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Surprising Season: Dexter McCluster's Lack Of Impact

He was the surprise gem of the draft class. Andy Reid supposedly was waiting to grab him for his uber-athletic Eagles offense. He was considered the most electric playmaker in last April's draft this side of C.J. Spiller (another surprising lack of impact, but that's for another article). Yet the little engine that could do everything ended up didn't do much of anything in 2010.

Dexter McCluster was the shining star of a Chiefs draft class that everyone talking this off-season. The additions of Eric Berry, McCluster, Javier Arenas and others had draft experts like Rick Gosselin, Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper Jr. and others loving the direction that KC went with their choices. In particular, the crowds ooohed and aaahed over McCluster and the offensive possibilities at receiver, running back and in the return game. If you would have said then that the Chiefs would win the division, certainly most would have believed the versatility and game-breaking speed of McCluster would have played a large part in that.

Of course, those projections were for good reason. McCluster averaged 6.4 yards/carry in the SEC playing for Ole Miss, and in his final season he rushed for 1,169 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also caught 44 passes each of his last two seasons and flashed some return ability as well on kickoffs and punt returns. His workouts and game film all confirmed McCluster's elusiveness and game speed were something you just can't coach, and the Chiefs weren't the only ones with the 5'8" receiver high on their board.

So it's confusing to see such mediocre results in McCluster's first full season in the NFL. Unless he strikes gold on Sunday against the Raiders in the final regular season game, McCluster's totals will end up rather pedestrian for such a perceived game-changer. He's only caught 20 passes on the season for 194 yards, not exactly the average you'd expect for such an explosive playmaker. Another 18 rushes garnered 71 yards with only one touchdown between the two. A 94-yard return for a touchdown is the lone highlight from a season where many were expected. Was that unrealistic?

Perhaps it was. After all, the Chiefs have a hard enough time getting the ball to guys like Jamaal Charles enough as it is with their run-first play selection and two-headed beast at the position. Not only this, but Matt Cassel was also busy finding a diamond in the rough in Tony Moeaki and revitalizing Dwayne Bowe's career as well. There's only so many touches per game, and the Chiefs' formula worked well enough to win the division, so why mess with a good thing, right?

Another important factor is the high ankle sprain that kept McCluster from playing full-time. He missed 5 games with a high ankle sprain -- the kind of injury that can linger for some time and remove the very x-factor McCluster is supposed to provide. It's also important to note that McCluster has had some plays cancelled because of penalties (thinking of the 57-yard run against the Broncos a few weeks ago), but that's par for the course in the NFL.

Some might point to McCluster's ability to be an offensive decoy and keep the defense honest. Perhaps that's true and those aspects of the game are definitely essential. But it seems Al Davis' corpse was continually kicked while the Raiders fawned over highly athletic players who failed to deliver the on-field results worthy of a high draft choice. I've no doubt that McCluster can and will provide such numbers in the future, but the lack of electricity coming from McCluster has been one surprising disappointment in a season where the good far outweighs the bad.