As we hit the midway point of the 2012 season, it is looking as though the Chiefs will be back in the top 5 of the draft order. There isn't much to like about this team right now, and there are obvious places to improve upon. So here is a draft board of potential prospects for Chiefs fans (and hopefully the front office) to start looking at.
ROUND 1: QB - The first and foremost need on this team is QB. We all know it. This HAS to be the year that we finally address this nightmare. That said, I won't even bother breaking down the concerns at this spot.
1. Tyler Wilson - QB - Arkansas: A big armed pocket passer who has done well against the best competition in college football. Wilson is the least likely to cower when it comes to facing NFL-caliber defenses, having faced Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, and the rest of the SEC monsters. Concerns include possibly being prone to further concussions and questionable mechanics on deep routes (relying too much on just his arm) that leads to accuracy issues.
2. Geno Smith - QB - West Virginia: He has exploded onto the college football scene this year by putting up big time numbers. Athletically, Geno Smith is head's and shoulders above his peers. He has a big arm, great size, and the athleticism to make things happen if the play doesn't develop. Unlike a lot of other athletic QBs, Smith isn't quick to run, only relying on his feet when the play isn't there. Concerns include the level of talent he has faced, the ability to transition to a pro-style offense, and questionable mechanics.
3. Aaron Murray - QB - Georgia: Strong armed, confident, and intelligent, Aaron Murray is another SEC QB who may be drafted in the 1st rd. He has been the unquestioned leader for the Bulldogs since his freshman season. With plenty of experience against top talent, Murray shouldn't need a long time in the NFL before realizing his potential. Concerns include disappearing in big games, his lack of size, and can (at times) be over-aggressive, passing up the short-mid range sure thing for a big play when it isn't needed.
4. Matt Barkley - QB - Southern Cal: Coming into 2012, Matt Barkley was the clear favorite for a number of awards and was considered the best QB in college football. He's smart, mechanically sound, and plays within himself. Barkley is the quintessential college QB. Concerns include whether or not he has already peaked, inability to step up in big games, and whether or not his success is a result of the talent around him.
My Pick: Tyler Wilson - Wilson strikes me as the best prospect for the Chiefs. He is a prototypical QB with a lot of upside and all the tools needed to help open up our offense. A lot of people will argue that Geno Smith has a higher ceiling, and they are correct. However, Tyler Wilson will need less time to take the next step in the NFL. Aaron Murray is intriguing, but the way he disappears against good teams is very concerning. The QB has to be able to show up in big games. Matt Barkley is a future bust in my opinion. He has been groomed his whole life to be the starting QB at Southern Cal, but it doesn't appear he has developed any further than that. He appears to be another Matt Leinart type of player, having put up great stats only because of the phenomenal talent around him.
Round 2: CB/OT - Stanford Routt has not filled the space left behind by Brandon Carr. He has been a huge liability in multiple games (most notably in recent weeks against Tampa Bay and Oakland). Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be anyone on the roster with the talent to fill in for him either. On the offensive line, we have had problems with Brandon Albert and Eric Winston. While Albert generally plays well, he is prone to penalties and getting beat by the fast pass rushers in the league. On top of that, he is in a contract year. Winston on the other hand, has not been as advertised. He often gets embarrassed which kills an already terrible passing attack.
1. Xavier Rhodes - CB - Florida State: Rhodes is a potential 1st rd pick that could be available to the Chiefs in the 2nd. He has great size (6'1, 215) to keep from getting dominated by bigger receivers. He is a physical player who loves to get in the faces of opposing WRs. A former WR and RB, he also has the quickness (and knowledge of offensive positions) that he can read what the other guy is doing. Also has good quickness and technique to recover if he is initially beaten on the line. Concerns include his health (knee injury in 2011) and an over-aggressive approach that can get him in trouble.
2. Jordan Poyer - CB - Oregon State: A physical player with excellent ball skills, Poyer has shown he can be dangerous on the outsides. He has adequate size, and solid athleticism which he has shown as a punt returner for the Beavers. Isn't very easily intimidated as he has played well against top PAC-12 QBs like Brock Osweiller and Matt Barkley. Concerns include his off the field personality and whether he can consistently play at a high level.
3. Jake Matthews - OT - Texas A&M: A big, strong lineman with solid technique, the Chiefs may luck into Matthews in the 2nd. He has the wingspan to play LT and handle the pass rush, but also the bull rushing ability to play RT and focus on the run. Ultimately, he probably projects better at RT. His stock is rising right now, so his availability in the 2nd is in doubt. Concerns include a lack of speed and a tendency to set his feet to quickly.
4. Brennan Willams - OT - North Carolina: Williams has the physical size that you look for in a prospect. He has been a major stud for the Tar Heels, and has developed a reputation for being tough having played several weeks with a torn Labrum in shoulder. Another potential 1st round pick who could be there for the Chiefs, he would need some time to develop, but ultimately should be able to step in at RT when Winston moves on. Concerns include his shoulder injury and whether or not he has the quickness to keep up with NFL pass rushers.
My Pick: Xavier Rhodes - Rhodes has the talent to step in Day 1 and start for the Chiefs. He should be an immediate upgrade in the defensive backfield and help return the Chiefs to the days of having the outsides of the field covered. Poyer is only slightly below Rhodes in my opinion, but that is still below him. Matthews would be a great pick, but it is starting to appear as though he may go in the 1st rd. Williams is intriguing, but ultimately OT loses out to CB in my opinion of importance right now.
Round 3: OT/ILB - I have already laid out the situation with OT, so on to ILB. Jovan Belcher has far exceeded the expectations of his draft position. He plays hard and attacks. The problem is that he simply isn't big enough to impose his will on anyone. That sounds strange to say someone who is 6'2, 228 lbs isn't big enough, but compare that to Dant'a Hightower (the guy I wanted last year) at 6'3, 270 lbs or Patrick Willis at 6'1, 240 lbs, and you can see just how comparably small Belcher is.
1. Rick Wagner - OT - Wisconsin: Wagner has a solid combination of size and athleticism that should provide a good foundation for him to build on. He is powerful enough to push defenders off the ball. He is experienced on both sides of the formation, and has the pedigree of coming from the Brett Bielema offensive lineman production line. Concerns include a tendency to play stiff, technique issues, and a ceiling on his athleticism.
2. Xavier Nixon - OT - Florida: Nixon has the physical tools to be a good OT prospect. He has a large frame with long arms that allows him to dominate the opposition when he gets a hold of them. Has played well at Florida and was at one time considered a potential 1st rd prospect. Concerns include a lack of lateral quickness, a nagging injury history, and technique issues.
3. Nico Johnson - ILB - Alabama: Johnson is just another in a long line of potential NFL stars to come from that NFL farm system Nick Saban runs in Alabama. Good size at 6'2, 245 lbs, and is every bit a run stuffing LB. He also possesses adequate blitzing ability which could allow for a new wrinkle in our defensive attack. Johnson has been overshadowed in the past by Rolando McClain and Dant'a Hightower, which has prevented him from seeing as much playing times as he would have on any other team. Concerns include his foot speed, coverage ability, and a lack of awareness in the passing game.
4. Shayne Skov - ILB - Stanford: Another big LB at 6'3, 250 lbs, Skov could have been one of the best LBs in this draft. Skov is an attacker who has been a steady contributor every time he touches the field. Constantly found at the line of scrimmage, Skov is a beast in the running game. He makes excellent reads and has the size to take on blockers. He is a solid pass rusher up the middle and also has the athleticism to not get lost in space during coverage. Concerns include his health (knee injury in 2011), his off the field character (DUI this past offseason), his technique in shedding blockers in the run game, and his tackling ability.
My Pick: Nico Johnson - Replacing Belcher with a larger run-stuffer would serve the most benefit to the Chiefs. With as often as we are in 5 DB sets, the need for our SILB to be a pass defender isn't as great. Johnson would also allow the Chiefs to drop Eric Berry back into coverage instead of keeping him up by the line. Wagner could be a good prospect, but I think he may be overwhelmed by the speed of NFL DEs. Xavier Nixon hasn't lived up to his potential, and overall, I am not impressed with this year's OT draft class after the top 5. Shayne Skov has gotten a lot of attention here at AP, and rightfully so. The knee issue bothers me, but that isn't my biggest concern. Neither is his DUI. It is the fact that his biggest on-the-field concern is his tackling. You aren't going to simply knock over guys in the NFL, and the Chiefs have had a long line of "big hitting" LBs who never made the tackle because they didn't wrap the guy up.
So, there is my board. Of course things are always subject to change. There is still a ways to go in both the NFL and NCAA seasons, so you never know what will happen.
1st: Tyler Wilson - QB - Arkansas
2nd: Xavier Rhodes - CB - Florida State
3rd: Nico Johnson - ILB - Alabama