Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel recently suggested that his team had filled most of its roster gaps via free agency. I don’t necessarily disagree.
Kansas City’s major coup was an effort to bring prized free agent right tackle Eric Winston in for a visit and not let him get away without a contract.
Winston is now a Chief, and Kansas City’s offensive line is shaping up for 2012.
Beyond that, the Chiefs managed to lure running back Peyton Hillis away from Cleveland on a team-friendly one-year, $2.6 million deal that may serve notice to Hillis that if he runs again in 2012 like he did in 2011, he’ll never get the lucrative long-term contract he has sought since bursting onto the scene in 2010.
Additionally, the Chiefs plucked a pair of former Raiders in tight end Kevin Boss and cornerback Stanford Routt, both of whom were cut by Oakland this offseason. Each came at a fraction of the cost their former team was paying them, and each should fill an important roster role, as Boss will assume the second tight end responsibilities and Routt should likely start opposite Brandon Flowers in the secondary.
With those four players locked in, as well as a handful of other less newsworthy transactions, GM Scott Pioli has in fact addressed most of the teams major needs. With that being the case, the Chiefs have an opportunity to sit on their number eleven pick, see how the draft falls in front of them, and act accordingly – rather than anxiously bracing themselves for a last minute trade up to snag the player they are desperately seeking (that’s something a team like Miami may be forced to do if they are in fact as interested in Ryan Tannehill as we’ve been led to believe).
It’s an enviable position to be in on draft day, and let’s take a look at how the team may proceed come April 26th.
Who they will draft: Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Boston College. Find a major defensive award handed out in college football last season, and it likely belongs to Kuechly. On an otherwise woeful Boston College team, Kuechly kept the Eagles program relevant and worth watching in 2011. He was simply everywhere and everything to his defense, and he’s about as close to a ready-made NFL prospect as this draft class offers. His physical abilities are matched only by his mental makeup and character, and he’d instantly upgrade the Chiefs already above-average linebacking core. Crennel would install Kuechly next to Derrick Johnson as an inside linebacker, and they’d give Kansas City a pair of three down players – a growing rarity in the NFL.
Who they should draft: Kuechly. Jovan Belcher is a fine young player, and he’s done well to transform himself into a hit and run linebacker after four years with a hand in the dirt as a defensive end in college at Maine, but he has limited physical abilities and is not a major factor in the passing game. In adding Kuechly, Belcher could be realigned into a backup linebacker and core special teams player role – that’s closer to where he belongs in the NFL.
Who they could draft: Dontari Poe, nose tackle, Memphis. One could argue with the assertion Crennel made (which I referenced at the top of this piece) about not having a roster hole, because many believe the Chiefs need a nose tackle in the worst way. It’s true to a degree, but my belief is that Crennel doesn’t feel the need for the Chiefs to force the issue in picking one up unless they believe him to be a sure-fire starter and producer. It’s a difficult position to evaluate and find talent at, making Poe all the more juicy for teams in need of an athletic specimen on the defensive line. He’s blessed with amazing physical gifts – so much so that he could be long gone before the Chiefs pick – but also has a pedestrian track record of production. To boot, there are reports that he hasn’t always played hard, something that – if it’s true – would likely cool Pioli on Poe.
Who they shouldn’t draft: Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Texas A&M. The Chiefs are rumored to be working Tannehill out in a private setting in the near future, and that means they’re one of a handful of teams interested in his services. My beef with picking Tannehill is that the Chiefs are ready to compete for the playoffs now – with Matt Cassel under center – and investing in a young quarterback could mean having to wait on his development and maturation into being a leader. The team has stood by Cassel since trading for him in 2009, and rather than veering off course with an unproven youngster, I believe the Chiefs ought to roll with Cassel and see what this roster – the best one Pioli has assembled yet – can do when at full strength.