Many folks are basking in the glow of another NFL draft for the Kansas City Chiefs. Others are nervous about the lack of an agreement between the owners and the players. Then, there are nuts like me. For me, it’s always draft time. Just as Scott Pioli’s scouting department is breaking down tape for the 2012 draft, your nuttiest draft blogger is busy breaking down the 2012 draft needs. This year is different for a number of reasons. First of all, with effectively a freeze on player movement, the Chiefs can’t fill needs. Secondly, the Chiefs are a rising team, so players will be held to a higher standard. Play that earned a player a starting spot two years ago may not be good enough to keep that spot on the Chiefs going forward. Of course, this is just the start of the analysis. As players get signed (hopefully, eventually) needs can and should change.
The 2011 draft filled many, many needs. However, it’s not possible to fill every need in a draft. So, what remains for the Chiefs to upgrade? As loyal readers know, I prefer to group needs into three tiers. The first tier are primary needs. These are generally positions where the Chiefs need a starting caliber player. Secondary needs are generally positions that are either in need of a starting caliber player but the positional importance is not high or a need for a backup player at a more important position where that player is expect to make a good contribution to the team. The finally tier, tertiary needs are pure backup development depth choices.
Slot wide receiver – Although I try not to rank each need, this need is probably the largest need on the Chiefs. With Dexter McCluster moving to running back and no 2011 draft choice here, this is a prime spot for a veteran free agent signing. Until that happens, this is a huge primary need. This spot is the glaring weakness on the Chiefs offense. Matt Cassel has plenty of targets, but no one to work the slot effectively.
Offensive tackle/guard – Each year, the Chiefs keep adding a solid prospect to offensive line. First it was Brandon Albert, then Jon Asamoah and this year Rodney Hudson. Each was a pick in the first three rounds of the draft. A dominant offense starts with a solid offensive line. My thought? Keep that beef coming. Since the Chiefs love to have versatile offensive lineman, targeting a position can be tricky. Hudson will be given every chance to win the center job. Asamoah is probably going to end up at a guard slot. Albert is the wild card. The Chiefs could bring in another left tackle and move Albert to left guard or right tackle. However, he could stay at left tackle and a right tackle or guard could be selected. So, the need is identified as a tackle/guard need.
Running back – Fans are mixed on Thomas Jones. Regardless of how you feel about him, he doesn’t have many years left. Jamaal Charles is a fine back, but unsuited for a heavy load. He needs more of a thumper back to share the load with. The type of back that would fit in best would be a patient runner, used to running between the tackles in a zone blocking scheme. The Patriots have gotten a lot of mileage from veteran free agent running backs. Don’t be shocked to see the Chiefs dip into that market rather than drafting a runner.
Strong inside linebacker – I am a big Jovan Belcher fan. As an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Maine, he is a longshot that made good. However, the Chiefs have improved to the point where it’s warranted to put some pressure on Belcher and bring in some competition. Jovan, do us all a favor, step up big time in 2011 and lock this position away.
Free safety – The Chiefs don’t really employ a strong safety in the sense of the classic strong safety skill set. The Chiefs prefer more ball skills than run support in their defensive backfield. The Chiefs need some depth behind Berry and Lewis. With the pass happy NFL, this position can get a good amount of playing time.
Nose tackle – Am I down on Powe so fast? No, not at all. This is a need with an understanding of the nature of the nose tackle position. A nose tackle needs to be rotated frequently. The physical demands of the position are quite high. To be an effective defense, the Chiefs need two good nose tackles. With Powe being given a chance, I can see him being paired with a veteran free agent. Failing that, drafting another 320+ lbs run stuffer is in the offing.
Tight end – Tony Moeaki is a stud in the making. However, he needs a second tight end to complement him. Leonard Pope is serviceable, however an upgrade could help the Chiefs offense. Look for this tight end to be a good blocker with some receiving skills.
Right offensive tackle – Barry Richardson could use a push. I can see a tackle selected to serve as a backup swing tackle or to push Richardson into that role.
These needs are more backup depth needs. Depending on the talent in the draft, the Chiefs could go after any grouping of these positions. A backup guard/center could help. Weak inside linebacker is another spot that could be filled. Derrick Johnson could use a younger backup. Teams rarely have enough good corner, so another cornerback is likely. Who do the Chiefs have at wide receiver after Bowe and Baldwin? Not enough, so another wide receiver could be selected.
How do all these needs stack up and what does that tell us about the Chiefs? All the primary needs are on the offensive side of the ball. The offense is close, but does not have as many pieces in place as the defense. When you go to secondary needs, the analysis flips. There are three defensive needs and a two offensive needs. Still, I am listing seven needs that are either primary or secondary in nature. That is still too many needs. Look for two or three of those needs to be filled via free agency. If the Chiefs keep improving, they are not far away from being a real contender.