This week, Adam and I are going to continue our deep dive on positions the Chiefs may look at high in the draft. Adam will be covering the quarterbacks. I will be tackling the outside linebackers. There is a lot of variety of opinion out there regarding the Chiefs needs for an outside linebacker. Some folks expect the Chiefs to draft an outside linebacker in round one. Others see it as a lesser need. The difference comes down to how you evaluate Andy Studebaker. If you believe that Studebaker is a passable outside linebacker, you downgrade the need. If you believe that Studebaker is not, then outside linebacker is seen as a higher need. I tend to view Studebaker as a decent alternative, so I don’t see this as a huge need. I could be wrong, so let’s take a look at a couple of players the Chiefs may consider in the draft.
When a team runs a 3-4 defense, there are two distinctly different outside linebacker positions. The ‘weak outside linebacker position is your main pass rushing threat. We have that covered with Tamba Hali. The ‘strong’ outside linebacker position is currently manned by Mike Vrabel. That position is more of an overall linebacker position. The SOLB needs to be good dropping into space as well positionally sound to play the run. Pass rushing is nice, but not the primary skill or the primary utilization. The SOLB prospects are who I am going to cover here.
AlDon Smith Missouri 6′ 4” 263 lbs
Smith is a name you see linked to the Chiefs out on the fan pages. Like Phil Taylor, he has undergone a body remake after the season. Addicts, that post-season body remake tends to concern me. I like to see what I am buying on tape, not some remade body. Smiths’ primary skills are rushing the passer and pursuit of ball carriers. His weakness is strength at the point of attack. His body remake was aimed at gaining strength and bulk. That is needed and will help him in the NFL. He is a good prospect, but reminds me more of a weak inside or weak outside linebacker.
Akeem Ayers UCLA 6′ 3” 254 lbs
Ayers has been linked to the Chiefs for months and it is easy to see why. Ayers has very good all around skills, is a solid citizen and a multi-year team captain. Unlike make of the outside linebacker prospects, Ayers has a lot of experience dropping into coverage. He can drop into zone coverage, cover a tight end in man coverage and rush the passer. I am not in favor of spending a high draft pick on an outside line backer, but Ayers is the kind of player that could fit in well on the Chiefs. His biggest negatives are his instincts. At times he tends to react late and he tends to be inconsistent.
Justin Houston Georgia 6′ 3” 270 lbs
To borrow a phrase, Houston is the kind of player your mother warned you about. His athletic measurables are high. It is easy to fall in love with him. He is a good tackler and was second in the SEC in sacks last season. He plays the run well, rushes the passer well and was a team captain. So, why am I warning against him? Consistency is the reason why. His tape is very inconsistent. He can look great, then disappear in a game. With the Chiefs disliking ‘yo-yo players’ expect the Chiefs to pass on Houston. Some team will grab him. He is a classic boom or bust prospect.
If you are looking further down in the draft, I am going to refer to my interview the Draft Tek’s King of the draftboard, Longball. Here is what Longball had to say about later round OLB draft prospects.
“There will be value at OLB throughout the draft – the “kamikaze” pass-rushers will go early, but I assume you are looking at a replacement to groom for Vrabel, so mid-round candidates might include Dontay Moch of Nevada, Chris Carter of Fresno State, Steven Friday of Virginia Tech, Tom Keiser of Stanford, Ryan Winterswyk of Boise State, Kenny Rowe of Oregon or Kentrell Lockett of Mississippi.”
Regardless of how you view the OLB need for the Chiefs, it is a position to keep your eye on in the draft. OK Addicts, sound off. Who do you like and why? How do you see the Chiefs need for an OLB?