My apologies if this belongs in the designated AP Draft thread... I assumed from a perusal of that thread that it's largely a mock draft thread.
I'm not attempting to mock here. It is exactly two months from our first selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
We've seen the season, the Senior Bowl, the Combine (except for secondary players... but I'll eat my hat if the Chiefs draft a player in the secondary #21 overall). At this stage, I have two guesses as to whom the Chiefs want to select above all other players that would be available at #21. And I feel intense certainty (even though I shouldn't, by any means).
My guess is a 50/50 on NT Phil Taylor, the trailor from Baylor or Torrey Smith, Maryland.
My reasoning is as follows:
QB, RB, TE, OG, C, ILB, CB, S -- Chiefs don't want to invest a first in this position this year.
As for the positions they would spend a first on:
The Chiefs would totally take a great WR if they had the opportunity to. The studs in this draft though (Green and Jones) are going Top 10. The first non-elite tier includes a handful of guys who could be decent enough value at the first round pick to be our selection: Johnny Baldwin or Torrey Smith. Most folks agree these two are bottom-first type value, where we are.
Baldwin, however, is a larger possession receiver (basically a slightly taller Bowe) with dedication issues (unlike Bowe). The fact that he'd be a duplicate tells me Haley's not interested, and the fact that he's got question marks tells me Pioli's not interested.
Smith, however, is a Pioli and a Haley player. He is fit, fast as shit (extremely fast in-game), and renouned as a hard, hard worker. There's not a ton of upside, but he's a smart guy who'll come to every game prepared and is one of those "consistency" types that Pioli adores.
Smith is my first guess.
This pick is particularly hard to mock to the Chiefs because any number of the guys there have question marks that are too big. Tyron Smith won't fall to 21. Solder is too inconsistent. Carimi? Stiff as a board. He's right tackle material.
Anthony Costanzo is a high character, Pioli guy and I love Boston College prospects when the measurables are there, but there are concerns that he might not be agile enough to handle left tackle. And if Pioli is drafting a tackle this high, he wants a left tackle that he knows is a better investment than Albert, which is tough to find in this draft. I say no on tackle.
This is where things get interesting. I follow the draft extremely close every year, and one thing that stood out very soon in the 2010 draft season was that Romeo Crennel loved Torell Troup. And while Troup's personal story showed amazing passion (he overcame serious adversity to play football as a means to keep his parents together), Taylor's has that same glow. Taylor was given a second chance on football in Baylor, where he made the most of it and as draft season has approached, he has shed nearly 30 pounds (which Haley loves) and looks agile enough to be a three-down nose (which Pioli loves).
I'd be willing to bet a ham sandwich that the Chiefs were praying Troup would fall to their "2b" pick in 2010, before Buffalo reached. With all the great DE talent in this draft, it is unlikely anybody is going to make a similar reach for Taylor in the first round. He'd be a slight reach for the Chiefs at 21, but I think we can all see Pioli getting him if he projects as a Wilfork.
With a #5 overall invested in Dorsey, and a #3 overall invested in Jackson, it seems borderline crazy to suggest the Chiefs could go for a 3-4 DE this year with the first pick.
Except that even with Jackson's rebirth at the end of the 2010 season (he played really well in my estimation), the Chiefs aren't getting the power and passrush they want here, and this position is packed with guys with amazing size, and DL is the most important position on the football field to Scott Pioli.
I still don't think the Chiefs go this route unless (a.) they are willing to trade Dorsey, something that has been heavily rumored since 2009, AND (b.) somebody they are infatuated with falls. They'd get Jordan (beast), they'd get Liuget (amazing size and length, Jackson would move to Dorsey's old position), or J.J. Watt (absolute workaholic). None of these guys will fall, though. Muhammed Wilkerson is a sleeper that could go somewhere around #21, however, but I don't think he's much of an upgrade over Dorsey, who is a model teammate and tireless worker.
The only other position I think the Chiefs would give serious consideration to would be outside passrusher, but as always seems to be the case, the pieces don't quite fit here for an elite guy to fall. Von Miller is a Top 10 pick. Ryan Kerrigan is shooting up draft charts, and he'll go Top 15. I really don't like Aldon Smith as much as everybody else seems to, but he'll probably go well before us.
That leaves Akeem Ayers and Justin Houston. Ayers is possible primarily because he's versatile and a team captain. Pioli and Crennel are no doubt loving it. But 3-4 OLB isn't a great fit for Ayers. Ayers is not the ferocious passrusher this team needs opposite Hali. He's a positioning guy, which is fine if you've got passrushers everywhere else but our DL is suspect in applying pressure on the QB. Ayers is more of a 4-3 linebacker in my opinion.
Houston is an intriguing prospect but he is a perfect reason why we have the Combine. He is 270 pounds... much heavier than many of us though he was, and much too heavy to drop into coverage, which he simply cannot do. Hali is already oversized for the position, and the Chiefs suffer his terrible pass coverage because he is a game-changer on the passrush. The Chiefs likely do not want a second player that fits that profile, much as I wish they did.
With the above considerations, I think the Chiefs go either Torrey Smith or Phil Taylor the trailor from Baylor with their first.