I'm having a ball with these semi-daily mailbags. At some point in the very near future I'm going to study Ron Parker's film and do something more in depth. But in the meantime, I can't help but return over and over again to the well of (at this point) seemingly endless questions about the Chiefs.
@RealMNchiefsfan If you, in all your power, could turn ONE Chief into a pro bowler, who would it be and why?— Bennett Wyllie (@BennettWyllie) May 13, 2015
That's an interesting question, and one that requires I set some parameters. For the sake of answering the question we're going to ignore the fact that being a Pro Bowler no longer means you're one of the best 5-6 players at your position in the league. We're in a universe where the voting is ENTIRELY merit-based and there are no players declining the invite.
Additionally, we're removing Alex Smith from the equation. Because any time you don't have a top six quarterback and you have the opportunity to change a player into a top six player, it's always the quarterback. Every time. And no, for all of you who believe I'm some kind of hardcore Alex Smith fan, he's not a top 6 quarterback. I can argue top 15 any day (though I won't today), and top 12 on a day I'm feeling feisty (again, not today), and MAYBE top 10 on a day I'm ready to go all out (seriously guys, I won't do it today. Enjoy each other in the comments, though!).
But top six? NOPE. So the automatic answer is Alex Smith. Which is boring. So let's look elsewhere.
It's interesting because it requires a combination of both positional importance and a deep examination of team need. For example, a top 6 tight end would be fantastic, but Travis Kelce is already a guy looking like one of the better players at his position in the league (in a year he himself says he wasn't 100 percent, no less). Not a good use of such a precious gift.
A similar problem exists at RB, OLB, NT. Frankly, in the case of all three of those areas of the team, mere "top 6" is a downgrade (though one could argue Tamba Hali would be upgraded by becoming a top 6 guy, I don't believe the improvement would be enough to be worth it).
Offensive line is TOUGH. On one hand, it's currently the weakest area on the team. On the other hand an offensive line (to quote myself) is a sum of its parts. Is it REALLY going to do the Chiefs a ton of good to have a top six center? Didn't we already have one of those last season and still have a horrific line? We'll stick a pin in OL and come back to it.
Corner is another tempting positions. Sean Smith played really well last season, and a Pro Bowler across from him would be phenomenal. That said, I absolutely heart Phillip Gaines and Marcus Peters. I just ... I don't know. Again, it seems like it could be better spent elsewhere.
Safety isn't an issue for me. I like Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker, and Tyvon Branch is going to be a STEAL if healthy (always a question mark, I know).
Inside linebacker? Derrick Johnson is going to play forever, so you shut your dirty mouth. The other guy? Let's come back to that one too.
Defensive line is highly tempting. Allen Bailey developed into a solid defensive end last year, but having another legitimate stud next to Dontari Poe would be terrifying.
Wide receiver? Jeremy Maclin can really, really play, and the wide receiver woes of Hammond / Hemingway aren't quite as prevalent with a "first five" group of Maclin / Wilson / Conley / Avant / Thomas. But be honest. Looking at that list of five, aren't you still a little less than enthused?
In the end, it comes down to either defensive line or offensive line for me. I like the Chiefs WR group better than that OL group, and it's not all that close.
In the end, as TEMPTING as it is to try and make the defense absolutely terrifying (seriously I changed my mind about 15 times on this. A Pro Bowler / Poe / Bailey line would be insane), I have to go with the offensive line.
Yes, I know what I said above. However, getting a Pro Bowler on the offensive line COULD potentially have a ripple effect with things this season.
The Chiefs added Grubbs at left guard, which is a MASSIVE upgrade over last season. However, that's been at least in part offset by losing Rodney Hudson, a very good center. The Chiefs have Eric Kush (who they seem less than confident in) and a rookie (Mitch Morse) competing at center. In the meantime, Jeff Allen is going to fight it out with Zach Fulton at RG and Donald Stephenson (in all likelihood) at RT.
So let's say you plug a Pro Bowl level center on the line. Now Morse can compete at right tackle and right guard along with everyone else, and the line as a whole SHOULD benefit from competition at both of those spots.
Overall, the offensive line is just too much of a concern to not get addressed. I'm quite confident in the Chiefs defense at this point. I'm also quite confident that Charles / Maclin / Kelce is a solid playmaking core to build around at the skill positions, with DAT and Wilson able to provide a little extra punch and Avant to be reliable for a few catches a game.
What I'm not confident in is that line. We saw last season how having a crisis on the line is enough to kill an entire offensive gameplan. While the worst of the crisis has been fixed (McGlynn to Grubbs is about as big an upgrade you'll see in the NFL), that experience spooked me enough to go with the most boring position possible: center.
I think this is a good time to rank every quarterback in the NFL and explain why Alex Smith isn't even in the top 20...
I'm kidding. Obviously Smith is a top 10 quarterback and...
I'm kidding again. Isn't this fun?
Anyway, I'm not all on board the Tom Terrific bandwagon at this point. Is Brady a very good quarterback? Absolutely. Is he also heavily reliant on a fantastic coach and a system that consistently surrounds him with support? Very much so.
Last year we got an awesome opportunity to see why Tom Brady isn't on the level of Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck (yep, Andrew Luck) at this point. Early in the season Brady's offensive line was playing quite poorly. The Gronk was hurt and was then not QUITE The Gronk yet. And the running game hadn't been able to really establish itself.
And Tom Brady played like a mediocre quarterback.
Yes, Brady is a very good quarterback. But he's not an all-world quarterback like Rodgers, who can carry an entire team on his shoulders with horrific blocking and no running game (as we've seen Rodgers do repeatedly). Instead, Brady is a guy who can do really, really well in a decent-to-great situation.
Of course, again, Brady was given almost no help early in the season. But that's the point. Brady, like any other non-incredible quarterback, needs help. He needs at least average blocking. He needs at least decent wide receiver play (and even more, he needs a matchup nightmare like The Gronk to play at a VERY high level. We'll come back to this). He needs a defense that provides him with support.
In other words, in order to be a great quarterback, Brady needs all the same things most other quarterbacks need to be good or very good. At least at this point in his career, Brady simply isn't an all-universe quarterback anymore (if he ever was truly a QB who could carry his team, which is debatable).
That's a long road to a short thought that says this; The Gronk is the most important member of the Patriots offense, not Tom Brady. It's hard to imagine that IMPROVES in two years, right?
I would never make a trade for a guy Belichick is giving up on general principle. Every player he's allowed to walk has shown to be at or VERY near the end of the rope. And frankly, Tom Brady was the fourth most important part of the Pats title run last season (behind Belichick, The Gronk, and Revis Island. In that order).
Nah, I'll pass on Tom in 2017. He's already a level below where Montana was when the Chiefs grabbed him. That'll only get worse in the next two years.
I hate the fact that Chris Conley is wearing number 17. That's not anything against Donnie Avery.
Actually, that's not true. It really has to do with Donnie Avery and how crazy he drove me. A guy with his speed and quickness has no right to not be a really good wide receiver. I'm getting all worked up just thinking about it again...
Anyway, let's stick to the 80s, guys. OK? Please? My heart is going to do something funny to me every time I see Number 17 going for a contested catch.
If you're enjoying these daily(ish) mailbags, be sure to keep sending questions to @RealMNchiefsfan.
Oh, crap, I almost forgot to include a non-football question...
(@johnames) May 13, 2015
Fantastic stuff. I'm glad I'm here to help with these things.
1) As an artist, Taylor Swift isn't terrible. I'm man enough to admit that she used to write some pretty identifiable stuff. Deep down, aren't we all just 16-year-old girls just wishing Drew would take us back?
(re-reads that last sentence)
This is not the mailbag's finest hour. Nor my manhood's. Let's move on.
2) A big part of my job is reading people. Figuring out if the hotshot defense attorney is actually any good or if he's just all bluster. Deciding whether a witness is going to melt down on the stand if I put him up there. Knowing the difference between someone who just made a mistake and needs a break versus a schmuck who needs to go to jail. I have a lot of experience in this area.
Taylor Swift is secretly mean to people when no one is watching.
I have no basis for this opinion other than my "BS-o-Meter." But that thing is off the charts whenever I see her acting all sweet and innocent and naive.
I'm onto you, Taylor.
Again, I'm glad we do these. See you tomorrow(ish).