Five underrated Chiefs players for the 2009 season

Submitted by Kent Babb for The Kansas City Star

This Chiefs team still has some things to work on before training camp and lots of things to polish before anyone would call this a playoff-caliber team. Wide receivers and offensive linemen need to be surprises, and the 3-4 defense has to work.
The Chiefs also need some players to step up and play better than outsiders might expect. Zach Thomas entered offseason practice as an underrated player, but after he galvanized the defense and established himself as a clear leader, he's not underrated anymore. Tomorrow, we'll write who we think are a few of the Chiefs' overrated players -- yep, there are some whose importance and role have been exaggerated -- but as you might have noticed, we like to be optimistic on Mondays.
So here we go with the possible sleepers for 2009:

- RB Jamaal Charles. The speedy second-year running back should see his role increase this year, mostly in terms of catching passes out of the backfield. Assuming Larry Johnson is healthy and productive, first-year Chiefs coach Todd Haley should be able to take advantage of the surplus of solid running backs and fine-tune their roles. Charles isn't an every-down rusher, but he'd be terrific in a two-running back shotgun formation to be a change-up rusher and give Matt Cassel another reliable target. Heaven knows he won't have many of them.

- WR Mark Bradley. Speaking of wide receivers, Bradley has gone largely unnoticed this offseason. Nobody, likely including Bradley, is complaining about that. While Dwayne Bowe and even Bobby Engram face some degree of pressure, Bradley has quietly been one of the Chiefs' most reliable receivers. He made some spectacular plays last year and helped Tyler Thigpen make his transition from backup to full-time starter. Don't forget that Bradley can throw the ball a little, as well.

- G Mike Goff. Amid all the chaos surrounding guard Brian Waters (who's a candidate for tomorrow's overrated list), it has been easy to forget Goff, a veteran who still has some good years left. He's one of those players who meticulously cares for his body, more so now that he's 33 years old. Goff is a clear upgrade over last year's right guard, Adrian Jones, and if Goff does have to move to left guard if the Waters ordeal can't be worked out, he's about as reliable a replacement as the Chiefs could have.

-NT Tank Tyler. It might be just lip service, but Tyler seems to really believe that the 3-4 is the right scheme for himself and the Chiefs. He played some nose tackle in college at N.C. State, making him one of the few Chiefs-drafted Chiefs with experience in that scheme. Tyler is a former third-round pick who has lots of potential. This might be the philosophy shift that unlocks that potential in Tyler's third year.

-LB Monty Beisel. The Chiefs would like for Beisel to enter the season as a backup, preferably for converted defensive end Tamba Hali. But Beisel easily could be a starter (in fact, we predicted two weeks ago that he will be come opening day) if Hali struggles to make the transition. Beisel is a veteran who played in Chiefs coordinator Clancy Pendergast's defense in Arizona last year. If Beisel does start, that would boost the likely starting linebackers' average age to almost 32 by opening day, and that's not a good thing for the Chiefs. But Beisel would offer experience as the Chiefs make this transition, and that's worth something.

Others who could be sleepers: TE Tony Curtis, NT Ron Edwards, CB Maurice Leggett, CB Donald Washington, DE Alex Magee, S DaJuan Morgan, RB/KR Dantrell Savage.