Will it be a big, burly offensive tackle like Russell Okung or Bryan Bulaga? Is a defensive player like Eric Berry or Rolando McClain about to become the newest member of the Chiefs? Is there a name coming out of the blue, matching what happened last year when Tyson Jackson was Kansas City’s first-round choice.
The question of who will be the Chiefs first-round selection should be answered Thursday evening with the start of the 2010 NFL Draft. Maybe the biggest question is whether Scott Pioli and Todd Haley stay at the fifth choice of the first round, or will they take the bait offered by another team and move down in the order?
When a football team has won just 10 games in the last three NFL seasons there are always a lot of question that must be answered. This three-day selection meeting is hugely important to Pioli/Haley in their attempt to reverse the fortunes of the Chiefs. With eight selections in the first 144 players, they must use those choices to infuse the roster with badly needed talent.
With three of the first 50 picks and four of the first 68 selections, there can be no mistakes by the Chiefs personnel operation. Those four spots must produce help, both long-term and immediately, for the team’s offense, defense and special teams. The remaining four selections β including three choices in the fifth round β must also provide players who can step into various roles with the team.
With a frustrated fan-base that’s staying away and not buying tickets and a possible lock-out ahead in 2011 for the NFL owners and players, there are a lot of logs on the fire that burns under the second-year GM and head coach. There was minimal improvement shown by the ’09 Chiefs and Haley kept reminding everyone that turning around the fortunes of the Hunt family’s crown jewel was “a process.”
For that process to have any sort of forward momentum it’s going to take more than adding two new coordinators (Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel) and one of the better veteran running backs in the league (Thomas Jones.) The process needs a talent transfusion that this team hasn’t enjoyed in some time, maybe back to the 1996 draft class. That year the Chiefs had five of the first 135 selections and drafted Jerome Woods, Reggie Tongue, John Browning, Donnie Edwards and Joe Horn. By the time their careers were over, Woods, Edwards and Horn went to the Pro Bowl, although Edwards and Horn did it wearing uniforms that were not red and gold.
That ’96 class is an indication of how special it is that the Chiefs have eight of the first 144 slots. The 2010 draft group is very deep thanks to an influx of underclassmen, some 53 in all with more than half of the top 40 rated players leaving school without using all their eligibility.
The top of this class is heavy with defensive linemen, wide receivers and cornerbacks, and light on linebackers, quarterbacks and interior offensive linemen.
POSITIONS OF NEED
As for what positions the Chiefs will be looking closely at, it’s easier to list those where they won’t be seeking help: punter, kicker and cornerback, with quarterback close behind. With so many of the free agents the team signed coming on the offensive side of the ball, it’s likely the attention this weekend will be on defense.
The Chiefs have five relatively young starters on their defense: Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr at cornerback, Tamba Hali at outside linebacker and Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson at defensive end. Youthful talent is badly needed at nose tackle, inside linebacker and safety.
Offensively, help is needed at wide receiver and tight end, and most assuredly along the offensive line at all three positions. With the exception of third-year man Branden Albert, there’s not a long-term starter at any of the other four positions. Of course, just where Albert may end up playing β left tackle, right tackle or right guard β remains a subject for discussion.
Last year the most consistent and solid part of the Chiefs was the kicking game, and that was done without a solid return threat. Somewhere, somehow Pioli/Haley must find somebody who can tilt the field in their favor on punts and kickoffs.
AHEAD OF THEM
Just who might be available with that fifth choice remained in doubt as Draft Day #1 dawned on Thursday. Here’s where the rumors were floating around the league:
- St. Louis β It looks like the Rams have settled on QB Sam Bradford as the No. 1 choice.
- Detroit β DTs Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy and OT Russell Okung are associated with the Lions by all the guessers and mock draft types.
- Tampa Bay β Either Suh or McCoy will be the choice.
- Washington β Okung, OT Trent Williams and QB Jimmy Clausen have been the names mentioned most often.
That brings us to the Chiefs.
There figure to be four or five names that the Chiefs will shuffle through when their turn comes at No. 5: Okung, Bulaga, Berry, McClain and possibly Tennessee DT Dan Williams. Here’s how each one of those players breaks down
- OKUNG/Reasons for β best offensive lineman in this year’s class β¦ a 10-15 year fixture at left tackle.
- OKUNG/Reasons against β nothing particular to him, just a desire to fill another position.
- BULAGA/Reasons for β developed by Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, a good friend and former work-mate with Pioli.
- BULAGA/Reasons against β considered by most teams as a right tackle, not left tackle.
- BERRY/Reasons for β top defensive back in the class, with a wealth of skill and knowledge.
- BERRY/Reasons against β safeties do not get drafted this high in the first round.
- MCCLAIN/Reasons for β best linebacker in the draft; well schooled, talented and intelligent.
- MCCLAIN/Reasons against β maybe only a two-down player, coming out in passing situations.
- WILLIAMS/Reasons for β can play the nose and be disruptive to an offense.
- WILLIAMS/Reasons against β too many defensive linemen drafted early for Chiefs.
WHAT TO EXPECT
If the Chiefs can’t trade out of their No. 5 spot, I think that group of five gets cut to three: Okung, Berry and McClain. If all three are still there, I think the preference goes in that order, with the tackle, safety and inside linebacker lined up one-two-three.
Any of those three would be immediate starters and great additions to the Chiefs roster.
DOWN THE LINE
With picks No. 36 and 50 in the second round, I think the Chiefs will go after Penn State ILB Sean Lee (if they don’t take McClain) or South Florida S Nate Allen (if they don’t take Berry) and NT Terrence Cody of Alabama.
In the third round, I think they look for a wide receiver, like Minnesota’s Eric Decker or Mardy Gilyard of Cincinnati.
The fourth and fifth rounds I think will bring a tight end, offensive linemen, quarterback and another linebacker.
PERSONNEL FILE FOR WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21
- BEARS β RFA LB Jamar Williams signed tender offer.
- BILLS β claimed TE Michael Mathews on waivers (Lions).
- BUCCANEERS β RFAs LB Barrett Ruud and CB Elbert Mack signed tender offers.
- JAGUARS β acquired a fifth-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft from the Raiders in a trade.
- RAIDERS β acquired DE Quentin Groves in a trade with the Jaguars.
- STEELERS β QB Ben Roethlisberger suspended by NFL for six games for violating the personal conduct policy; agreed to a one-year contract extension with QB Byron Leftwich.
- TITANS β D Tony Brown agreed to a 3-year contract.
- VIKINGS β signed CB Lito Sheppard to a 1-year, $2 million deal.