The positions talked about for the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft have ranged from guard to safety to receiver. But one position I don't see mocked often that could be a consideration is a pass rusher, likely an outside linebacker in the Chiefs 3-4 defense.
Kansas City has their past and their future at outside linebacker on the roster right now in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Houston's probably going to get a new contract at some point, keeping him in Kansas City for the foreseeable future. Hali's future is cloudier -- it's not clear if the Chiefs will be able to keep the 30-year old linebacker's salary on the books.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock hinted at this recently.
"I don't know if you can keep two pass rushers like they have on the outside and pay them both for a period of time," Mayock said. "So I think they are going to have to start making some decisions about what they are going to do, especially with that younger player, Justin Houston."
Bob Sutton's defense relies on pressure (as most good defenses do). The Chiefs defense was solid early on last season partially due to the way their pass rushers performed. They fell apart at times late last season with Houston and Hali each suffering injuries, which shows the impact of two good pass rushers would be missed. The Chiefs secondary has been a concern lately and one way to help the secondary is to force the quarterback to throw it quicker, which gives the secondary less ground to cover in a shorter amount of time.
That's why I wonder if the Chiefs shouldn't consider a pass rusher in the first round of the draft. There are other needs -- no one is arguing that. But it's hard to overlook the importance of rushing the passer in today's NFL.
I'm not sure what kind of players might still be around at the 23rd pick -- UCLA's Anthony Barr? Mizzou's Kony Ealy? Auburn's Dee Ford? -- but there are some in every draft.
Talking recently about the differences between scouting 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends, Andy Reid said, "It's hard to find pass rushers period."
"The one transition that I think is an important one in the 3-4," Reid said from the owners meetings, via quotes from the Chiefs, "is those outside linebackers get to practice dropping. When you go into a nickel, you're right back into a four-man front. It gives that defensive coordinator flexibility. So as you transition from the 3-4 to the nickel, those guys know that if you want to run a fire-zone, they know exactly where to go and how to cover."
The Chiefs could keep Houston and Hali this season and draft a pass rusher. Hali seems like a good guy to learn under given the transition he made from defensive end in college and early NFL to outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. In 2015 it gets a little murkier when talking about keeping all three.
That there are other needs is where I would have to think hard about this one. The Chiefs could use a safety or a receiver more next season than a third pass rusher.
I assume everyone would be interested in finding another Jared Allen in the fourth round, but what about using the Chiefs first round pick on an outside linebacker?