Examining Chiefs’ draft options at No. 1
By this time last offseason, the NFL world more or less knew that the Indianapolis Colts would select Andrew Luck No. 1 overall at the draft. Fast-forward to February 2013 and the situation could not be more different.
The Kansas City Chiefs, owners of a 2-14 record in 2012 and a new head coach in Andy Reid, are on the clock. But there does not appear to be a Luck or Robert Griffin III in the current draft class, ready to step in and fill the Chiefs’ void at quarterback. So, what’s a rebuilding team to do?
The uncertainty surrounding the Chiefs’ top pick should add even more intrigue during the run-up to the draft. And with the scouting combine just about a week away, we take a look at a few of Kansas City’s potential options at No. 1 …
Plan No. 1: Draft a quarterback.
The obvious choice, both because of what Kansas City’s depth chart looks like and what we’ve come to expect at the top of the draft. Is there a plug-and-play guy like Luck, Griffin or even Russell Wilson available, though?
The top QB prospects, should the Chiefs go this route: Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Tyler Wilson. All had moments during their collegiate careers that made them look like superstars; all bring plenty of concerns to the table.
One key element in this whole discussion, for now: Matt Cassel remains under contract in K.C., with $7.5 million due to come his way for 2013. It is not a given that the Chiefs cut him loose — even if they take a quarterback at No. 1; having Cassel and that incoming rookie compete could be Reid’s plan.
2. Let Branden Albert walk, take Luke Joeckel (or Eric Fisher).
Why would the Chiefs have to sacrifice Albert to draft an offensive tackle? Well, because if Albert, a pending unrestricted free agent, re-signs to be the team’s left tackle, there would be no place to play Texas A&M’s Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Fisher.
Kansas City has the luxury of Eric Winston at right tackle. Albert, meanwhile, has called the notion of him moving to guard to accommodate a No. 1 pick, “ludicrous” — and he has a point, given how well he has played at left tackle. Albert probably will cost the Chiefs somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million per year to keep around. They may opt to instead save a little money and grab a replacement left tackle to start the draft.
3. Focus on defense.
The Chiefs’ defense should have been more competitive in 2012, given the talent on the roster. There are not a ton of glaring weaknesses there. One that may arise, though, is at defensive end, where Glenn Dorsey is set to be a free agent and Tyson Jackson could receive his walking papers. Jackson started 15 games for the Chiefs last year, while Dorsey lined up as a first-teamer in four before landing on injured reserve. Should the Chiefs find themselves shorthanded at defensive end in their 3-4 defense, there are a couple of potentially intriguing prospects on the board.
The first is Utah’s Star Lotulelei, who may project better as a defensive tackle but has the versatility to slide to an end spot in the 3-4. Another player the Chiefs might consider in this scenario is Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson. He provides a mix of power and speed that could make him a force along the defensive line. Kansas City also might contemplate some help in the secondary, either at corner (Dee Milliner is widely believed to be the top prospect there) or at safety (Kenny Vacarro leads that list).
No defender really jumps off the page as a potential No. 1 pick, but there would be a handful of guys from which to select.
4. Trade down.
This is easier said than done.
With no sure-fire No. 1 out there, the Chiefs’ best bet for finding a trade partner might come if Albert re-signs. In that case, Kansas City could cross its fingers that Joeckel becomes a highly-desired commodity, thereby making the No. 1 spot coveted. It’s hard to imagine any team taking the leap up for a quarterback (or anyone at the other offensive skill positions). But there might be additional markets at defensive tackle or with the pass-rushing DE/OLB players, although the depth this draft presents at those spots might convince teams to stay put.
5. Roll the dice.
There are a number of possible outcomes that fit under this subheading, including …
• Using the No. 1 pick on Chance Warmack — no guard has been taken No. 1 since the AFL-NFL merger.
• Re-signing Albert and drafting Joeckel anyway, then figuring out where to play everyone in training camp.
• Nabbing one of the draft’s very talented 3-4 rush linebackers, despite the presences of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston
• Or really getting kooky and taking a wide receiver to replace Dwayne Bowe.
The Warmack wild card presents the most sensible option, even if it would make for a jaw-dropping decision. The Chiefs will need to address their receiver spot, but the No. 1 pick is not the place to do it — not this year, at least.
The good news for the Chiefs is that they have a cornucopia of possibilities for that No. 1 spot. The bad news, however, is that none of those options appears to be an obvious solution at this point.