We are just weeks away from my favorite event on the sports calender: The NFL draft. I look forward to this event every year, starting the moment the Chiefs' Superbowl dream ends for the season. I am going to provide some draft needs, and my ideal picks for rounds 1 - 7. I'm not sure how the Chiefs could top last year's draft, but here we go.
Team needs: WR, OLB, RT, C, FS, NT
WR: In 2011, Dwayne Bowe emerged as a legitimate receiving threat, leading the NFL in receiving TDs. He became the receiver that some Chiefs fans thought he could become, but he can’t do it alone. The Chiefs need another solid WR on the other side of the field.
OLB: Has Mike Vrabel retired yet? No? Thank God. I dread the day when the Chiefs will have to replace him and his 48 tackles and 0 sacks. (Is there a font for sarcasm?)
RT: Barry Richardson wasn’t terrible in 2010, but he didn’t convince me that he should remain the starter for 2011. The 2011 NFL draft is surprisingly deep at the right tackle position, so the Chiefs should have plenty of prospects to choose from.
C: Casey Wiegmann surprised a lot of fans last year by never missing a game. He was good, not great. Also, he is about 94 years old. Its time to address the center position.
FS: I am not convinced that Kendrick Lewis is the long term answer at free safety, and the 2011 NFL draft is deep with safety prospects.
NT: Every Chiefs fan should know how badly the Chiefs need a solid anchor in the middle of the D-line. Ron Edwards just doesn’t get the job done. I’m not sure why Scott Pioli hasn’t addressed this position in the last two drafts, but he should have plenty of nose tackle prospects to choose from this year. Go ahead, name the last NFL draft that was deep at the nose tackle position...
That being said... With the 21st pick of the 2011 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select...
Round 1: Julio Jones, WR out of Alabama.
Jones’s impressive combine workouts may allow him to quickly climb everyone’s draft board, but if he is available with the 21st pick, the Chiefs should jump on him. He is 6-4, 220 pounds of pure athleticism. Jones flashes the ability to make highlight reel catches, but his hands can be a little inconsistent. He gets a lot of YAC, and is a tenacious downfield blocker. His mix of toughness, strength and physicality should allow him to make an impact in the NFL.
Round 2: Quinton Carter, FS out of Oklahoma.
If Eric Berry is the next Ed Reed, then Quinton Carter could be the next Troy Polamalu. He makes bone-crushing hits, and can wrap-tackle with the best of them. He is also a ball-hawk who is great in man and zone coverage. There isn’t much Carter can’t do. His on-field skills are only surpassed by his off-field character. He is a leader both on the field and in the community, exactly the type of guy the Chiefs love drafting.
Round 3: Kristopher O’Dowd, C out of USC.
O’Dowd should be available in round three, considering he is the 2nd or 3rd center on most draft boards. His versatility as an interior lineman will be a welcome addition to a team in need of depth on the O-line. The Chiefs need their center of the future, and O’Dowd could be that guy. He could even be an immediate starter, considering his experience in USC’s pro-style offense.
Round 4: Ian Williams, NT out of Notre Dame.
His 6-1, 310 pound frame isn’t ideal for the nose tackle position, but he was productive playing the nose for Notre Dame’s 3-4 defense. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in talent. He can cover both gap assignments as well as any NT prospect, and takes on double teams well. He doesn’t have much to offer in terms of pass rush ability, but he can stack the box and stop the run, which is what 3-4 defenses ask of their NT. He anchors wonderfully, and has great footwork. Great hustle + a great attitude = a coach’s dream.
Round 5: Marcus Gilbert, OT out of Florida.
Gilbert is a monster, standing 6-6 320 lbs. He is a perfect right tackle prospect, considering his outstanding run-blocking skills. He is agile, athletic and quick-footed. He can also pass-block well, which makes him an upgrade over Barry Richardson. It may take him a few years to develop into a consistent starter, but his upside is obvious when you read his scouting reports.
Round 6: Tyrod Taylor, QB out of Virginia Tech.
Tyrod Taylor is a feast or famine type of QB. He put up excellent numbers his senior year, and showed how accurate he can be on the run and out of the pocket. He is a duel threat QB, but hasn’t show any reason to believe he can be an H-back or WR in the NFL. The only question I have is determining whether he is potentially the next Michael Vick... or the next Marcus Vick. I think a sixth round pick is worth the gamble. If he doesn’t develop, then so what, no harm no foul.
Round 7: Jeff Maehl, WR out of Oregon.
It seems that every time a wide receiver is considered to be a prospect at the slot position, he is compared to Wes Welker. Well, this is a slot WR that is actually worthy of that comparison. He could be a late-round steal for KC. He catches everything thrown his way, and can get YAC on a regular basis. He is one of the players who has improved his stock in the combine, going from undrafted free agent to sixth or seventh round pick. He currently leads all combine participants in the 3 Cone Drill and 60 Yard Shuffle, so his athleticism is obvious. He runs crisp routes and is fearless over the middle. He only has a few years experience at the WR position, so he is still a little raw, but he could truly be the next Wes Welker.
Although my ideal picks don’t meet every positional need the Chiefs will have in 2011, I think if they draft even a couple of these guys, we could call this year another successful draft under Scott Pioli.