Arguably, one of last year’s most surprising teams had to be the Kansas City Chiefs: a team picked to finished last in the AFC West and ended up winning the division with a record of 10-6. Everyone in Kansas City knew we had something special after the first game of the season on Monday night football where the Chiefs held on against the division favorite Chargers. They continued the momentum and rode the rising talents of Jamal Charles – who to me is the best back in the NFL – and Dwayne Bowe’s breakout 2010 campaign on offense. What might have been just as shocking was that in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl, Matt Cassel was the alternate quarterback and played in place of Tom Brady, a role he was familiar with.
The defense was instantly improved with the number five overall pick Eric Berry coordinating the defensive backfield. Berry was also at the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, a feat not commonly seen. Derrick Johnson finally put a complete season together and might be this season’s candidate for breakout player of the year. Tamba Hali is now on everyone’s top 10 lists when it comes to pass rushers, which for the Chief’s, is starting to develop into a very formidable unit. Behind the tutelage of defensive genius Romeo Crennel, I see this team only getting better as they continue to play together.
Another recent top pick who started to show why he was chosen fifth overall is Glen Dorsey. His play was dramatically improved in his third season and will be a force to be reckoned with if he continues to improve. On the opposite end of expectations, a little bit of a diamond in the rough that might be one of the most underrated players in the AFC west is Wallace Gilberry. The undrafted free agent has been a welcome surprise and will only continue to improve. Not many know about Mr. Gilberry, but soon NFL quarterbacks will have to take notice.
I mention these players because Scott Pioli has formed a talented, young, physical core of players that can play together at a very high level for the foreseeable future. He has done this by finding players late in the draft, undrafted free agents and also by having successful first round picks as well – not including Tyson Jackson, but the jury is still out on him and we can only hope that he develops along the same timeline that his former LSU teammate Dorsey has.
This year’s draft will be quite different than recent ones because we are picking 21st overall instead of the habitual top 5 we have grown accustom to the last couple years. We also do not have a glaring weakness like we have had in the past. I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement at about every position on the team, but I feel we are in position for taking the best player available. The position we are in makes trying to predict who Pioli will target with the first pick difficult. It is probably safe to say that Justin Houston DE/LB from Georgia, whom some have targeted as a possibility is off the list because of a failed drug test at the combine, doesn’t fit the mold of who Pioli will invest in.
So, who else is a possibility in my mind? Gabe Carimi a 6’7 tackle from Wisconsin, and Nate Solder an even bigger 6’8 tackle from Colorado who is a physical freak, but may take a little more time to develop. The most popular pick amongst fans is one I disagree with in Akeem Ayers, LB from UCLA. I just have not bought into the hype and do not like his fit into our current players. I would prefer Ryan Kerrigan LB/DE from Purdue if we were to go defense and he was still there. Kerrigan has shades of a more athletic Jarad Allen, a player who Kansas City fans still love.
It would not be shocking if all the players mentioned above were available at 21, so how about a couple players that might be worth a trade? Wide Receiver is a glaring need for the Chiefs, they need someone to compliment Bowe, but if AJ Green and Julio Jones are gone in the top 15, I don’t see another candidate worth the 21st overall pick. I wouldn’t mind – if Jones slipped a bit – to trade up and grab him as long as we didn’t have to give up too much in this year’s draft. Instead of trading for a receiver, a player to fill that need could come in the second round with wide receiver candidates such as Hankerson, Baldwin and Little.
Another trade scenario I see possible is trying to trade up to get local fan favorite Aldon Smith. Anyone who knows me personally can tell you how much I hate the school Smith played for that will remain nameless, but I’m not blind to the fact that he is in my mind a solid pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year and will probably be a perennial Pro-Bowler. Aldon Smith reminds me of a Demarcus Ware type player, with the size and speed combination to terrorize offenses. I do not see him slipping past San Diego, but if he is there, and we have the opportunity to trade up to prevent from playing him twice a year, then I would pull that trade in a heart-beat.
The other option is to trade down if a team in the 25-31 range is looking to move up to get someone they covet. For instance, if Pouncey is still there and Pittsburgh wants to reunite the brothers; or some other scenario that would give us another 2nd or 3rd round pick, that would be acceptable. If we move down a couple spots, look for Brooks Reed, DE out of Arizona, who has risen on a lot of draft boards.
More than likely the Chiefs will hold on to the 21st pick, and if I got my wish we would get Carimi to get some young muscle on our front line to help pave the way for Charles. Thursday will be interesting for Chiefs fans for sure, the options are limitless. Check back later as I will continue to break down other targets for the later rounds.