During the first half of the season, I thought there wasn't much the Chiefs needed to be a legitimate Superbowl contender. The defense was shutting down every opponent in sight and the offense was clearly reined back by Andy Reid to ease the players into the new system. When the Chiefs began to show serious flaws in the secondary and limitations on offense, I believed the diaphanous issues were clouded by heavy optimism set in by an easy schedule. This team needed to hit on most of its 2014 draft picks to challenge for the championship. As draft day nears, it is clear the Chiefs are somewhere in between; the team lacks specific pieces to push for and drive back the extra inch, to prolong and curtail the extra second but the foundation in all three stages of the game is stable and flourishes with top-notch talent.
Here are scatterbrain points to keep in mind going into the 2014 NFL Draft
- Chiefs were rolling until Hali and Houston were maimed by unfortunate injuries. They held the Broncos at Mile High to a season low 27 points at the time. With a few minutes to go before the half vs SD, Chiefs held the Chargers to 3 points with Houston and Hali. At the end of the game, Chiefs gave up a whopping 38 points without the dynamic duo.
- 2013 Season was Year 1 of the Reid/Dorsey regime. The offense was as vanilla as any NFL team could be in the first half of the season. The team had no tape of previous Chiefs systems to study in the 2013 offseason and much of their growth and learning process were organic and spontaneous.
- There were significant and season long injuries to young talents that did not have injury histories. Travis Kelce, Sanders Commings, and Eric Fisher are healthy now and will be able to fill up a couple holes in the roster.
- There were season long nagging minor injuries for the gritty 28 year old Brandon Flowers who have had a relatively injury free career to this point. He has been extremely reliable in his tenure at KC despite the horrendous offenses that sent the Chiefs defense out quickly and often. To address a controversial point, I think he is not scheme dependent and his injuries limited his press coverage abilities and fluidity.
- The free agency losses heralded as devastating by the media aren't significant blows other than Branden Albert. Even then Albert did not play well in my opinion. 7 penalties before the snap including 5 starts, and 10 in all. He uncharacteristically gave up a lot of hurries and pressures as well. Rishaw Johnson is prime to take over at G, Vance Walker at DE, McCluster is very replaceable, and Lewis/Demps at S will not be missed.
- I don't think the WR group is as barren of talent as many believe it to be. Hemingway looked awesome last year with his playing time, AJ Jenkins/Avery/Kyle Williams give a lot of depth for a go route receiver, Dressler a CFL star was brought in, Fasano/Kelce/McGrath compose a very deep TE group. Assuming Bowe has laid off on Ganja and Sonic Fries, he should be more relevant.
- Special Teams led by the venerable Dave Toub will still be one of the top groups in the NFL. McCluster is one of the slowest punt returners in football despite his somewhat elusive jukes and he was elite in 2013. The blocking scheme was absolutely incredible, not to mention the discipline and patience clearly reflects the coaching that turned one of the worst ST into one of the best ST in one year. Chiefs still have Colquitt and Succop, who is admittedly losing the faith of the Arrowhead faithfuls.
- Despite the flashes of brilliance on offense and defense, the Chiefs relied heavily on Charles for offense and Hali&Houston for a pass rush. The Chiefs simply cannot get away from Charles too long and the Chiefs simply cannot generate any pressure without Hali&Houston.
And Finally the Mock Draft (No Trade Predictions):
1 (23). Ryan Shazier ILB, Ohio State: I got a bad feeling the Green Bay Packers may be infatuated with his talent, but there is a good chance he falls to the Chiefs. I have talked about him in a previous fanpost so I'll keep it short. He is a defensive weapon and his strengths/weaknesses fit well with the Chiefs defense strengths/weaknesses. The only legitimate concern is his ability to shed blocks but with our coaches and Hali&Houston&DJ helping him out, I think he can quickly improve as there is no physical limitations at all. He may look a bit lean on tape but he is 237lbs and was a top performer in basically every event at the combine. He is explosive and lives in the backfield, he can rush the passer from the interior, he can chase runs sideline to sideline, he has the ability to become one of the best cover LB in the NFL. I think his potential, versatility, and skillset are too great to pass up. The game is changing and traditional positions are following suit, I think Chiefs keep up with Shazier in the first.
3 (87): Jared Abbrederis WR2, Wisconsin: It is a tricky business mocking a draft for the Chiefs because it is a mistake to throw any "good" receiver prospect in and make it work. I believe when a team tailors the receivers for Alex Smith, he can be a dynamic playmaker. He excels on timing routes, quick throws, screens, and a game plan that surgically works the middle of the field. He is less likely to make an impact with an athletic freak that cannot get clear separation and uses his body to shield away defenders. Abbrederis is a fantastic route runner, one of very few players in this draft that consistently turns DB's hips around and leaves them in the dust. His breakaway speed is underrated and best of all, he is a tough gritty guy who blocks well in open space. I think Alex Smith's cerebral approach to football matches well with Abbrederis who has shown great feel and intelligence in his own right, and will develop chemistry quickly. Of course a receiver is nothing without great hands, and Abbrederis possesses one of the softest and surest hands in the draft.
4 (124): Billy Turner OG, NDSU: There could be some problems whether it is injury or lack of production that may require a shakeup on the offensive line during the 2014 season. I hesitated to pass up Aikens, Desir, or McGill here but Chiefs need another talented lineman in here. Turner was a LT in college but many believe he transitions well inside in the NFL. If Turner is not available, Cyril Richardson or Duvernay-Tardif could be other options to go to. I am illogically hyped on Rishaw Johnson, Eric Fisher, and Donald Stephenson but at the end of the day, Chiefs probably have to add more depth and talent on the offensive trenches.
5 (163): Michael Campanaro Slot WR, Wake Forest: Chiefs double up on two of the best route runners in the draft. Campanaro had his much of his 2013 college season taken away due to an injury but still racked up 67 catches, 803 yards, 6 TDs in 8 games. The senior Wake Forest all-time leading receiver is great at finding open spots against zone and has strong hands. He isn't the fastest slot WR like Dri Archer but makes up for it in competitiveness and savviness. He is also very compact and is stronger than most 5'9" NFL players. I am very surprised not a lot of people have talked him up but I guess that goes for many WRs in this deep deep draft.
6 (193): Jerome Couplin III S, William&Mary: Aptly nicknamed the "Osprey" for his amazing 81" wingspan, he is known to be able to touch his knees without bending down. It just so happens the 6'1" 215lber ran a 4.55 40 and posted 41 1/2 on vertical. He is an incredible athlete from 1-AA like Aikens and he does it all. He hits hard, tackles well, and has great range. I could only see a couple videos of him so there isn't much stock in what I say, but I think the gamble is well worth it here in the 6th round. Also provides some depth behind Berry, Sanders, Abdullah, and possibly Ron Parker.
6 (200): David Fales QB, San Jose State: Fales has done everything but fail at the college level and is looking to prove himself in the NFL. I absolutely love the trajectory of his throws and reminds me a lot of Philip Rivers. He has to work on his footwork but he is always looking down the field and doesn't get rattled by pressure. His arms is a bit weak in terms of distance but he's got adequate velocity to get through the NFL windows. Most importantly, he is a great decision maker and doesn't put his team into insufferable 3rd and long situations.