Players who must improve: Marcus Cooper

Here we will continue a series that looks at five young Kansas City Chiefs who need to make progress from where they were in 2013. Forget for a moment about the Chiefs getting help from free-agent or draft additions. If these players come through, the Chiefs will be in good shape in 2014.

We’ll continue with cornerback Marcus Cooper. It says plenty about Cooper that he was the Chiefs’ rookie of the year in 2013, a season in which they had the No. 1 overall pick and three others in the top 100. But Cooper, plucked off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers at the start of the regular season, was better than any of them.

From the start, Cooper looked like he belonged. He quickly earned a spot as the Chiefs’ third cornerback and played better than either of the two starters for the first half of the season.

It came crashing down for Cooper over the last half of the season. As the performance of the defense collapsed around him, Cooper played like the seventh-round draft pick he was. Things got so bad for Cooper at one point that he was demoted from the third cornerback spot.

But Cooper has that early season stretch to hang on to, and he needs to find a way to become that player again. He moved into the starting lineup with the absence of Brandon Flowers from offseason practice.

At 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, Cooper has the size the Chiefs like in their cornerbacks. He has long arms and excellent ball skills. The elements are there for Cooper to become a solid contributor. He just needs to use them for a full season.