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Chiefs 2016 draft: Defensive lineman still makes plenty of sense

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The Kansas City Chiefs can still go a few different ways with their picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. Cornerback is an obvious need with the loss of Sean Smith. Pass rusher has suddenly become more important with Justin Houston's season in danger along with a 32-year old Tamba Hali. The Chiefs have to replace Derrick Johnson at some point. Even safety or receiver seem like areas the Chiefs could consider addressing.

There's also defensive line. The more I think about it, the more I see this as the most likely first round pick (I'll change my mind in the next few hours and say corner or pass rusher). It fits the mold of how the Chiefs have drafted before by selecting a player at a position where you're about to have a really expensive free agent. That was the case with Eric Fisher and Branden Albert in 2013, Dee Ford and Justin Houston / Tamba Hali in 2014 and Marcus Peters and Sean Smith in 2015.

Dontari Poe is an expensive free agent-to-be. Sure, we want him back but you're talking about a big contract so you have to be prepared for the possibility that he's priced out of Kansas City. Poe is under contract for 2016 but scheduled to be a free agent in 2017 (yes, franchise tag consideration). So the Chiefs have him for sure one more year, and reasonably priced for two more years at $20-something million total.

Young defensive linemen don't usually come into the league and dominate right away so this is a position that the Chiefs probably need to plan out for a year or two. The Chiefs haven't really invested a lot in the defensive line in the Andy Reid / John Dorsey era because Poe and Allen Bailey were already in house. Jaye Howard and his team friendly two-year, $10 million deal was only a waiver wire pickup three years ago. Rakeem Nunez-Roches is a late draft pick.

This is screaming out to me that it's a potential Chiefs pick. NFL.com's latest mock draft has the Chiefs hitting the defensive line with UCLA's Kenny Clark.

"Though he doesn't possess great size, Clark is one of the country's better run-stuffers, winning with strength, a naturally low center of gravity and hustle to plug rushing lanes," his CBS Sports scouting report says. "Overshadowed by flashier athletes throughout much of his career and still developing his pass rush skills, Clark flashes the violence, agility and motor to twist and drive blockers backward, projecting as a three-down interior player at the next level."

Additionally, Cris Collinsworth of Pro Football Focus predicts defensive lineman Jarran Reed out of Alabama.

"Reed is one of the best run defenders in this draft. He's a powerful inside defensive lineman who sheds blocks quickly and holds his ground against double teams. The reason he falls to the end of the first round is that he hasn't produced as a pass-rusher. But the more I watch of his tape, the more I think he will surprise as a pass-rusher."

You can make a great argument for cornerback in addition to defensive line. The early money is on one of those two.