Chiefs

2010 Draft Grades: Chiefs

I was fairly surprised that Scott Pioli selected Eric Berry in the 1st round. He strongly believes that football games are won in the trenches and that safeties aren’t nearly as valuable as the big boys. Yet he went against his beliefs and took the guy many believed to be the best available player.

As much as I like Berry, I question his decision to pass on Russell Okung. The Chiefs defense is so bad right now, that I don’t see how Berry can make an immediate impact. Defensive backs are at the mercy of the pass rush. If you can’t pressure the quarterback, then the best defensive backs in the world will eventually get beat. An offensive tackle, however, can make an instant impact. Okung and Branden Albert would have been an excellent duo.

I really like Dexter McCluster, but it was a reach to take him 36th overall. He’s a nice complementary piece to have, but he’s too small to be a starter at either receiver or running back. The Chiefs have too many other holes to fill to be getting cute and taking players like McCluster in the early 2nd round.

I feel the same way about Javier Arenas. He can make an immediate impact on special teams, but I don’t view him as a starting cornerback. He’s too small and too slow. He’ll play immediately as a nickel cornerback, but he may be stuck at that position for his career.

Jon Asamoah was a great 3rd-round selection. He’ll likely play a backup role in 2010, but could eventually replace 33-year-old Brian Waters in the starting lineup.

I have mixed feeling about the selection of Tony Moeaki. He has the talent to be a future star, but he simply can’t stay healthy. He’s arguably the most injury-prone player in this year’s draft and there’s just no reason to believe he’ll have a long, healthy NFL career. If he does, he’ll be a steal, but a team like the Chiefs shouldn’t be taking risks like that in the 3rd round.

Even with a 5th-round pick I dislike the selection of Kendrick Lewis. There were other positions on the roster that needed depth more than safety (linebacker, receiver) and he may have even been a reach. He’ll have to fight to make the roster and won’t be more than a special teams contributor.

The finally added a linebacker with their last selection, Cameron Sheffield. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a project and probably won’t make an immediate impact. They really could have used someone early in the draft to take some of the workload off the aging Mike Vrable.

Overall, I think the Chiefs simply took too many chances and didn’t do enough to fix a miserable defense. Eric Berry is one heck of a safety, but it was their run defense that was the real problem in 2009. With five picks in the top 100, the Chiefs had the opportunity to make a real splash this year. They took a number of players with upside, but just not enough guys who can help immediately. I don’t see how this draft helped them get any better in the immediate future.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chiefs, Draft Grades - 2010 1 Comment

Could Bryan Bulaga fall on draft day?

Most mock drafts have Bryan Bulaga in the top six, and few have him any lower than No. 9 overall. However, in Don Banks’ latest article on SI.com, one “league personnel man” was quoted as saying:

I know some people have him graded out as a third-round pick. A lot of pass rushers beat him badly last year. And if you watch that film, and add in that his arms are shorter than you’d like a tackle to have, how high can you take him?

2010 NFL Combine - Day One

Could Bulaga fall outside the top 10?

So could Bulaga fall on draft day?

While some scouts may view him as a 3rd-round prospects, its safe to say far more see him as a top-10 pick. He isn’t going to be the next Joe Thomas or Jake Long – a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle from day one – but there are plenty of reasons to like him.

For one, Bulaga is the most NFL-ready lineman in this year’s draft. Russell Okung comes from an option-based offense at Oklahoma State, meaning he’ll need to learn a new style of play in the NFL. Trent Williams has only one year of experience at left tackle, and an unimpressive one at that. And Anthony Davis, Charles Brown and Bruce Campbell are all very raw in at least one aspect of their game.

Bulaga, on the other hand, is as polished as they come. He doesn’t have elite size, strength or athleticism but there’s no reason he can’t be plugged into a starting lineup from day one.

He will be most attractive to a team like Chiefs, who are looking for a hard-nosed player who can immediately step on the field and make a difference. Scott Pioli loves players like Bulaga, that come from pro-style offenses and are fundamentally sound.

Again, Bulaga may not be the next Orlando Pace or Walter Jones, but I don’t see a scenario in which he falls outside the top 10.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Chiefs Comments Off

A look at the Chiefs Draft Board

We’re all but certain as to how the first three picks will play out, and I’ve detailed my thoughts on the Redskins decision earlier today. So here’s my best guess at what the Chiefs draft board looks like. Since they’re picking 5th, I’ll only include five players.

1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
He’s the best tackle in the draft and he’ll fit perfectly in Kansas City, supplanting Branden Albert at left tackle.

2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
The Chiefs don’t need a defensive lineman, but I also can’t see them passing up Suh if he were to fall and Okung were gone. He won’t fall though, so its a non-issue.

3. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Bulaga won’t be this high on every draft board, but he fits the profile of linemen Scott Pioli likes: physical, tough and smart. I can’t envision any scenario in which he isn’t still on the board at No. 5.

4. Trent Williams, Oklahoma
In the unlikely scenario in which Okung and Bulaga both went in the top five (to Detroit and Washington, I guess?) the Chiefs would likely settle for Williams. He isn’t exactly what they’re looking for, but they’re desperate to improve the protection for Matt Cassel.

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
This is the longest shot of them all, but in the crazy scenario in which Okung, Suh, Bulaga and Williams went in the top four I believe the Chiefs would turn to McClain. He is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense and fills an immediate need at inside linebacker.

No Eric Berry?
Yes, I left off Eric Berry. I realize that many mock drafts have the Chiefs taking Berry, however I don’t believe Scott Pioli has any interest in taking a safety in the top five. Pioli strongly believes that linemen and linebackers are the safest prospects and therefore should almost always be your selections in the top 10. A poor decision with the 5th pick in the draft can set a franchise back for years and Pioli isn’t interested in taking a gamble.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Chiefs Comments Off

5 players with an outside shot at the top 10

Every year there are one or two players that sneak into the top 10 on draft day despite rarely showing up that high in mock drafts. Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey, in ’08 it was Derrick Harvey, in ’07 it was Ted Ginn Jr., in ’06 it was Donte Whitner… the list goes on.

So who are the candidates this? Here are a few names to keep in mind that could come off board higher than expected on April 22:

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
McClain has occasionally shown up in mock drafts at No. 5 to the Chiefs (including ours) but Scott Pioli has shown little interest in him thus far. It could just be a smoke screen, but he appears genuine in his interest in the offensive tackles in this year’s class. If they pass on McClain, his odds go down, but Buffalo could be another option. In Buffalo he would be an ideal fit at inside linebacker next to Paul Posluszny, replacing the aging Kawika Mitchell.

4. Earl Thomas, Texas
Thomas’ top-10 hopes depend on where Eric Berry is selected. If Berry goes in the top five (Bucs? Chiefs?), then Thomas becomes an option for the Browns at No. 7. They’re looking for a replacement for Brodney Pool at free safety, and Thomas would be a perfect fit. Another option could be Jacksonville. The Jaguars may be ready to give up on 2007 1st-round pick Reggie Nelson at free safety.

3. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Spiller is absent from the top 10 in every mock draft I’ve seen, primarily because no one in the top 10 has a need for a running back. However, numerous teams in the 10-20 range (Dolphins, Seahawks, 49ers, Steelers) could be interested. Its possible that someone will decide to trade up for Spiller – the Browns would be a likely trade partner – in an effort to jump all the teams that could snatch him up in the middle of the 1st round.

2. Charles Brown, USC
Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis and even Bruce Campbell are frequently talked about as potential top-10 picks. So why is Brown, who’s viewed as a potential 1st-rounder, left out of the discussion? Brown’s top-1o chances hinge on where the others prospects fall. But if there’s a run on tackles in the top 10, as expected, its possible that someone trades up into the top 10 to ensure they land one of the top prospects. The 49ers would be a likely candidate to do so, thanks to their two 1st-round picks.

1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
Williams isn’t showing up in the top 10 in many mock drafts, but he’s one of the most popular prospects out there. He’s viewed as a potentially elite 3-4 nose tackle who also has the ability to play in a 4-3 scheme. The earliest he could come off the board would be at No. 6 to the Seahawks. He would be a significant upgrade over Colin Cole as the space eater on their defensive line. The Browns and Bills, who both runs 3-4 schemes, are perhaps the most likely options. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers has been rumored in multiple trade discussions. If he’s shipped out on draft day, it could be to make room for Williams. As for Buffalo, they’re transitioning to a 3-4 defense this year and don’t have a true nose tackle on their current roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks Comments Off

10 Best Offseason Moves (So Far)

10. Giants sign Antrel Rolle
Yes, the Giants overpaid for Rolle. The thought of him being the highest-paid safety in the league is comical. But the fact remains that he’s a significant upgrade over Michael Johnson and will give the Giants a very solid duo at safety between him and fellow Hurricane Kenny Phillips. The Giants are taking a “win now” approach and you have to give them credit for addressing a need with the best player on the market.

9. Falcons sign Dunta Robinson
The Falcons may have overpaid for a player who’s effort comes as goes throughout the season, but there’s no denying that Robinson has the talent to be an elite cornerback. Robinson will give you headaches, but ultimately when it matters most he’ll step up his game. He was playing at an elite level down the stretch this past season as Houston climbed back into the wild card race and he’ll do the same in Atlanta as they figure to be in the playoff hunt once again.

8. Patriots re-sign Vince Wilfork
Its not a sexy pick to have a player re-signing on this list, I know, but this is one of the most important moves nonetheless. Wilfork is the anchor of the Patriots defense. They’re in a mini rebuilding mode on that side of the ball this offseason and losing Wilfork would have set them back even further.

7. Chiefs sign Thomas Jones
If the Chiefs were expected to be a contender in 2010 this move would have ranked even higher. Jones isn’t capable of carrying the load throughout the season, but he can still be effective in spurts. Jones and Jamaal Charles give the Chiefs an impressive duo at running back which should allow them to control the ball and help open things up in the passing game for Matt Cassel.

6. Broncos sign Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green
None of these three players alone would have made the list, but collectively they’ve reshaped the Broncos defense. Williams will likely start at nose tackle with Green starting at one of the defensive end spots. Bannan can play nose tackle or end and may rotate between the two.

5. Cardinals trade for Kerry Rhodes
Rhodes fell out of favor with Rex Ryan in New York, but he is still a top-flight safety in this league. He’s just 27 and has plenty of good years ahead of him. Antrel Rolle was a fine starting free safety, but Rhodes is an upgrade and he comes at a cheaper price tag. It was a great trade any way you look at it from the Cardinals point of view.

4. Lions sign Kyle Vanden Bosch; trade for Corey Williams
Last offseason Jim Schwartz pledged to make the Lions bigger and stronger on defense. That’s proven to be easier said than done as the previous regime believed “smaller and faster” was the way to go. They struggled through the 2009 season, but Vanden Bosch and Williams gives their line two proven defenders who will likely team up with Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.

3. Bears sign Julius Peppers
Peppers was the biggest name to change teams but I can’t put him at number one because I don’t know that he’s a significant upgrade in Chicago. The Bears had other needs (mainly receiver) which they could have spent the money on, but they do deserve credit for landing the biggest name on the market.

2. Dolphins sign Karlos Dansby
Dansby has quietly been one of the most productive linebackers in the league during his time in Arizona, despite not being surrounded by much talent. In Miami he could develop into a star. He’s an ideal fit for their defensive scheme which is similar to Arizona’s. He’ll be a difference maker from day one for the Dolphins.

1. Ravens trade for Anquan Boldin
The Ravens have needed to make a move like this for years. Boldin is an elite possession receiver and will instantly become Joe Flacco’s favorite weapon. If he can stay healthy, a 100-catch season isn’t an unreachable goal for 2010. The acquisition of Boldin makes the Ravens the team to beat in the AFC North for 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Free Agency, Giants, Lions, Patriots 16 Comments

Rolando McClain to the Chiefs Makes Sense

I’ve had Rolando McClain headed to the Chiefs in my mock draft for a few weeks now. And I don’t plan on changing it until I hear some information that will lead me in a new direction. I’m aware that I’m in the minority in this prediction (although Mike Band is now on board) so I figured I would take the time to further explain the reasoning behind my prediction.

The first reason is that linebacker is an obvious need. Yes, I know the offensive line needs some work as well, but there’s no reason to believe the Chiefs are ready to throw in the towel with Branden Albert and Ryan O’Callaghan. Albert, a 2008 1st-round pick, is still young and it is far too early to call him a bust. O’Callaghan may never be an elite lineman, but he’s a favorite of Scott Pioli who brought him over from New England. Russell Okung would be an upgrade, but I don’t believe the Chiefs view the tackle position as a glaring need that must be addressed in the 1st round.

The linebacker position, however, is in a state of crisis in Kansas City. Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams were the primary starters at inside linebacker, backed up by former 1st-round pick Derrick Johnson.

Pioli and new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel want a linebacker to run the defense, much the way Tedy Bruschi did in New England. And the way McClain did for Nick Saban (a former defensive coordinator under Pioli’s tudor, Bill Belichick) at Alabama.

The second, and most important, reason for my prediction is that Scott Pioli has made his draft strategy very clear over the past few seasons. The top priority is ALWAYS to upgrade the front-seven, and only when that area is set will other positions be addressed. Additionally, he believes that offensive linemen essentially grow on trees, while quality defensive linemen and linebackers are harder to come by, thus making them a hot commodity early in the draft.

Pioli demonstrated this strategy last year by selecting defensive ends with each of his first two picks (Tyson Jackson, Alex Magee), and ignoring the need for an offensive lineman until the 5th round (Colin Brown).

But the trend goes back even further. Since becoming the Director of Player Personnel in New England in 2001, Pioli has been instrumental in the selection of four top-15 picks, all of which were spent on defensive ends and linebackers.

Pioli, who comes straight from the Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick player personnel school, has a long history of successful drafts to look back on. As NFL head coaches, Parcells and Belichick have made 16 top-15 selections. Only two of them have been offensive linemen. Belichick selected Steve Everitt with the 14th overall selection in 1993. Parcells selected Eric Moore 10th overall in 1988.

Seven of those 16 picks were, predictably, defensive linemen or linebackers.

Its only January. And there is certainly time for McClain’s stock to fall. But at this point in time, he looks like a legitimate top-10 pick and no matter what angle I look at it, he just seems like a slam dunk for the Chiefs.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Chiefs Comments Off