One of the most underrated parts of the NFL Scouting Combine is the speculation season that follows for the next week and a half until free agency officially begins.
During the combine, all coaching and executive personnel from every team are in one city, one hotel and one event center talking to each other and sharing information.
Deals are made, secrets are traded and teams begin to play the media game with little statements for the sake of leverage. Information is given to national news-breakers to push a narrative to the public.
This year, the Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the major players in the early stages of the speculation season, with information swirling around about the draft, free agency and even current players on their roster.
Rather than coming out of the NFL combine with a new mock draft reflecting how different players affected their draft stock in Indianapolis, I’m going to be take all of these unsubstantiated (for now) rumors and evaluate how much weight they hold.
I will then make a decision based upon on each rumor as to how I believe the Chiefs should approach the offseason. The free agency portion will be broad and generic rather than identifying specific players. Before the free agency section, there will be some current roster moves that will be based on rumors floating around.
Then we’ll do a three-round mock draft in which specific players will be included with brief overviews of their abilities.
- Rumor 1: The Chiefs are looking to trade Justin Houston; they will be releasing him if no suitor is found.
Whether it’s the right decision or not, this one appears to have a solid backing and makes plenty of sense based upon everything we’ve heard. For that reason — and because there is little buzz about interest in him — in this scenario, Houston is going to be cut.
- Rumor 2: The Chiefs have franchise-tagged Dee Ford; they are looking to trade him to a team whose scheme would be a better fit for him.
This one is a little less substantial right now, but there is a lot of smoke — which usually means there is a fire nearby. Let’s say the Chiefs don’t like Dee Ford’s fit for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense and want to recoup something for him. Let’s also say they trade him for their rumored asking price, which seems to be a mid-second-round draft pick.
- Rumor 3: The Chiefs will be players in free agency; doing so will require them to free up more cap space from players that don’t fit the new defense.
This one is much less of a rumor and more of a money-savvy proposal to cut some dead weight on players that may not be the best fit for the current Chiefs — players like Daniel Sorensen, Eric Murray and Reggie Ragland.
- Rumor 4: Eric Berry is not getting surgery.
Andy Reid has stated that Berry has gotten a second opinion and won’t be getting surgery. The interview went on to hint that the Chiefs then expect him to be healthy and available for training camp. But since nothing has changed since last year when he couldn’t play, that seems far-fetched. With no assurance that he’ll be healthier this year, designating Berry as a post-June 1 cut is the only logical move.
- Rumor 5: The Chiefs are working on a long-term deal with Tyreek Hill that makes him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL.
With extra cap space cleared with the previous moves, the timing of this contract extension makes sense. The Chiefs get this deal done. This move can be essentially structured any way the Chiefs want, but for the sake of discussion, let’s move Hill’s cap hit this year — the first year of the extension — to $5 million.
After Hill’s contract is restructured, the Chiefs would have $47 million in salary cap space for 2019.
- Rumor 6: The Chiefs are making Landon Collins a high free agency priority; the Chiefs scouting team is stacking draft and free agency boards to find strengths of the player pools.
The Chiefs are being connected to the free agent market for safeties in several different ways. For this reason — and the super stacked free agent safety class — the Chiefs will sign a high-end starter at safety in free agency.
The free agent market for safeties is flooded with talent:— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) March 5, 2019
I mean, wow!
- Rumor 7: The Chiefs are looking for defensive ends that fit Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive scheme and possess highly coveted length (and other athletic) thresholds.
Whether or not we believe in the fit of Houston and Ford in Spagnuolo’s system, the narrative seems to be that the Chiefs’ top edge rushers aren’t ideal fits.
To fix that issue, the Chiefs attack an above-average starting defensive end in free agency that fits a more traditional body type for the position — a longer, bigger body type that is also an effective pass rusher off the edge.
Players that fit this general profile include Trey Flowers, Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Ezekiel Ansah and Cameron Wake.
- Rumor 8: Brett Veach wants to be aggressive in the cornerback market, and he likes the athleticism and length combination of Charvarius Ward.
Ward played better down the stretch for the Chiefs and reportedly left a good impression on the new defensive staff. With the mention of aggression in the cornerback market, in this scenario, the Chiefs opt to sign a low-end starting CB that fulfills Veach’s requirements.
Players that fit the general profile: Pierre Desir, Trevor Williams, Ronald Darby, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson and Rashaan Melvin. Trade or late-cut candidates: Xavier Rhodes and Patrick Peterson.
These sound like three very significant moves, but remember: in this scenario, the Chiefs are clearing a ton of cap space and revamping cornerstones of the defense. There is more than enough cash to sign upper-tier guys at every position, but that would be naive and hopeful to expect. The ultimate goal would be to sign one top-notch starter, one quality starter and one player that is on the lower end of the starting-caliber scale.
Round 1 Pick 29: Clelin Ferrell - DE - Clemson
As the draft is unfolding, I’m prepared to make calls into the top 25 picks to make sure I land a player that is going to make an early impact on the roster. Fortunately enough, Clelin Ferrell is falling down the draft board just enough that I can feel comfortable sticking it out at 29 — and still drafting one of the second-tier edge rushers.
Spagnuolo has a long history of investing in the DE position at every stop along his coaching career — specifically investing in bigger DEs (heavier than 260 lbs). Ferrell fits the Spagnuolo model for a defensive end almost perfectly. Ferrell is a good (but not great) athlete who is very technically refined and also plays with fantastic hands and good strength.
3) Clelin Ferrell - Clemson— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) September 1, 2018
Great combination of size and burst off the LoS, Ferrell has the first step to win the edge combined with his excellent hands. Plays with power vs the run and uses hands to disengage in both areas. Shoots up off the snap losing speed and has avg bend pic.twitter.com/uxwIboaScx
- Rumor 9: The Chiefs will play more zone coverage and are looking for cornerbacks with ball skills.
Round 2: Justin Layne - CB - Michigan State
With the second round-pick acquired from the Dee Ford trade, the plan is to add another cornerback outlined by Rumor 8 — a long, athletic player. And he fits the bill for Rumor 9, too.
Layne isn’t ready to jump in and play meaningful snaps right away but has a very similar athletic profile to Ward. Layne is still transitioning from wide receiver to cornerback but shows the natural instincts when playing off a receiver or in zone coverage and some top-notch ball skills when driving downhill.
Justin Layne, CB #2, is still transitioning from a WR to a CB but the natural ability is evident— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) March 6, 2019
- Reads WR release
- Slides w/ WR but stays square to QB, always on
- Keeps WR from stepping on his toes
- Stays in-phase after contact
- Uses length from over the route 4 PBU pic.twitter.com/zDTLC8YX8b
- Rumor 10: The Chiefs are in the center market and could look to add someone early on in the draft.
Round 2 Pick 29: Connor McGovern - IOL - Penn State
This rumor popped up shortly after the combine concluded and may not make much sense, as the Chiefs chose to sign Austin Reiter to a long-term, quality contract after his strong season filling in at center. Nonetheless, the Chiefs have met with multiple interior offensive linemen at the combine and the rumors are flying, so the Chiefs could choose to address the position in the draft.
McGovern has the versatility to play any of the interior positions — a key trait for Andy Reid — and the athleticism to fit in zone-heavy schemes.
Connor McGovern, #66 IOL, is a player the Chiefs met with at the combine that flashes Morse like abilities on film— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) March 6, 2019
- Fluid 90 pull off LoS
- Squares up def while breaking down in space
- Initial punch jolts def
- Rolls hips to create movement
- Drives & turns def out of play pic.twitter.com/SQmSKZkyfC
Round 2 Pick 31 (from Rams): Deebo Samuel WR South Carolina
The backing for this pick comes less off a specific rumor and more from a little research on the Chiefs meeting list — both formal and informal — at the combine.
Not only did the Chiefs meet with Samuel, but they also met with a good number of other receivers, too — a sign they are considering drafting at the position. This wide receiver draft class has a varied skillset and grabbing Samuel late in the second round would give the Chiefs instant competition at the third receiver position, along with the potential of a future starting WR2.
Samuel is electric after the catch — showcasing good speed and explosive ability — but really shines with his ability to generate quick separation on underneath routes.
I’ve heard 3 people say in the film room that Deebo Samuel has made himself some money this weekend. I’ll be the 4th. Nice release, routes have been crisp. Most importantly; he’s shown the ability to play inside/outside pic.twitter.com/iixKjs5J0k— Jake Morley (@JacobMorley) January 24, 2019
- Rumor 11: The Chiefs don’t have the athleticism along the defensive line that Spagnuolo usually likes to run all his twists, stunts and blitzes.
Round 3 Pick 29: Trysten Hill - IDL - UCF
While at first glance, the Chiefs defensive line rotation looks pretty strong, many of the rotational guys are more linear players and don’t have much lateral agility.
This pick goes to Trysten Hill to help alleviate the lack of overall athleticism along the line. Hill really impressed coming out of the combine with his on-field drills. On film, he looks extremely fluid and natural turning corners and controlling his body. While there are some definite issues to fix in his rush plan and play identification, with his penetration skills, he’s ready to make an immediate impact as a rotational rusher.
Trysten Hill, DT #9, is the embodiment of UCF football recently w/ energy, effort, and dynamic plays— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) February 22, 2019
- Expl 1st step
- Fires off ball low w/ hands extended
- Utilizes a spin and high swim counter
- Maximizes length reaching off blocks
- Eliminates gaps when reach blocked pic.twitter.com/f8hjKcIf1l
This is rumor season.
You can’t buy into every single thing you heard. or try to form a full plan for a team based on what is swirling around. Still, with all the information out there, we can come up with a sample offseason we might see if all the rumors have merit.
Some of the rumors are coming straight from the team and there is a chance they stick. Some are coming from media personalities who have previously proven accurate. Others amount to fan theories and carry the lowest chance of having any merit.
For myself, the big takeaway from this exercise is that even if every rumor is true, there is a path to rebuilding this defense quickly with high-caliber players.
KC Draft Guide
We are releasing the first ever edition of the KC Draft Guide on April 8.
We’ll have over 200 prospect write-ups, specifically about how prospects fit the Chiefs. There will be big boards, more than 300 grades on players, mock drafts, positional rankings and features all specific to the Chiefs. You can pre-order the guide for only $6.99 by clicking here.
Today, we launch pre-orders for the KC Draft Guide! Hundreds of write-ups about how prospects fit the Chiefs, player quotes, features, big boards, mock drafts and more. Here's a link to a special launch price of $6.99, less than the cost of a burrito: https://t.co/Gd5Brmhp5P pic.twitter.com/XtWmogQTMe— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) February 20, 2019