A previous topic I started was criticized by a few posters as being "unrealistic," as I ignored what was most likely to happen for the Kansas City Chiefs with their 21st overall pick, and selected the player I would consider most ideal (Justin Houston). I think it's a fair criticism to make, so this post is intended to be 100% realistic: players that fit the Pioli mold the best.
What is the Pioli mold? It is severalfold: great citizens get priority over good citizens, and bad citizens aren't even considered; players with "high floors" (low "bust" potential) but with limited ceilings (low "boom" potential) are favored over boom-and-bust projects; players from the SEC are favored above all others, players from small schools are rarely considered; and areas of extreme need are rarely given much priority over areas of less need — Pioli does not prioritize his picks based on how extreme our needs are.
So I am going to list 10 players that I think Pioli would be interested in, IN ORDER, from the player I would be most interested in (#1) to the player I would be least interested in (#10).
Players highly expected to go before the 21st pick, and therefore not mentioned here:
QB Cam Newton, Auburn
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
WR AJ Green, Georgia
WR Julio Jones, Alabama
OT Tyron Smith, USC
DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
DE/OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
DE Cameron Jordan, California
DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri
DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
On with the show:
1. NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
Why Taylor: Taylor came onto my radar in a manner much similar to Torell Troup last year. Troup was a blue collar guy from a subpar college program who's personal life all but groomed him into being a desperately passionate nose tackle. The Chiefs likely would have selected him with their "2b" choice. Now they get first dibs at a player who exhibits the same life story — at this point, we all know it. Taylor, meanwhile, has shown tremendous discipline during draft season, losing at least 30 pounds and keeps talking about losing even more.
AC's Grade: A-. We addressed an area of desperate need. I really like this kid a lot, and he has a ton of upside.
2. OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
Why Ayers: Ayers' terrible showing at the Combine (4.8 40) all but guarantees the Chiefs will get their first crack at him. Ayers played a sophisticated range of positions at UCLA, making him a veritable jack of all trades. While he's not a game-changer in the mold of DJ or Hali, there's nothing he can't do: he can rush the passer, he can drop into coverage, he can play the run. He's very intelligent and was a team captain with great bloodlines.
AC's Grade: B. Even if it's not the sackmaster I wanted at the other OLB position, at least it's a blue chip prospect. Ayers will never be a double-digit sack guy, but he won't embarrass himself in coverage and he'll be yet another sterling locker room presense.
3. WR Torrey Smith, Maryland
Why Smith: Smith is known as a tireless worker and a great teammate. He boasts tremendous speed (4.3 40) which the Chiefs obviously need opposite Dwayne Bowe. But Pioli has said himself that he prefers consistent players, players that will work hard day in and day out rather than in peaks and valleys. Smith, though a reach due to his rawness and his small hands, fits the bill.
AC's Grade: B-. This is clearly a reach for two things: high character, and a desperate attempt to find a compliment for Bowe. Pioli has shown he will reach for high character, but ultimately Smith would be the first legit deep threat this team has had in a decade.
4. OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
Why Castonzo: Castonzo is from Boston College, which ultimately seals the deal in the character department. He's agile enough to have a LT roof, but even if that fails to materialize, he could excel at RT. Castonzo is a lighter offensive lineman and works well in space, which fits in very well with the ZBS. He's also pretty much pro-ready with his technique. Scott Wright writes that he is a "fiery leader," which this unit will need after Waters moves on.
AC's Grade: C+. With such big holes at receiver and in the front seven, I would not be terribly pleased with going offensive line. But of all the offensive line picks, Castonzo bothers me the least. Boston College prospects are gold hits almost every time. And Castonzo is a legit prospect at either RT or LT. You can literally mix and match Albert and he to determine who works best and where.
5. OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
Why Sherrod: Yet another leader for the OL if Pioli believes we need one. Sherrod is a left tackle prospect through and through, his specialty is keeping the QB clean. Now, he doesn't have that great arm length you like to see, and he isn't a nasty smasher in the run game. But it's been rumored for three drafts now amongst Chief fans that Pioli wants Albert at RT with a blue chipper at LT. Sherrod would be our best bet with Tyron Smith off the board.
AC's Grade: C+. Sherrod projects far more to the LT than he does to the RT. He's a pure pass blocker, which is all fine and dandy but that means he lacks Castonzo's (and Albert's) versatility. If Haley wants to make this a run-first team, Sherrod doesn't make a lot of sense because he's slightly above adequate as a run blocker. Nonetheless, if he pans out, Cassel would have two first rounders blocking for him, translating to a cleaner pocket.
6. ILB Martez Wilson, Illinois
Why Wilson: Wilson is more than the position moniker indicates. He is incredibly versatile and that would be the allure for Pioli and Crennel. He can punish and evade blockers at ILB, but he can also stand up offensive lineman like a 5-tech, and can blast around the edges as a situational rusher. He'll even play special teams if we ask him to. Everybody talks about Ayers' insane versatility making him a Chiefs prospect, methinks Wilson is a sleeper to keep an eye on for the exact same reason.
AC's Grade: C-. I really like Wilson. The guy plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he is a true sideline-to-sideline player. His skillset is very similar to Derrick Johnson's, however, but he is a truly special bodytype that could play the thumper just as effectively. I would just regret spending a first on this position, ever. Steelers aside, you shouldn't spend 1sts on inside linebackers.
7. OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
Why Pouncey: Pouncey's probably the safest pick in the NFL Draft. If you select Pouncey, you may be picking up a center, but you're at least acquiring a punishing guard with elite bloodlines. Pouncey does benefit some from his brother's success in the NFL, but he exhibits his own brand of intelligence and, yes, leadership.
AC's Grade: D+. A guard in the first round is enough to make me puke. I can't stand wasting top picks on positions of least importance like guards. Besides, we've already got a great guard in the wings in Jon Asamoah.
8. OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Why Carimi: If Pioli is truly on board with Haley's decision to commit this team as a run-first outfit, than Carimi shoots up his board. Carimi was part of Wisconsin's devastating, NFL-caliber run game. He's very polished, and despite his limited athleticism, he has gotten to where he is by being a tremendous worker.
AC's Grade: D+. Selecting a RT in the first round is about as appealing as selecting a guard. Barry Richardson is still improving, and I have high hopes that he can continue to evolve — he's a better athlete than Carimi anyway.
9. DE/DT Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple
Why Wilkerson: Wilkerson is a vastly underrated candidate by fans simply because he played for Temple. What they must notice are the insane numbers he put up at Temple. What's more, many of those stats were in the backfield. Wilkerson is not a stud passrusher, but he can at least get to the QB. At this point, the Chiefs do not have a starting DE who can.
AC's Grade: D-. Too soon to forfeit our investments on Dorsey and Jackson. Dorsey has come into his own, and Jackson came to life in the last month of the season. They need to develop a passrush soon, though, or a pick like this might be necessary.
10. CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
Why Smith: Pioli holds no allegiance to Brandon Carr, much as we all think he should. It's possible that if Carr demands a payday next offseason, Pioli would know about it now. Smith would be his insurance — Flowers and Arenas are both good corners but both are shorter. Smith presents a truly tall corner that can opt in for tight ends as well, allowing more versatility for Crennel's schemes.
AC's Grade: F. Not only are the Chiefs already stacked up front at the CB position (although they could use some backend depth), I'm not entirely sure Jimmy Smith is that great of a prospect. Smith simply wasn't even challenged in 2010, as QBs had all day with Colorado's anemic passrush, and simply passed it to a wide open receiver 10 seconds later. I don't think Smith has truly been challenged, and has bust potential.