While most would prefer big, dynamic players in those roles, the Chiefs have discovered that good things can come from small packages.
McCluster was viewed as a hybrid player in most draft war rooms, and offensive coordinators were divided on how to take advantage of his unique talents. As a senior at Mississippi, he tallied 1,169 rushing yards on only 181 attempts (6.5 yards per carry) with eight touchdowns against tough SEC competition. In addition, he had 44 receptions for 520 yards with three touchdowns as an occasional slot receiver. That versatility prompted the Chiefs to nab him with the 36th overall pick.
Although he has only played in a limited capacity as a running back, receiver, returner and Wildcat quarterback, McCluster has six plays of 20 yards or more, including a 94-yard punt return score and a 31-yard catch for a touchdown. His ability to deliver game-changing plays has encouraged Haley to use him in a Reggie Bush-like capacity to energize an offense that has sputtered at times despite the team's 3-0 record.
In the Chiefs' surprising win over the San Francisco 49ers, McCluster emerged as the team's top weapon in the passing game. His ability to turn short passes as a receiver out of the backfield into big gains alleviated some of the pressure on Matt Cassel, and gave the quarterback someone to turn to in critical situations.
Given the Chiefs' pedestrian offensive rankings (17th in total offense and 29th in passing), Haley will continue to increase McCluster's role as the season moves forward. The extra opportunities will lead to the kind of production that matches the highlights he has provided so far.
With that in mind, it should not come as a surprise to see McCluster's name among the list of Offensive Rookie of the Year contenders at season's end.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Sam Bradford, Rams, QB (Week 2 ranking, 2): He continues to cement his status as one of the league's promising young throwers with his steady play in critical moments. In leading the Rams to their first win of the season, he showed the poise and confidence to make big plays with the game against the Redskins on the line.
4. C.J. Spiller, Bills, RB (NR): After getting off to a slow start, Spiller finally delivered the highlight plays that everyone has been anticipating with his performance against the Patriots. His 95-yard kick return touchdown followed up a 5-yard score on a bubble screen that showcased his versatility.
Most Valuable Player
Offensive Player of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Defensive Rookie of the Year
5. Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons, LB (4): The Falcons' defense looks much improved during the early part of the season, and Weatherspoon has been a major factor. The rookie not only leads the team in tackles, but his ability to run and cover has allowed coach Mike Smith to be more aggressive on defense.