The annual NFL Draft begins tonight in Chicago at 7 p.m. CT and the Kansas City Chiefs have the 18th pick in the first round. Thanks to the work of General Manager John Dorsey and Head Coach Andy Reid this off-season, the Chiefs are in a great position of being able to take the best player on their draft board when their time comes instead of having to reach for a player to fill a desperate need.
Some fans no doubt remember the 2009 Draft when the team’s new GM, Scott Pioli, reached for LSU defensive end, Tyson Jackson, with the #3 overall pick in the draft. Jackson, at the time, was considered to be one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the draft and the Chiefs were switching from their 4-3 defense they had used for years.
Jackson was a decent player, but definitely NOT worthy of the #3 pick. Post-draft comments made at the time by coaches seemed to indicate that the need for a true 3-4 end was too great to pass Jackson up.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Jackson will go down as one of the Chiefs’ all-time busts (unfairly, but that’s life) because he went #3. Had he gone where he was projected to go (late first round, early second) he might still be in a Chiefs uniform today.
Current Chiefs left tackle, Eric Fisher, the #1 overall pick in 2013 Draft is facing the same pressures of being a high draft pick getting off to a slow start in his career. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2015 will be the make-or-break season for Fisher at left tackle for sure, and possibly for his career in Kansas City.
Which brings us to tonight’s draft.
Because Reid and Dorsey have addressed gaping holes at wide receiver (Jeremy Maclin), offensive guard (Ben Grubbs, Paul Fanaika), and secondary (strong safety Tyvon Branch), in addition to the hopeful return of key veterans from last year returning to health in 2015 (Derrick Johnson, Mike DeVito, Eric Berry, etc), when the 18th pick rolls around, the Chiefs can take their highest-rated player at any position.
So who could the Chiefs take with their first pick? Here are the options that your Chiefs Examiner sees for tonight:
Quarterback – No, no, no, no, noooooooooooo. Just like the 2013 Draft, when the Chiefs could have used any QB with a pulse at #1, there are no QBs worth taking in the first round. The two big names, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, have questions about their games on the field (Mariota) or off the field (Winston) that I wouldn’t bite on either. However, since the NFL is a QB-driven league, both these players will be gone within the first four picks. But like Tyson Jackson, it doesn’t mean they should. Kansas City currently has five QBs on the roster. It is doubtful they will spend one of their 10 draft picks on another one.
- Likelihood of Chiefs drafting a QB in first round: 0%, unless Mariota falls for some reason.
Running Back – Like QB, there are only two names gathering first-round buzz – Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. Unlike QB, there are virtually no questions these two players are studs. With Jamaal Charles already on the roster, this is one of the stronger units for the Chiefs, but if Gurley falls to KC at 18, I would run his name up to the Commissioner in two seconds flat. Gurley could be the best player in this draft, but injury concerns – and the de-emphasis of taking RBs in the first round – could see him fall.
- Likelihood of KC taking a RB: 0% unless they shock the world if Gurley falls to them. With 10 draft picks, the Chiefs could swing a deal with San Francisco (#15 pick) or Houston (#16) to jump ahead of San Diego (#17), the team many mock drafts have taking Gurley. Trading up to keep him out of San Diego and getting Jamaal Charles’ eventual replacement would be sweet. Gordon’s game is very similar to Charles’ and you won’t hear a peep out of me if they took him, either. Both are playmakers, which championship teams need.
Wide Receiver – Yes, we have heard all off-season that the Chiefs 2014 wide receiving corps was the first in decades to record zero touchdowns for a season. While Maclin’s signing is a tall glass of cool water to a thirsty fan base, this is one of the deepest WR drafts in recent memory. Some experts believe there is value to be found in all seven rounds of the draft.
Kansas City definitely needs more help at the position and there will be options for them at #18. It is widely believed that as many as four WRs will be off the board by the time the Chiefs pick (Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, Kevin White, Nelson Agholor) and if that is the case, you can almost guarantee the Chiefs will wait until the next round to take a receiver.
Many mock drafts have the Chiefs taking Agholor, Jaelen Strong, Phillip Dorsett, Breshad Perriman, or former Mizzou Tiger, Dorial Green-Beckham at 18. If it happens, it would be a surprise to me, but you won’t hear me complain – unless they take the troubled Green-Beckham who has BUST written all over him.
- Likelihood the Chiefs take a Wide Receiver: 15%. With such a deep class of receivers, unless Parker or Cooper fall into the teens, I think the Chiefs wait until later rounds to fill this need. Chiefs fans should probably hope there is a huge run on WRs early so better value players will slip to the 18th spot.
Tight end – Only one name in the mix, Maxx Williams, who was a popular pick for KC in mock drafts back in March, but not so much now. There is an outside shot they could take him, but it would be a big surprise with other needs on the roster.
- Likelihood the Chiefs take a Tight End: 5%.
Offensive Line – Given the Chiefs need, and the fact that Reid likes to draft linemen on both sides of the ball in the first round, this is where most Chiefs fans believe the team will go at #18. And then they cry into their beers because offensive linemen are usually the most boring picks. , but no one disputes the need to have a good offensive line in the NFL. The debate is on whether teams should invest first round picks on them.
The mock draft community greatly leans towards the Chiefs taking an offensive lineman. If the previous 17 teams do invest heavily on wide receivers and pass rushers like expected, there could be some terrific talent waiting for Reid and Dorsey.
Options for KC could include Cam Erving at center, tackles La’el Collins, Andrus Peat or T.J. Clemmings, or guard Ereck Flowers who is expected to move to right tackle in the NFL. One or two of these players will likely be gone by the time the Chiefs pick, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume they are all available at #18.
My guess would be Reid would be pounding the table for the team to take Peat first, Collins second and then Erving third. Both Peat and Collins would probably start Day 1 at right tackle and Collins could slide inside and solidify the right guard position for the next decade. Both could eventually slide over to left tackle if Fisher implodes.
Erving would likely move into the #1 spot at center since the only person he has to beat out is Eric Kush, a third-year player who did not play a down for KC last year despite having some of the worst players at guard in the NFL.
- Likelihood the Chiefs take an Offensive Lineman: 25%. It’s just what Reid does.
Defensive Lineman – The Chiefs base defense is a 3-4 scheme with three down linemen and four linebackers. In the real world, they only play that scheme about half the time. All the other times, they are in hybrid schemes so given the fact that tackle Dontari Poe never seems to be able to get off the field, and Mike DeVito is older and coming off an injury, defensive line is definitely an option.
Experts agree that Arik Armstead and Danny Shelton are attractive options as both are projects that have tremendous upside. Your Chiefs Examiner would run away from both. Armstead is a physical freak that should have dominated the Pac-12, but instead saw little production. To me, he is that classic, “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” kind of guy. If you could put DeVito’s head and heart inside Armstead, you’d probably get a future Hall of Famer.
The downside of Shelton to me is a fat tub of goo who plays in the NFL for 8 years to pick up a check and free meals at the team buffet line. If the Chiefs want an interior guy at #18, I’d rather have Texas’ Malcom Brown, who showed improvement throughout his college career and still has upside. He could sit and learn behind Poe for half a season and possibly move inside to tackle and bump the more explosive Poe out to D-end.
A dark horse that your Chiefs Examiner loves is if the Chiefs trade back into the later stages of Round 1 and take Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips, a guy with amazing potential that needs solid coaching. Like Brown, could be a stud with a year of seasoning.
- Likelihood the Chiefs take a Defensive Lineman: 20%. Again, this is what Reid does.
Linebacker – Unless a top-10 talent falls to them, I don’t see the Chiefs taking a pass rushing linebacker to play behind Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, or Dee Ford. Inside linebacker is a possibility as Derrick Johnson is coming off major injury and is getting up in years.
Chances are looking good that both Randy Gregory and local kid, Shane Ray will be falling to the bottom of the first round due to some off-field issues. In the case of Ray, his stock was dropping because of a toe injury anyway. His little marijuana incident may shove him into the second round, which might be better for him in the long run. Ray will probably play in the league for 12-13 years and could make a Pro Bowl or two. Either way, I don’t see a fit with the Chiefs.
Inside linebackers tend not to get taken in the first round unless they are special players. The linebackers available to KC at #18 are Paul Dawson, Eric Kendricks and Benardrick McKinney and all are much better value in the second round than the first.
- Likelihood the Chiefs take a linebacker: 10%. For what the Chiefs need, there is better value in third and fourth rounds.
Secondary – Other than wide receiver or grabbing one of those two running backs, your Chiefs Examiner will be happy if KC grabs a cornerback with their first pick. Depending on who you read, there is an actual shot that the Chiefs can have their choice of any corner. Other than finding a center, cornerback is the Chiefs biggest area of need as Sean Smith is in the last year of his contract and the only other viable starting corner on the team is second-year man, Phillip Gaines.
Three names stand out at corner for the Chiefs – Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson, and Marcus Peters. Waynes is the top-rated corner and is a pure press-man cover player. Right now, he is the only corner that could be gone by the time the Chiefs pick. For me, that won’t be a bad thing as Waynes struggles to not grab the receivers he covers during coverage. In the NFL, if you breathe too heavy on a receiver, you’ll be flagged. So an athletically-gifted corner who had problems with that in college may really labor with it in the pros.
Peters is a prototypical NFL corner in size, speed and intangibles but has huge red flags when it comes to emotional stability and maturity. Scouts compare him to former KU Jayhawk, Aqib Talib, who is as talented as they come but wears out his welcome quickly. Personally, I don’t give first-round money and responsibility to a guy like Peters no matter how bad my secondary is. Should he pull a Justin Houston and fall to the third round, then I take a chance.
Which leaves us with Johnson – a player many mock drafters have going to KC as a slight reach pick with tremendous upside. Ideally, the Chiefs would be able to trade down from #18, get more draft picks in the second-to-fourth-round area, and still grab Johnson. He could sit and learn for a year, become a special teams stud as a gunner and then take over one of the corner spots for the next decade in 2016.
Safety is also an area the Chiefs could address, but the closer we get to the draft, the less it looks like there are any safeties worth taking in the first round. If the Chiefs were looking to replace Eric Berry, then Alabama’s Landon Collins is a name that might be called at #18. He is a nasty, physical, tough safety who excels at stopping the run. However, his coverage skills are questionable. With other, more pressing needs, I don’t see the Chiefs drafting a safety in the first round.
- Likelihood the Chiefs take a corner or safety: Corner – 20%, Safety – 5%
PREDICTION FOR FIRST ROUND: In my six previous years of covering the Chiefs’ drafts, I have only predicted who they were going to take correctly twice (Fisher and Poe), but my suggestions on who they SHOULD have taken are spot on (Luke Kuechly, Russell Wilson, Aldon Smith, etc.).
If I’m betting money, I would bet on the Chiefs taking an offensive lineman like Andrus Peat if he falls to them, because the group they will be choosing from are all good talents and have versatility along the line. However, barring a Gurley signing, I think the Chiefs lock up a potential Pro Bowl corner that can sit and learn the first year and take Kevin Johnson, the cornerback out of Wake Forest.
We’ll know what they do in a few hours.