirlwind for me,” said Johnson. “I expected to make the team in Cleveland. Last year, we played the Chiefs, and I knew they had some pretty good players. They didn’t have a good record, but I got here, and thought, ‘We’re really good.’ And we’ve kept winning and winning …”

McGrath, who has developed a cult following because of his bushy beard, credited the Chiefs’ front office for unearthing the second draft class.

“It speaks volumes about the recruiting they do and the scouting department as a whole,” said McGrath. “They’re going to go out there and find guys who can come in and contribute right away. The guys they’re bringing in are very fierce competitors. We want to be out here.

“We’re hungry. We fit so well on this team because the team as a whole is the same way. It just so happens by injury, or by scheme, or whatever way it is, we’re going to come out and get the job done.”

The performances by the Second Seven have taken some sting out of the contributions of the rookie draft class.

Right tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in the draft, started the first four games with mixed reviews before sitting out the Tennessee game because of a concussion. Running back Knile Davis (third round) and defensive end Mike Catapano (seventh) have seen spot duty; but injuries have kept tight end Travis Kelce (third round), linebacker Nico Johnson (fourth round) and cornerback Sanders Commings (fifth round) on the sidelines.

The Chiefs spent their second-round pick on quarterback Alex Smith, so that has to be considered part of the draft class. Dorsey hasn’t been disappointed by the lack of production by the first-year players, especially because of the contributions by the second wave.

“When you make these kinds of moves, the impact they’re going to have early on … you know they’re going to contribute on special teams,” Dorsey said, “but when they begin to contribute on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, that means the coaches have gotten them up to speed in terms of the playbook and terminology.

“We’ve tried to use every resource available this first year, to try to get this roster to what we think is the Kansas City Chiefs. What’s nice is the older guys have pulled the new guys in, and said, ‘This is what we’re doing here, you guys have to get on board.’ The leaders in the locker room are showing the new guys, this is the way we’re doing things in Kansas City.”

To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to rcovitz@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/randycovitz.

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