The idea that the Chiefs should draft an offensive lineman with their first pick is very popular. It makes sense. The offensive line is bad and has been bad for some time. Matt Cassel needs protection and Charles needs running lanes. I myself have warned against not taking the improved performance of the offensive line in the second half of the season too seriously. However, after hearing many an argument and reviewing many a mock draft, I have decided that the Chiefs should forgo drafting an offensive lineman in the first round.
The opinion of most I have talked to is that the Chiefs should draft Russel Okung, a LT, and move Branden Albert to the right guard position. I believe moving Albert would be a huge mistake. The man has two seasons starting experience, is a very talented lineman and is a first round pick. He had a tough year last year but so did everyone else on the team, save Jamaal Charles. He was also adjusting to a new playing weight and a new offense. I think he can and will be the Chiefs left tackle of the future. Branden Albert doesn’t need to be moved to guard. He needs better men around him.
Look, even Willie Roaf couldn’t have made the Pro Bowl blocking for the Chiefs last year. It was a terrible, terrible mess. The receivers who finished the season weren’t even on the team in training camp, save Bowe. The offensive coordinator was fired 2 weeks before the season and Larry Johnson couldn’t run through an open door.
We must understand this. There was no threat of a running game in the first 8 games of 09’. None. Zilch. Zip. Zero. Teams were blitzing everyone they had. I am pretty sure the Eagles blitzed all 11 defensive players a couple of times. They even put Andy Reid in at NT and he knocked Rudy on his ass!
The line didn’t stand a chance. Albert and Waters didn’t stand a chance. I mean, Waters didn’t go from not making the Pro Bowl in 07’ to making it in 08’ to not making it in 09’ because he went from sucking to being great to sucking again. Waters made the Pro Bowl in 08’ because the Chiefs ran the Arrowspread and Tyler Thigpen was running around like a mad man avoiding tackles. Waters made the Pro Bowl in 08’ and the seasons before that, because the Chiefs offense allowed him to excel by, well, actually being an offense.
There is a stark difference between players like Branden Albert and Brian Waters and Rudy Niswanger and Andy Aleman. The difference is that Albert and Waters would be starters for any team in the NFL and the other guys would only be backups.
Yes, the Chiefs have problems on the offensive line but they aren’t at LT and LG. It would be foolish to take Albert, who has been playing the position for 2 years and who has a season in the offense under his belt and move him to RG. It would be equally foolish to move Brian Waters, who has played in multiple Pro Bowls at LG and make him play C. The Chiefs should keep Waters and Albert where they are, on the left side watching Cassel’s back, instead of asking some rookie to do it and sticking a LG who he has never played with, next to him.
The only offensive line position a team should consider drafting in the first round is a left or right tackle. Period. If Scott Pioli does his homework, there is no reason he can’t find guards or even a center in the second round. Especially since he has two picks to work with.
Since I believe Albert is fine at LT, the Chiefs would be out of their minds to draft another LT with the 5th pick. They would be equally insane to take a running back (because they have one) or a QB (because they have one). So let’s get those cute little draft ideas out of our heads now. You don’t draft more starters at positions you already have starters, unless you are the Colts or Saints or Vikings. You don’t draft starters at positions you already have starters when you have backups starting elsewhere on your roster.
The Chiefs have backups starting at C, RG, (maybe) right tackle, 3rd WR, FB, TE, NT, both ILB positions, nickel, and SS. This is why the Chiefs are not a good football team.
Now, looking at those positions, which are acceptable to be taken with the 5th pick in the first round of the draft? Certainly C, RG, 3rd WR, FB, TE and Nickel are out. That leaves RT, NT, ILB and SS.
Nose tackle is very important but there is no way the Chiefs are taking a NT with the 5th pick. No way in hell. Same goes for RT. I think O’Callahan is doing just fine on the right side. He is still young and he certainly isn’t playing the role of matador like Damion Sackintosh before him. He also does a pretty good job of getting out and run blocking. I think the Chiefs like him and I don’t think they plan on replacing him.
That leaves us with ILB and SS and I am going to throw # 1/2 WR in there because there is no guarantee the Chiefs are going to bring back Chris Chambers. He did a fine job but he is getting up there in years and it would be foolish for the Chiefs to put all their eggs in his basket. If they are smart they will resign Chambers as insurance and try to find another dynamic speed receiver, preferably someone who can also return kicks.
This makes the Chiefs pick at #5 fairly easy. Either Eric Berry, McClain or Dez Bryant is going to be available at #5 and before you start calling Bryant a reach, the word on the street is that he is a better receiver coming out than Michael Crabtree was last year and other than acting like a total jackass, Crabtree did pretty well in his short rookie season.
If Chambers is resigned then the priority falls to defense. The Chiefs are so soft up the middle my grandma could get open between the hash marks and not even break her hip after being tackled. The defense needs a captain. It needs someone to give it some attitude and an identity. It needs a Ray Lewis, a Terrel Suggs or a Troy Palamalu. I think the Chiefs get that in Berry or McClain and I don’t think they should hesitate for a second if one of those two are available when their number is called.
If both Berry and McClain are gone and the Chiefs can’t trade back, they have to take Bryant. He is a dynamic playmaker who can start from day one and is, most importantly, fills a position of need! He is good enough to be taken at 5 and if he is, the Chiefs WR problems are over.
The Chiefs can draft all the lineman they want those lineman can’t block for Cassel forever. Someone has to be open to throw the ball to. Dwayne Bowe is not terribly fast or reliable and there are just no guarantees with Chambers and his age. Someone has to be a threat to get open, to pull safety’s back and to create more room for Charles. If Bowe is Anquan Boldin then he needs his Larry Fitzgerald.
If the Chiefs trade back and I think there is a good chance they will, given the plethora of QB hungry teams directly behind them, then the game changes a little, depending on who is still on the board. The goal, however, remains the same. They need playmakers. Moving back would be a good chance to get Taylor Mays and another 2nd and late rounder.
The Chiefs must find an ILB, SS or stud WR with their first round pick. After that, one of their 2nd round picks must be used on a NT if they can’t get one in free agency. Period. They must get a legit NT before the 3rd round. The other 2nd round pick can be used at their digression. I would recommend a center so they can actually get some push up the middle.
In the end, the Chiefs have no business taking an offensive lineman in the first round and really, no business taking more than one offensive lineman with their first 3 picks. Not when they already have 2, probably 3 if you count O’Callahan, decent to good starters. Those other areas I mentioned, I’ll say it again, ILB, SS, NT and WR are much more important.
First round options:
SS(Berry), ILB(McClain), WW(Bryant), Trade Back.
Second Round Options:
SS, ILB, WR, NT, C
Third Round Options:
C, RG, TE, FB, WR (kick returner) LG (Waters can’t play forever)
Fourth Round and Beyond:
Developmental players, kick returners, projects, diamonds in the rough and depth and backups.
With more dynamic offensive weapons and a solidified defense, the Chiefs offensive line will be greatly improved. They will be in less 3rd and long situations and the score will be closer. Charles alone helped them cut their sacks given up total in half.
With some upgrades at RG and C the Chiefs line will be fine. If the Chiefs fail to heed my advice and draft a LT and shuffle Albert and Waters around, the team will be left with a bunch of big, confused, horses and no one to ride them.