2013 'second draft' helped Chiefs build defensive depth

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- At that time of year when NFL teams annually shed dozens of jobs, the Kansas City Chiefs were giving them away, seven of them to be exact.

It was 2013, days before the start of the regular season, and the Chiefs claimed seven players off waivers as they attempted to load up with talent after a league-worst 2-14 record in 2012.

Five of those players were still with the Chiefs two years later as they headed into the final round of cuts. All are defensive players and two of them, nose tackle Jaye Howard and safety Ron Parker, are starters.

The others are linebackers Dezman Moses and James-Michael Johnson, and cornerback Marcus Cooper.

The Chiefs still refer to that haul of players as a second draft. Indeed, they headed into the weekend with almost as many players from that second draft, five, as they had from that year's real draft, six.

"I'd be lying if I said I did because we didn't know them," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said when asked if he expected this kind of production from that 2013 group of free agents. "[General manager] John Dorsey and his guys did a great job of evaluating not only the players that came in, but the needs that we had at that time on our squad.

"That's not an easy thing to come in during the first game and all of the sudden you have to learn a whole system. They embraced it and they worked at it. We tried to give each of them a little role that they thought they could do and they took off at it, and you're really happy for those guys when you can do that.”

The Chiefs were in a position to collect the seven players since they were first in line for waiver claims because of their lousy 2012 record. Any player the Chiefs claimed, they received.

The Chiefs plucked most of these players from teams that at the time were among the most talented and had among the deepest of rosters in the NFL. They took Moses from the Green Bay Packers and Cooper from the San Francisco 49ers.

They claimed three players -- Howard, Parker and since-departed tight end Sean McGrath -- from Seattle. The Seahawks that year went on to win the Super Bowl.

"In Seattle, with that team we had, every position was stacked," Howard said. "There was competition everywhere. You just knew that if you played well in the preseason games, it would be on tape and somebody would pick you up.

"I'm glad the Chiefs picked me up but I was happy with my time there. That competition made me a better player."

Parker appreciates the opportunity even more. He was cut eight times by three teams, including six times by the Seahawks alone, before he joined the Chiefs. After spending 2013 as a backup, he moved into the starting lineup last year and played so well the Chiefs gave him a five-year contract worth $25 million during the offseason.

"It was basically a dream come true," he said. "When you're cut so many times and then you all of a sudden find a home, it's the best feeling in the world."

Parker joined the Chiefs as a cornerback at a time when they needed them, then shifted to safety when the Chiefs were thin at those positions last year. Like the others who joined the Chiefs two years ago, Parker filled a specific need , in his case a versatile defensive back who could help against the run but was also good in pass coverage.

The five players from that second draft of 2013 can help explain the Chiefs' defensive depth.

"When you get picked up after that cut, the team you're going to has a need," Sutton said. "When you come in at the end [of the preseason], there's a need and you need to meet it. But there's a need, that's why they're picking you up. They're not just picking you up for the heck of it and getting a look at you for down the road. It's about having a need and thinking that guy can help us."