With the 2010 Regular Season coming to the end, it's time to look to the future of the Chiefs. I'm sure some of you will say it's way too early for that, but I'm fairly confident that Scott Pioli would agree with me on this. As of now, the Chiefs hold the division lead and the coveted playoff spot. The worst case scenario is an 8-8 finish (which we would have all gladly accepted at the beginning of this season). Regardless, the Chiefs are probably looking at a high-teens to low twenties spot in the upcoming draft.
Looking at our current roster and performance, and factoring in the upcoming Free Agency, here is a list of our needs as I see it:
1.) Center - Casey Weigmann is just too old. We've seen a fairly steady decline in his ability as the season wears on. He's probably looking at retirement after this season or the next. After him, we have Rudy Niswanger. I love his effort, but he just can't get leverage with his frame. Both men are Free Agents after this season.
Answer: Rodney Hudson - Draft - FSU: He's one of the highest rated O-linemen in the upcoming class, and is rated well above his fellow Centers.
Other Options: 1.) Mike Pouncey - Draft - Florida: He's the popular name at Center because of his brother. But he's definitely a step down from Hudson. 2.) Stefen Wisniewski - Draft - Penn State: Talented, but would take a few years to bring along.
2.) Nose Tackle - Ron Edwards would be just fine in a 4-3, but he simply can't plug the middle in a 3-4. And there is no true depth to speak of behind him.
Answer: Haloti Ngata - Free Agent - Baltimore: It's hard to believe the Ravens would let him go, but they did just draft Terrance Cody in the 2010 draft. It could be that they aren't interested in Ngata anymore, or Ngata may not be interested in them anymore.
Other Options: 1.) Jerrell Powe - Draft - Ole Miss: He's one of the few players in the draft with the build for a 3-4 NT. He should be available in the middle rounds, but it would take some time to bring him up to speed. 2.) Kenrick Ellis - Draft - Hampton: 6'4 1/2, 331 lbs. He's a big guy from a small school. He could be awesome one day, but it's probably going to take a lot of coaching. He's relied on that size going up against smaller linemen, so there isn't much technique there. 3.) Phil Taylor - Draft - Baylor: THIS DUDE IS HUGE!!! 6'3, 351 lbs!!!! Of course, it does take him all week to run the 40, but I don't doubt he can plug a gap or 3. Again, there would be a need to develop his skills and get his technique going before he can make a difference on an NFL roster.
3.) Wide Receiver (x2)- Dwayne Bowe has been great this year, and Verran Tucker flashes some serious skill at times. But there is little to know depth for us here. Some will chide me about leaving out Dexter McCluster, but he isn't a true WR but more of a flex player that is lined up wherever needed. Chris Chambers has been a disappointment this year, and Terrance Copper might still be running the 40 from his combine. We need some serious depth.
Answer: 1.) Larry Fitzgerald - Trade - Arizona: Yeah, we've all thought about it. The connection is there. The money is there. The set up is there. There is no reason for either side not to pursue this. 2.) Julio Jones - Draft - Alabama: It's a possibility depending on where the Chiefs draft. However, you can forget about it if the Chiefs do go after Fitzgerald. 3.) Darrell Johnson-Koulianos - Draft - Iowa: He's the all-time leader in every major receiving category at Iowa, which considering it's Iowa, isn't that impressive in itself. What is impressive though, is his route-running, hands, and athleticism. Coming out of the Big Ten could cause him to get overlooked, leaving him available in the middle or even late rounds of the draft.
Other Options: 1.) Terrell Owens - Free Agent - Cincinnati: Say what you want, but you can't argue with TO's production this year. And he has stayed relatively quiet considering the state of his last two teams. 2.) Maurice Sims-Walker - Free Agent - Jacksonville: It's hard to imagine the Jags not trying to lock him up, but if the Chiefs move fast, it is possible. There's a lot of upside to him. 3.) Steve Smith - Free Agent - New York (G): He has quietly been a solid part of a good passing unit for the Giants. With Manningham and Nicks also on the roster, it will be tough for the G-Men to hold onto Smith as well. 4.) Jonathan Baldwin - Draft - Pitt: If he's still on the board, he's definitely worth it. Great size, good speed, and solid skills. Being coached by a former NFL coach, should put him ahead of the curve in football knowledge. 5.) Niles Paul - Draft - Nebraska: A solid skill set and good speed. He's another guy from a running school that could get ignored until later rounds.
4.) Inside Linebacker - Derrick Johnson has played great this year, but he isn't a leader. Jovan Belcher is probably too small to be a starter, and gets burned in coverage. Demorrio Williams is where he belongs as a backup, and Corey Mays could leave tomorrow and I don't think we'd notice.
Answer: Chad Greenway - Free Agent - Minnesota: The Chiefs would have to be fast and probably come over the top with an offer for Greenway. But he would be worth it. A solid tackler (and God do we need that) with excellent leadership ability (another huge need). He has a nose for the ball and always seems to get involved.
Other Options: 1.) Paul Posluszny - Free Agent - Buffalo: He has some injury concerns, but has been one of the few bright spots coming out of Buffalo. With the Bills having so many needs, they may have to cut ties with their young star. 2.) Thomas Davis - Free Agent - Carolina: Almost a mirror image of Poslusny. Injury concerns, but as solid a player as you could hope for when he's on the field. Carolina is about to change identity, and Davis could be snatched up in the confusion. 3.) Dont'a Hightower - Draft - Alabama: I am a firm believer in what Nick Saban does with defensive players. Hightower is instinctive, strong, and angry. He's very similar to Rolando McClain, and maybe even better in some areas. He's the kind of guy who plays with a killer instinct and lets ball-carriers know who just hit them.
Answer: Carl Nicks - Free Agent - New Orleans: Nope, not Logan Mankins. Nicks has steadily improved every year, but is still a notch below his New Orleans counterpart Jhari Evans who the Saints just gave a huge contract to. The Saints also have a pair of talented OTs to consider, so Nicks could be let go. Kansas City would be wise to jump on this guy's bandwagon.
Other Options: 1.) Daryn Colledge - Free Agent - Green Bay: Young, skilled, and smart. Green Bay has a lot of talent on it's O-line and may have to give up Colledge. This kid has nothing but potential. 2.) Zach Hurd - Draft - UConn: He's one of the best run-blockers coming out of college. He would be an excellent addition for depth and could replace Lilja in a year or two. 3.) David Arkin - Draft - Missouri State: He's a little small, but he is flat out mean. He's the kind of player that gives the O-line an attitude. He would take a year or two to bring along and to add some bulk, but he could be a real monster.
6.) Outside Linebacker - Even if Tamba Hali doesn't test the waters in Free Agency, he needs some help. Andy Studebaker is coming on, but he's probably at least another season away from where he needs to be. There are still a lot of questions surrounding Cameron Sheffield, most notably being whether or not he can fully recover from his injury.
Answer: Lamar Woodley - Free Agent - Pittsburgh: It's hard to imagine the Steelers let him go, but they have a lot of depth in their linebacking corps and Woodley may be too expensive to keep. The Chiefs would have to open up their checkbook to get him, but there are few (if any) better than Woodley.
Other Options: 1.) Travis Lewis - Draft - Oklahoma: It will be a miracle if he's on the board when KC drafts. Heck, it would be a miracle if he's on the board when Carolina drafts at #1! 2.) Akeem Ayers - Draft - UCLA: It's a deep draft for LBs, especially OLBs. Ayers is a great pass rusher and has outstanding coverage skills. He can get swallowed up by bigger blockers though and tends to bite a little on play-action. If Hali stays in town, he could really cause some problems for opposing offenses from the opposite side.
7.) Quarterback - Cassel has progressed nicely, but he is closing in on 30 which means that he is about at the peak of his performance ability. Brodie Croyle will probably never become what the Peterson/Edwards team had hoped for. And Charlie Weiss has summed up our #3 QB nicely: "You're 0 for August, Palko!" The Chiefs have to address the future of this position soon.
Answer: Nick Foles - Draft - Arizona: After the Big 4 of Luck/Mallet/Locker/Newton, the QB class thins out a little bit. However there are several good mid-round guys for teams that need a starter in 3 years. Foles is probably the best of them.
Other Options: 1.) Ricky Stanzi - Draft - Iowa: He's a gamer. The big mark against him going into his senior year was interceptions. He made some adjustments and ended up having a terrific senior year. He led the Hawkeyes on countless scoring drives late in games to make the Hawkeyes relevant the last few years. 2.) Blaine Gabbert - Draft - Missouri: The Chiefs would have to get him in the 2nd round. He's got a lot of talent, great size, and dead eye accuracy. The Chiefs would really have to want him though with all the other team needs. 3.) Pat Delvin - Draft - Delaware: The best college QB you've never heard of. Originally a scholarship player at Penn State, he transferred to Delaware to be the starter. Has nothing but high accolades from Papa Joe. He's got an absolute cannon and great, quick, mechanics. Not very mobile, and still has a lot to learn. He really could be the next great late-round find.
So there it is. While I definitely don't have NFL teams breaking down my door for a scouting job, and ESPN flat out won't return my calls about the analyst job (what the heck could Trent Dilfer know that I don't), I'm still confident in what I've got. Obviously, we won't be able to get everybody on the list, and heck, it's possible we don't get any of them. But that's what I see as needing to be fixed, and where we can get the parts to do it.