Let me first start by saying wow. What a season for us Chiefs fans huh? 2010 had extensive peaks with minimal valleys. At times, the excitement was simply unbearable. After achieving a 10-6 regular season record, winning the AFC West, and clinching a playoff birth, I found myself quite optimistic about the Kansas City Chiefs. Unlike in years past, through my spectacles, I can behold the light at the end of the tunnel. As of now, all arrows are ascending, and it looks as if the head honchos have this vessel steering in the right direction.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me welcome you to my annual Kansas City Chiefs mock offseason. I began this editorial last year over at Arrowheadpride, and Joel Thorman was graciously kind enough to “front page it”. It was titled “My Proposal To Fixing My Beloved Chiefs,” and garnered a massive amount of attention from Chiefs fans. Things have changed recently, and I now run With The First Pick. So, here we are again, exploring the endless opportunities of the NFL offseason. Despite the Debby-Downer news of the CBA and NFL Lockout, this is an exciting time. It brings forth a moment that I have coined, “Wonderland”. No matter your teams past, every fan can bask in wonder and hope for their teams future.
Even though last season brought sunshine and rainbows, things are not all smiles and butterscotch. There are still bricks to be laid if the Chiefs as an organization want to take that next step to elite-ism. This years schedule is quite the contrast to lasts. It looks to be of the difficult breed. The success of yester-year could possibly bring forth less fortune in 2011. The repercussions of winning the AFC West crown, bears upon us the challenges of eight 2010 playoff teams. That’s right, half of the Chiefs season schedule is comprised of eight “tough-as-nails” playoff teams.
Now, I’m sure the Chiefs brass isn’t shaking in their boots, nor should we. They’ve already set the seasons wheels in motion, and we must support them. This piece is an effort to support their movement. Hopefully after reading my rhetoric and ideologies, it’ll get you pumped up for the remaining offseason events and upcoming season. I hope to inspire you to develop your own mock offseason blueprints.
Before delving in, I want to give a quick disclaimer. Ready? Okay. I am strong in my beliefs. It can come off as an know-it-all attitude, but I promise, that is not my intent. I do not claim to be “Smarter Than a Scott Pioli”. However, I do claim to be an avid Chiefs fan, that has extensive knowledge of the team, and a bevy of knowledge about college football. Hopefully you can take my words with few slivers of salt, as I only look to foster and inspire conversation about my Beloved Chiefs.
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Every year, teams have a salary cap amount that they must adhere to. This year that salary cap figure is around 110 million dollars. Last year, the Chiefs spent the least amount of money amongst all NFL clubs. 83 million dollars towards payroll was 7 million away from the next closest team. So the Chiefs have some pocket change to play with. Fortunately for them, they have 22 free agents to consider this offseason. Lets take a peak at who they are, and if they should be retained.
1. Tamba Hali, DE/OLB, Age: 27 (Franchised Tagged) – Hali had his best season to date in 2010. With 14.5 sacks, he managed to fly under the radar, and get snubbed out of a Pro Bowl appearance. He is one of the best edge rushers in the game, and the fact that the Chiefs franchised him says that. There’s no doubt that the Chiefs should keep Hali in town.
2. Brandon Carr, CB, Age: 25 (Tendered) – Prior to the 2010 season, many Chiefs fans were down on Brandon Carr. Even I had wondered about his ability to produce at a starting capacity. That all changed once the 2010 season began. He performed exceptionally well throughout the duration of the season. Carr led the league with 25 pass deflections, and was a constant force on the edge. I consider him one of the best #2 cornerbacks in the NFL, and I think the fact that the Chiefs tendered him affirms my opinion.
3. Wallace Gilberry, DE, Age: 26 (Tendered) – Not many players decided to help Hali in the sack department last year. Wallace Gilberry was one of the few guys that the team could lean on to get a sack when it was needed. He finished the season with 7 sacks in a backup role. Even though the Chiefs sack numbers have improved, they still aren’t quite where they need to be. Gilberry must stick around, and continue to bring that pressure up the middle. He got slapped with a tender, so it looks like he’ll do just that.
4. Shaun Smith, DE/NT, Age: 30 (Re-sign) – Since Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, James Hasty, and Dan Saleaumua, I’ve felt like the Chiefs have lacked passion and fire. When Shaun Smith came into town, he brought a boat load of both with him. On the field, you could see other players feeding off of his fortitude and energy. At any rate, I am uncertain if the Chiefs will retain Smith. He had a few transgression throughout the season, and I’m sure Pioli & co. were not too pleased with them. Our defensive line rotation is thin at the moment, so I am on the side of the fence that wants him back.
5. Barry Richardson, OT, Age: 25 (Tendered) – Despite his mauling of that poor and helpless little coach on the sidelines last season, I’m in Richardson’s corner. He’s a young offensive tackle that is still developing. I’m not sold on him starting right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid swing tackle. The Chiefs tendered him, so it looks like he’ll be staying with the team. I’m looking forward to seeing his improvement over the next couple of years.
6. Mike Vrabel, OLB, Age: 36 (Do not re-sign) – It has been great having the leadership and tutelage of Mike Vrabel. I look back on the Cassel/Vrabel trade and say we got one heck of a deal. During a tough transition to the 3-4 defense, he came in and solidified a very important position, SOLB. He’s also taught our young guys how to be professionals on and off the field. The Chiefs are indebted to him. That being said, I think it is time for Vrabel to depart Kansas City. For the first time in his career, he failed to achieve 1 sack. Throughout the season he was invisible. It’s time for the Chiefs to replace him.
7. Casey Weigmann, OC, Age: 38 (Re-sign) – I’ll jump out and say it right now, give me Casey Weigmann back. Not only did Weigmann hold down the center position last year, but he was a big part of the reason the Chiefs led the league in rushing for 17 straight weeks. Yes I realize his age and his inability to sustain against large nose tackles. I simply want Weigmann back to help the Chiefs transition to another center. His experience and guidance could pay major dividends to a young player or rookie.
8. Ron Edwards, NT, Age: 32 (Do not re-sign) – Old and his true position is 3-tech.
9. Ryan O’Callaghan, OT, Age: 28 (Re-sign) – He showed promised in 09′. Could be good depth.
10. Tim Castille, FB, Age: 27 (Do not re-sign) – Too finesse to be a starting FB.
11. Leonard Pope, TE, Age: 27 (Re-sign) – Good depth behind Moeaki.
12. Corey Mays, ILB, Age: 27 (Do not re-sign) – Poor tackler and solely a special-teamer.
13. Maurice Leggett, CB, Age: 24 (Do not re-sign) – Seems to be more focused on rap.
14. Jon McGraw, S, Age: 32 (Do not re-sign) – Often injured and displays diminished skills.
15. Rudy Niswanger, C, Age: 28 (Do not re-sign) – Good guy, but no place on the roster.
16. Jackie Battle, RB, Age: 27 (Re-sign) – Excellent short yardage back.
17. Mike Cox, FB, Age: 26 (Tendered) – Blue collar full back.
18. Terrance Copper, WR, Age: 29 (Re-sign) – Our best special teams player.
19. Travis Daniels, CB, Age: 28 (Re-sign) – Good depth behind Carr and Flowers.
20. Cory Greenwood, ILB, Age: 28 (Re-sign) – Young prospect with upside.
21. Reshard Langford, S, Age: 25 (Re-sign) – Needed depth behind Berry.
22. Brodie Croyle, QB, Age: 28 (Do not re-sign) – Win-less and not an NFL quarterback.
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In order to achieve greater success, the Chiefs must look to free agency to infuse more talent into their roster. It isn’t in Pioli’s DNA to go all “Daniel Snyder” and hand out the “big bucks” to star players. He’ll attempt to sign the occasional star, but the majority of his personnel moves are quality veteran mid-level guys. Below are a few players that I believe can have an immediate impact for the Chiefs.
1. Ryan Harris, OT, Age: 26 (Moderate Expenditure) – The Chiefs have been in search for a solution at right tackle for some time now. Plugging in various players has given immediate aide, but nothing that is a long term solution. Barry Richardson performed admirably in 2010, but at this point, he is nothing more than a swing tackle.
Ryan Harris is not a household name, but he is a quality offensive tackle nonetheless. He has 4 years experience playing in the Denver Broncos Zone Blocking Scheme, and 5 total years of NFL experience. The culmination of injuries and the Broncos transitioning to a power running scheme has made Harris expendable. When healthy, he is a remarkable blocker in both the passing and running game.
Adding a legitimate bookend tackle opposite of Brandon Albert could go a long way to improving the entire offense. There are a number of things that make this a good fit besides his abilities. He has the experience of playing in the AFC West. That alone cannot be overlooked. He’s also young. Filling a hole with a long-term solution is ideal. And lastly, he is high in character. He’ll add leadership and integrity to the locker room.
2. Aubrayo Franklin, NT, Age: 30 (Moderately-High Expenditure) – As of now, the Chiefs do not have a nose tackle on the roster. Both Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith are without contracts, and neither have been tendered. This leads me to believe that the position will be addressed partially via free agency. Nose tackles are similar to left tackles, teams rarely let them leave for the open market. This year, one has slipped through the cracks, and he would make for a fine replacement for Edwards and Smith.
Aubrayo Franklin has been the unknown man behind the success of 49er’s inside linebacker, Patrick Willis. His ability to hold the point of attack against double teams is why the world constantly sees highlights of Willis making spectacular plays. The 49ers chose not to franchise tag him this year, because he expressed interest in a long term deal. He probably has a good 4-5 years left in the tank, and that makes him an attractive possibility.
The nose tackle position is the key to a successful 3-4 defense. Without adequate performance there, the entire defense will have a difficult time stopping anyone. Last year, Edwards and Smith did well for the first 8 games. They helped the Chiefs reach top 10 run defense status. After that initial 8 games, they both began to wear down, and the run defense did as well. Adding Franklin will improve many things. He’ll free up Dorsey and Jackson to work one-on-one. His ability to stack blockers will keep our inside linebackers clean and free to shoot gaps. And on 3rd downs he can collapse the pocket. Pioli and Crennel love veterans, and Franklin fits the bill.
3. Stephen Cooper, ILB, Age: 31 (Low-Moderate Expenditure) – One of the under developed positions on defense is the MILB position. Last year, the run defense was acceptable from the position, but the pass coverage was awful, and often exposed. This weakness was not more evident than during the playoff game against Baltimore Ravens. Todd Heap ate the middle of the field alive, and was a big reason for the 30-point clip on the scoreboard. Jovan Belcher has improved each year he’s been with the Chiefs, but his inability in coverage is still bothersome. His lack of awareness puts the Chiefs defense in predicaments. They often attempt to band-aide this issue by inserting McGraw/Vrabel/Studebaker on the inside during 3rd/passing downs. The combination of the three didn’t fare too much better.
Scott Pioli likes veteran inside linebackers. One veteran that I think will fit in nicely is Stephen Cooper of the San Diego Chargers. He’s getting up their in age, but still has some years left on the gridiron. Cooper is violent against the run and savvy against the pass. He brings a bevy of attitude and passion to the field. Most Chiefs fans know him for his recent comments about “punching” the team in the mouth. That type of venom and outspokenness is what the Chiefs have been missing at the mike inside linebacker position.
Reading this, it might come across as me being down on Jovan Belcher. I like Belcher. I think he is the future at the position. I think given the fact that he came from a small school and his original position was defensive end, means he needs competition at the position and a mentor. Adding Cooper could provide Belcher with both. The mike inside linebacker position is typically the leader and signal caller of the defense. Cooper can show Belcher how its done, and pass the torch back in a couple of years.
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The third and final leg of the offseason is the NFL Draft. Unlike in the previous three years, the Chiefs are picking outside of the top five. This brings such relief. It broadens the players from which the Chiefs can chose from, opens up trade possibilities, and guarantees that whomever is selected will not be guaranteed tens of millions of dollars. Below are the players who I feel will help to continue the Chiefs success. There will be no trades, because they are too hard to predict.
– ROUND 1 –
Look at the Chiefs defense and you’ll see one glaring need — Strong Side Outside Linebacker. Since converting to the 3-4, the position has been a sore spot. Mike Vrabel has been the man on the edge, and while his performance has been tolerable, he has failed to be a difference maker. The SOLB has a lot of responsibilities in the 3-4. Not only must the player hold up against the run, but they must be able to drop into coverage, and rush the passer. It is one of the more dynamic positions in the scheme.
On the weak side, Tamba Hali has turned into one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. In 2010, with 14.5 sacks, he almost accounted for a third of the teams sacks. On the strong side, Vrabel and Andy Studebaker combined for a skimpy 2.5 sacks, with Vrabel accounting for zero of the 2.5. As poor as they were when rushing the passer, they managed to be even worse when in pass coverage. Tight ends and slot receivers abused them frequently, which resulted in the Chiefs having to shuffle pieces around to hide their ineptness.
UCLA, Jack-of-all trades, Akeem Ayers is the perfect candidate to fill the position. Unlike most linebackers coming out of college, Ayers has the experience necessary to be an immediate difference maker at the SOLB position. The 6’2″, 254- pounder played five different positions for the Bruins, including defensive end and strong side outside linebacker (4-3). He displayed excellent leadership on and off the field, which was recognized by his teammates and coaches. Two years straight, Ayers was bestowed the honor of being a team captain.
What makes Ayers so appealing is his versatility and athleticism. He has the ability to cover tight ends and slot receivers, stack and shed against the run, and bend the corner when rushing the passer. It makes him a desirable player for 3-4 teams. He also has an innate ability to make game changing plays. His knowledge of multiple positions, along with his athleticism, makes him a genuine play-maker. He seems to always around the ball, whether it be sacking the quarterback, intercepting a pass, or deflecting a throw. Ayers also possesses unique speed for the position. He can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Despite his poor combine forty-yard dash (4.8), he is a sideline-to-sideline player.
Adding Ayers to the defense gives Romeo Crennel scheme versatility. He can be lined up in a two-point stance or with his hand in the dirt. Opposing teams would have to account for him, because he can be a force. Last year, with the plethora of sub packages, the Chiefs defense became predictable by the personnel that was on the field. Ayers helps to eliminate this predictability. He also puts another speedy game changer on the field to accompany ILB, Derrick Johnson and SS, Eric Berry. Being a successful defense is all about creating negative plays, causing turnovers, and giving your offense the best field position to succeed. Ayers could help to move the Chiefs defense into the upper-echelon of NFL defenses.
Scott Pioli has been remaking the team over with speed, athleticism, and versatility. This pick continues that trend. He and coach Todd Haley have also been looking for leaders. Akeem Ayers fits the character profile of what the Chiefs are looking for. In my opinion, this pick is a win win.
– ROUND 2 –
Sometimes veterans will pull a fast one over your eyes. That’s exactly what Chris Chambers did. After an excellent showing in 2009, the Chiefs signed him to a favorable deal. Even at his age, he was still proving to be a viable receiving option. However, in 2010 he fell off the map. Only catching 22 passes, Chambers found himself on the inactive list more than the stats sheet. What was once thought to be the Chiefs deep threat became dead weight.
The rest of the receiving corps didn’t do the Chiefs any favors either. The second and third leading receivers on the team were not receivers, they were tight end, Tony Moeaki and running back, Jamaal Charles. This ineptness was very apparent in the playoffs. In a desperate act to give Dwayne Bowe and Matt Cassel some help, three days before their game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs signed Kevin Curtis off the street. He hadn’t played football all year, and somehow managed to be the Chiefs starting receiver opposite of Bowe. That shows just how little faith Todd Haley had in his receivers, and just how big of a need it is.
Boise State receiver, Titus Young is one of my favorite receivers in this draft class. With his combination of quickness and speed, he is a major threat down the field. After getting his college career off to a rough start character wise, Young has shown increased maturity each year. His skills have also developed over the years, becoming one of the most dynamic receivers in the nation. He is one of the few to truly put fear in the eyes of defensive backs. That type of suddenness and speed should bold well for him at the next level. Young is also an outstanding return man. In space, he moves effortlessly, and is able to make cuts at full speed. His conference has recognized his talents, naming him to the All-WAC 1st Team for three consecutive seasons.
At the Combine, everyone anticipated Young’s forty time to be spectacular. Unfortunately, he didn’t run as fast as expected, only clocking a 4.53. However, things were different at his Pro Day. As previously expected, Young ran in the 4.3 range. With that blazing speed, he has catapulted himself into a top round selection. With his long stride, and that 4.3 speed, Young does a nice job of eating up cushion when defenders play off. When they play man-press, he uses his lateral quickness to beat the jam. He is a polished route runner, capable of crisply executing every route in the route tree. The beauty of his routes is that he takes his speed into his breaks, and comes out of his breaks with that same speed. Big plays are the name of the game for Young. He spends the majority of his time exploiting zone coverage, and abusing cornerbacks in man coverage. His only drawback is his focus. At times, his hands can be inconsistent because he tries to run before securing the ball.
Adding Young to the receiving corps instantly improves multiple areas of the offense. First, he stops opposing defenses from rolling coverage over to Dwayne Bowe. Bowe saw a lot of double coverage towards the end of last year, and his production greatly decreased because of it. Second, Young helps to keep opposing defenses honest. Jamaal Charles and the running game frequently endured 8-9 man fronts. With a bona fide vertical threat, defenses will be too frightened to stack the box. Lastly, it makes the play action much more effective. When you have a guy like Charles and a guy like Young, teams will often find themselves in a conundrum.
When speaking about Young, the the moniker “Right 53” is often brought up. Yes Pioli values character, but I think this team and locker room is strong enough to withstand one player with questionable character. He likes to celebrate after touchdowns and has been suspended before, but it all seems to be a thing of the past. There have been no issues since 2008. In the second round, Titus Young holds very good value. His versatility is right up the Chiefs alley, not to mention his speed. The ability to stretch the field is something the Chiefs desperately need, and Young is the guy to provide it. Some have raised an eyebrow at the thought of the Chiefs drafting a receiver in the second round. Looking back at history, Pioli has displayed a pattern of picking receivers in the second round. Combining his New England and Kansas City drafts, he has drafted five receivers in round two, all being speedsters. This pick falls inline with that. I think it would be a good fit.
– ROUND 3 –
As of right now, when it comes to nose tackles, the cupboard is bare for the Kansas City Chiefs. Last years two-man rotation of Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith are no longer under contract. Both are free to explore free agency and provide their services to other teams this upcoming season. Even if a CBA is established, it is unknown whether or not they will be retained by the organization.
Both saw some success last year, but both had their fair share of struggles in the trenches. No matter what happens with the two, nose tackle is a position of emphasis. During the 2010 season, specifically in the latter half, the middle of the Chiefs defense was jelly. After not relinquishing many yards through the first eight games, teams began gashing them for huge chunks. In order to successfully run the 3-4 defense, there must be a huge anchor in the middle. Someone who can take on multiple blockers and hold the point of attack. That allows the linebackers behind them to flourish. This was not something that was consistently done last year.
A fan favorite amongst Chiefs fans is Ole Miss Defensive Tackle, Jerrell Powe. Most people first heard of him after his amazing 2009 season. He was known as the best nose tackle prospect in the country at that time. Unfortunately, his coaching staff changed his position, and required him to shed weight, which resulted in a less than stellar 2010 campaign. Despite the lackluster performance, Powe is still a viable option for teams looking to add a nose tackle. He has spent the offseason putting weight back on and building his strength, which has improved his draft stock..
With Powe’s thick lower half and stocky upper body, he is the prototypical nose tackle. He possesses everything needed to clog the middle. He doesn’t own the lateral quickness or agility that other defensive tackles in the draft own, but that is far from being a deal breaker. He has adequate strength and uses it to push the pocket on passing downs. Not only does Powe bring girth and a unique skill set to the field, but he brings leadership. A 2010 team captain, Powe used his maturity to lead his fellow teammates on and off the field. Despite growing up with a learning impediment, he found a way to triumph and conquer. His demonstration of perseverance and will power speaks volumes of his character.
Inserting Powe into the defensive line rotation beefs up the trenches quite a bit. Once he becomes acquainted with the speed and size difference of the NFL, he will prove to be a valuable commodity. He’ll help to keep blockers off of inside linebackers, free up defensive ends to work one-on-one, and collapse the pocket, allowing the edge rushers to get after the quarterback.
Some look at Powe’s age and troubles with his learning disabilities and automatically profess him to not be apart of the “right 53”. I look at it differently; It is a benefit. Having the ability to be bull-headed and overcome obstacles thrown your way is an excellent trait to have. His maturation process will make the transition to the NFL easier. This is the type of football player Scott Pioli and Todd Haley would love to have on the team, and in the locker room. Not to mention, he played in Pioli’s favorite NCAA Conference, the South Eastern Conference.
– ROUND 4 –
You’ve got to love what rookies Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis brought to the table last year. After suffering through a year of Mike Brown and Jon McGraw, it was a breath of fresh air to have two athletic play makers roaming the secondary. Despite their efforts in 2010, a weakness in the Chiefs defense reared its ugly head. When a safety got injured, the lack of depth showed. McGraw saw significant time as a starter and role player last year. But he was not very good, nor were the other backup safeties on the roster.
In Nickel and passing situations, Defensive Coordinator, Romeo Crennel likes to bring a safety on the field. Depending on the opposing offenses on field personnel, the safety plays either inside linebacker or slot corner. Last year that role fell upon the shoulders of McGraw when healthy. To say the least, he struggled immensely. The middle of the field was a soft spot that quarterbacks and tight ends took advantage of. Slot receivers and tight ends effortlessly moved the chains at times. For evidence, look no further than the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. Todd Heap had a field day.
There is a consensus out there that the 2011 safety class is extremely weak. In spite of no safeties warranting a first round selection, the class is not weak at all. It just fails in comparison to last year. One guy that has been flying underneath the radar is Temple FS, Jaiquwan Jarrett. He is listed as a free safety but is more of a hybrid safety. His skill set allows him to line up at either safety position. Looking at the defensive players in this draft, you’ll be hard pressed to find a sounder, more physical, and nastier tackler. Everything Jarret does on the field, he does with high effort, passion, and speed.
As a Nickel safety, Jarrett could really excel. He lacks experience in man coverage, but possess more than enough athleticism and size to stick with tight ends. In run support, he is an explosive defender. Time and time again, Jarrett can be seen laying big wood on offensive players. Jarrett is also a bright and upstanding young man. He brings a ton of leadership to the football field. Teammates and coaches anointed him team captain, and he was also awarded with Temples MVP award at the seasons end. His coaches and teammates rave about his desire, integrity, and abilities on the field.
For a couple of years now, the Chiefs have been looking for a solution to their pass defense woes. It drastically improved last year with the additions of Berry and Lewis, but there are still holes to be filled. If they want to compete in a pass heavy league, they must bring in a quality nickel safety. Someone who has the talents and intelligence to execute Crennel’s scheme. Jarrett would fulfill that need. No longer can tight ends be allowed to dictate things like they’ve done in the past. The other great thing about picking up another safety is that it helps with depth.
Yet another player that fits the status quo of what the Chiefs look for. Now that the team is headed in the right direction, the coaching staff and front office can start to stock piling players. Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers are the model. They see regular success because they simply draft good players. No matter if that position is already filled, they bring in guys who have the skills, intelligence, and character to play in their scheme. That is the basis of this pick for the Chiefs.
– ROUND 5 –
One Scott Pioli move that I feel doesn’t get enough credit is his acquisition of Center, Casey Weigmann. Even at the age of 38, he is still playing at a relatively high level. He came back to Kansas City and solidified a huge hole along the interior offensive line. Throughout the season, he did an exceptional job. I mean, the running game was only ranked number one for seventeen straight weeks. A lot of that had to do with Weigmann. He also did well in pass protection, no giving up a single sack the entire season.
Bill Williamson of ESPN recently reported that Weigmann is leaning towards returning for his seventeenth season. I’m not sure about others, but I’m all for it. If he does decide on returning, I think we need to bring in his future replacement for tutelage reasons. Weigmann has a lot to offer when it comes to knowledge of the game. Also, the Chiefs need to be prepared in case their is a decline in his performance. In 2010, he did show some signs of age. Teams possessing big defensive tackles often overpowered Weigmann, collapsing the pocket in Cassel’s face. Nonetheless, it has been a pleasure to have Weigmann anchor the middle of the offensive line.
In the 2011 draft, things fall off dramatically after the top three center prospects. Be that as it may, there is a late round small school prospect that I like a lot. Slippery Rock Center, Brandon Fusco has been getting a lot of attention as a potential solid late round selection. He is best known for his run blocking. Fusco does an exceptional job when asked to pull or reach the second level. He moves well in space and almost never misses an open field block. In the passing game, he shows good hand placement, and does a nice job at anchoring the point of attack. He plays very physical and has a mean streak in him. Consistently, Fusco can be seen getting nasty and finishing blocks until the whistle is blown.
Fusco is an excellent candidate to replace Weigmann once he decides to retire. With a bevy of NFL teams running the 3-4 and possessing some of the beefiest defensive tackles around, a center who can anchor is a requirement. Also, with the prominence of the Chiefs running game, an athletic center is necessary. Like many other Chiefs players, Fusco is a team captain. Throughout college he displayed excellent leadership qualities. Those qualities are what you look for in a starting center. They are responsible for calling out pre-snap adjustments and pointing out pre-snap defensive changes.
Filling a future hole now saves the Chiefs from having to scramble in the future. It also allows them the time to massage and develop Fusco. This philosophy was displayed last year. In the 2010 draft, the Chiefs selected Guard, Jon Asamoah in the third round. They had no intentions on starting him, even though he was a relatively high pick. The purpose of his selection was to be ahead of the curve. Like Weigmann, Brian Waters is getting up there in age and will need to be replaced soon. Asamoah is spending his time learning and when the time comes, he’ll be ready to step in as a starter. I foresee the same type of treatment for Fusco.
Brandon Fusco isn’t Mike Pouncey, Stefen Wisniewski, or even Rodney Hudson, and that’s okay. Quality offensive linemen can be found in the later rounds of the draft, or even after the draft via free agency. I remember Scott Pioli stating last year that it is his belief that the offensive line can be attended to later in the draft. There is no need to draft one early unless that once in a lifetime player is sitting there.The combination of Weigmann and Fusco would make me happy.
Watching the Chiefs running game in 2010 made me quite proud to be a Chiefs fan. The tandem of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones excelled. Through week one all the way through week seventeen, the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing. That is no small feat with the likes of Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, and Maurice Jones-Drew roaming the league. Chiefs fans expected something like this prior to the season. Haley often mentioned that the running game was to be the focal point of the offense and we knew the type of talent Jamaal Charles possessed. Outsiders were clueless. They all seemed to be shocked with the way the Chiefs were running all over opponents.
Obviously, the Chiefs want the running game to continue being the catalyst for wins. Amongst the fans, their is tremendous faith in Jamaal Charles. However, their is a growing concern that Thomas Jones may be over the hill or soon approaching it. Last year, he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry, and failed to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing. A little while ago, Todd Haley hinted at Jones returning for his 13th season. I welcome his leadership and character, but the Chiefs must start grooming another guy to pair with Charles for the future.
In a running back class that is deep in the middle rounds, players often get lost in the shuffle. That is the case for North Carolina tail back, Johnny White. White doesn’t have the stats of some of the highly touted first and second round backs, but on tape his skill set rivals there’s. He plays the game with a relentless passion that shows up in every touch of the ball. He shows a lot of balance even during heavy contact. White has minimal experience in the backfield. The three years prior to the 2010 season, he only carried the ball 116 times. In 2010 he eclipsed his three year total with 130 carries. During his collegiate career, he saw time at special teams gunner, cornerback, and safety.
White has the ability to be a starter at the next level, but he is very raw. Adding him to the Chiefs roster, he would contribute early and often on special teams, and would be groomed to share the load with Jamaal Charles in the future. Currently, the Chiefs have Dexter McCluster and Jackie Battle, but neither are well rounded running backs. I don’t foresee either being the thunder to Charles lightning. Along with White’s skills and versatility, he has character and passion. Over his four years at North Carolina, he showed his teammates what unselfishness and work ethic is all about.
This pick of Johnny White is a pick for the future. It’s an attempt to give the Chiefs immediate depth on offense and special teams, and to give them a legitimate tail back to groom for when Thomas Jones decides to retire. With the combination of his toughness, pass blocking ability, and terrific running skills, he’s a perfect fit for the offense.
Coaches speak very highly of White. He was the “Swiss army knife” of the Tarheels and was recognized for it. Voted a special teams captain and offseason MVP, White made his mark at North Carolina. In terms of the “Right 53”, he definitely fits the mold.
– ROUND 6 –
The foundation of the 3-4 defense is the three man front. Defensive ends and nose tackles have the unique job of “2-gaping”. 2-gaping is when a player has responsibility of protecting the gaps on their left and right shoulders. This technique is one of the more difficult and tiring techniques in football, as it requires constant contact of multiple blockers. Because of this, 3-4 teams typically have a 6-man rotation for their defensive line. This allows the players to stay relatively fresh throughout the game.
For the Chiefs, that rotation is sparse at the moment. Behind Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are undersized defensive tackles. Wallace Gilberry and Dion Gales are not prototypical 3-4 guys. They are undersized and tend to only see time during passing situations. During the season, Shaun Smith saw a good amount of time at left defensive end. He played pretty well there. Hopefully his services will be retained. Even if they are, the Chiefs must bring in some more defensive linemen that fit the scheme. You can never have too many when it comes to the 3-4.
Brandon Bair of the Oregon Ducks is an interesting prospect. The 26-year old defensive tackle is a little bit older than the normal football player entering the draft (26-years old). He also sports a different life style than most. Married and the father of a 3-year old, Bair bears a ton of off field responsibilities. The Economics grad student is an entrepreneur, owning his own used car business. He is also active in his church and in the Boys Scouts of America. And if all of that was not enough, he also interns for Brashers Northwest Auto Auction.
Intelligence is one of the most important aspects to playing football and Bair has a plethora of it. Along with his massive size, he brings a bright mind to the field. He isn’t the most gifted athlete, but he understands the intricacies of the game. At the next level, I envision him using that intelligence and size to work himself into a solid defensive line rotation, and possibly starting further down the line. Sitting at 6’5″, 276-pounds, Bair has the makings of an excellent 5-technique defensive end. Usually 3-4 DE’s are around 300-pounds. Bair’s frame has more than enough room to add an additional 15 pounds as well.
Like Jaiquwan Jarret and Brandon Fusco, Brandon Bair offers immediate depth. Injuries are apart of the game and always seem to happen at the most inopportune time. Good teams don’t panic because they have someone on the bench that can step right in and keep the wheels moving. That is what Bair can bring to the Chiefs. Eventually, he could work himself into a starting role. Currently, Dorsey has two years left on his contract and Jackson has yet to prove his worth. Not knowing the future, Bair could be one of their replacements.
It’s a recurring theme for my draft, intelligent leaders who are blue collar players. Like mostly everyone above, Brandon Bair fits into that category. You have to love a guy who is able to take on so many duties in life, not allow them to bully him, and excel at them all. Scott Pioli loves to build from the inside out. In this mock, this is the third addition to the front-7. As we’ve seen with some of the more recent Super Bowl Champions, defense wins championships, and this pick is an attempt to build a Super Bowl caliber defense.
– ROUND 7 –
Injuries are apart of the game and can happen to any play at any given time. In the span of two years, we’ve seen Matt Cassel go down with injuries. One being a knee sprain that caused him to miss the 2009 season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. The second coming in 2010. During the middle of the season, Cassel underwent emergency appendectomy surgery, causing him to miss a significant game against the Sane Diego Chargers.
During both of those games, backup quarterback Brodie Croyle filled in. In the Ravens game, he fared well. Towards the end of the game, he had the Chiefs in position to win the game. Unfortunately, the defense failed him. Against the Chargers in 2010, he looked god-awful. Only completing 7 of 17 passes for 40 yards, Croyle proved himself to not be a viable backup quarterback in the league. He is not under contract with the Chiefs, and I don’t suspect the Chiefs will be extending a hand to resign him.
Playing for a small school, Enderle didn’t go up against top level competition very often. When he did, he was hit and miss. He shows a lot of promise in his throwing mechanics, leadership, and poise, but he will sometimes make poor decisions or take unnecessary risks. He has the talent to be a solid backup quarterback, but he just needs to be reigned in.
Enderle can come in and provide the Chiefs with a third string quarterback, and eventually work his way up to second string. Since the Chiefs hired Jim Zorn as the quarterbacks coach, Enderle will have a dedicated coach to help him develop. Like many quarterbacks, he was a team captain and academic scholar. Leadership and intelligence should fit right in with the Chiefs roster.
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After watching watching the East West shrine game, Senior bowl, and Combine, I have complied a mock offseason that I feel is realistic and one that would continue the success of the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only did I filll some major needs, but I began stacking positions to build for the future. We’ve all talked about the famous “Right-53” label and what it means. My belief is that it consists of high character, work ethic, intelligence, unselfishness, and passion for the game. I tried to stick to that criteria when selecting players in free agency and the draft. I feel that the team that I have compiled could be very successful in 2011, despite a terribly difficult schedule. I realize that we all have differing opinions, and my selections may not please everyone. Hopefully I have done a decent enough job to where you won’t bash me :). GO CHIEFS!
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