It looks like my last post generated some interesting debate about the value of some 3-4 positions. Namely, that 3-4 Inside Linebackers are not nearly as important as other positions. I still stand by the position that it's a luxury position--it's nice to have superior talent at the position, but it's not a position that's going to revolutionize your defense. Just to prove my point, I suggest you read the following article about Ray Lewis and how he is a part of a dying breed of dominant middle linebackers. I couldn't agree more. Middle LBs just aren't as important as they used to be, and teams are paying them as if they were unimportant too.
Today, I'm going to talk about the defensive positions of priority for the Chiefs going into the 2010 NFL Draft.
And yes, I said in the last post that I generally don't like to get into too much draft speculation, but I couldn't help but inject my opinion. In my opinion, if Eric Berry is on the board when the Chiefs pick, he's their guy. Period.
Here is what I project will be the most important positions of priority for a Romeo Crennel defense.#1 - Nose Tackle:
The Nose Tackle is and always will be the most important position on a 3-4 defense. That's especially true for a Romeo Crennel type scheme where the Defensive Line is expected to eat up as many blockers as humanly possible in order to free up opportunities for the Linebackers to make plays. Now, don't take this to mean that the Chiefs need to reach for a Nose Tackle in the draft just because it's important. For as important of a position as it is, I actually don't think it's overly difficult to find a real good one.
Without getting into projections of who the Chiefs will and should pick up, Nose Tackles can be found in later rounds of the draft, there might be a Nose Tackle or two that squeezes into the free agency market, and there might even be an opportunity to convert a 4-3 Defensive Tackle free agent into a decent starting nose tackle.
Either way, it's a position that needs to be addressed. Ron Edwards was an enormous liability last year and when your Nose Tackle doesn't get the job done, it has a huge spillover effect on the rest of the defense, particularly the Inside Linebackers and Safeties. Edwards' job is to keep blockers off of the Linebackers. If he does his job well, he can occupy up to three blockers. He could barely even the hold the block on one blocker. You plug up the middle and the rest of the defense will improve in lockstep.
#2 - Outside Linebacker:
There are some that would argue that one of the main reasons the Pats defense hasn't been quite as dominant of late is that they really miss the play of Willie McGinest. The Outside Linebacker position is such an important position in a Romeo Crennel defense. I would argue it's almost as important as a Nose Tackle.
Because the Defensive Linemen aren't creating plays themselves, it's really up to the Outside Linebacker to make plays in their "absence." Not only must they be good at rushing the passer, but they also need to be explosive chasing down ball carriers and fluid enough to do certain coverage assignments. While I like Tamba Hali, I just don't think he's the type of player that's going to make a lot of Quarterbacks lose sleep. He's good enough, but the Chiefs need a game-changer at the position. Besides, the Chiefs need to replace Mike Vrabel at some point anyway.
This position is an absolute priority for Romeo Crennel. If the Chiefs find some kind of way to trade down or even trade up to a comfy spot in the last first round, don't be surprised if they take an Outside Linebacker.
#3 - Safety
I'm big on positional value and I know that safeties are traditionally viewed as low in positional value, but I happen to think this is a position that is really growing in importance. While ILBs are being asked to do less, Safeties are asked to do more. They're asked to be blitzers, to be run stuffers, to have the ability to cover like corners yet hit like a linebacker, and often to be the last line of defense for teams that are becoming more aggressive about sending everyone and the kitchen sink into the backfield. The best safeties are your best hope for shutting down an elite quarterback because they can read the play almost before the ball is snapped. Romeo Crennel is going to want to mix up a lot of different coverages and blitz packages. In order to do that, you really need a Safety that's versatile to operate under all those conditions.
Simply put, a great safety can be an absolute game-changer. If you can find a game-changing Safety, I would put this as a #2 priority behind Nose Tackle.