Chiefs Mission Impossible: A Tackle


Alright, the season is over. The evaluations, and awards, are pouring in. There’s one big glaring and obvious hole on the Chiefs offensive line that needs addressing. The question is: can the Chiefs accomplish the mission?

Can the Chiefs find their new and future right tackle? A good one. I’ll initially examine the three best offensive tackles that will be available in the 2012 NFL Draft. Then I’ll take a look at what’s left.

Firstly, I’m not going to enter into the right tackle or left tackle debate here. Except to simply say, a tackle is a tackle. Yes, I realize not all tackles can play either side however, I’m leaving that decision up to the Chiefs and remember, the Chiefs have had a college guard playing left tackle for the past three years. My sole objective is to look at who’s available. The Chiefs can put the puzzle together.

I hope.

 

Matt Kalil 6-7, 295
The first OT taken in the draft has widely been predicted to be Matt Kalil from USC. Kalil has a brother, Ryan, who was an All-American at SC, plays for the Panthers and is currently the highest paid center in NFL history. In other words, he’s very good, and his little bro Matt should turn out even better. Matt allowed no sacks in this season (2011) and the USC offensive line allowed only eight sacks total. So, he played with others players who are also very good and the pro style system helps boost his stock.

Kalil has great technique. No, he’s not perfect, but many project him to be taken second or third in the draft, as the first OT taken, and so, will very likely be gone by the time the Chiefs choose at 11. So, I’m not going to spend any more time on him for now. Besides, I actually like Riley Reiff more than Kalil and there’s a better possibility Reiff will be available when the Chiefs send their card to the podium.

Riley Reiff 6-6 300
Some rank Jonathan Martin of Stanford ahead of Reiff, but I give the edge to Reiff. On Nov. 30, I offered the following profile on Riley in a post called, Re-A-Lining The Chiefs Title Hopes,

“Reiff may turn out to be the best OT out of all of them in the long run. He has a nasty streak and has three years of starting experience at Iowa against some of the best competition in the nation. When Riley was a sophomore, he matched up well against Cameron Heyward who is now being developed by the Steelers. The only player I have seen that gave Reiff a challenge is Aldon Smith from Missouri whose long arms kept Reiff from locking him up consistently. But that was when Reiff was a sophomore. If the Chiefs can draft Riley Reiff he would be an impact player who is able to step in immediately and make a big difference in the way the Chiefs reconstruct their offensive line. If that happens, the offense would take one giant leap forward.”

While Reiff isn’t as athletically fluid and has a little less ability to bend and squat as he’s sliding his feet, his determination is next to none and he loves to finish blocks, frequently playing through the whistle. Plus, you can see his progress each year and his ability to adapt and develop his skills has taken him nearly to the top of the OT pecking order.

Some have written that Kalil and Martin have played a higher level of competition in the Pac 12 but, I can’t find one pro level talent that they (Kalil and Martin) were required to block during this season. USC’s non-conference schedule was Minnesota (3-9),  Syracuse (6-6) and Notre Dame (8-5). Aside from going up against Trevor Guyton who ranks about #115 overall. The best DE Matt Kalil probably faced all year was in practice every day against Nick Perry who projects to the late first, early second round. Plus, DE Ethan Johnson from Notre Dame may not have presented much of a challenge since he was out the previous week to playing USC with an ankle sprain. When I scroll through the list of top defensive ends I can’t find one in the top 25 who played in the Pac 12.

Reiff has not only faced the aforementioned Aldon Smith and Cameron Heyward in previous seasons, but has developed his skills against players like Jared Crick of Nebraska (probable late first round), William Gholston from Michigan State (fifth-ranked DE) and Frank Alexander from Oklahoma (a mid to late rounder).

While some have over looked the fact that Iowa plays a pro style offense, we already know Scott Pioli doesn’t. I’ve previously documented Mr. Pioli’s tendency to draft players from the same school in consecutive years which raises the chances he’ll go to that well again. Just as it raises the chances that he’ll draft someone this year from Pitt (Baldwin), Florida St. (Hudson) Georgia (Houston), Mississippi St. (Powe) and so on. I think a big reason for that is… when team scouts and officials spend increased amounts of time on a campus exploring the background of a specific player they, by no small coincidence, get to know other players while they’re there. What’s the saying, “proximity is the father of familiarity.” On the other hand… maybe I just made that up.

If you’re detecting that I’d be in favor of the Chiefs drafting Riley Reiff, then you’re probably related to Sherlock Holmes. Whether the Chiefs insert him on the left or right, or wait a year or two, then move him over to the left side, either way, Reiff would improve the Chiefs OL to the same degree that Eric Berry improved the Chiefs defense last season.

Jonathan Martin 6-6, 305
Martin had the back of the most sought after prospect in ten years. Naturally, he is also garnering some heavy attention and rightfully so. One of my general impressions of Martin is… twice, when I went to watch film on him, I ended up being more impressed with his line mate G David DeCastro. DeCastro does so many things well and is consistent in the way he pursues defenders down field until he can pancake them. Anyway… back to Martin.

Martin is balanced and stays in the right technique consistently. He makes sure his QB stays upright by staying between him and the defender throughout the play. He makes playing LT look easy and is slick looking. That concerns me a bit because, as I’ve mentioned above, I’m not sure he’s played against top level competition. He is a natural athlete and has above average power in the lower half of his body and uses his power to his advantage. He comes across as “Ivy-league-perfect” and I’m sure Scott Pioli would love his even keeled demeanor. Would I be disappointed if the Chiefs chose Jonathan Martin? No. However, I believe Riley Reiff has more fire in his bones.

Now, considering the teams drafting in front of the Chiefs, what are the real possibilities that the Chiefs can land one of these talented gentlemen?

1. Indianapolis Colts- if the Colts (or whoever they trade this pick to) don’t take Andrew Luck, the universe will immediately cease to exist and we won’t even have to wait til December 21st. Also, with the firing of the Polians in Indy, you can expect a new GM to want his own coach and a new coach usually means a new QB in place. Meaning, we’ll likely see Andrew Luck behind center next year and Peyton Manning playing elsewhere. In any event, the Colts won’t be taking a tackle. Andrew Luck.
2. St. Louis Rams- the Rams could use a LT and many project them to do just that. However, with the firing of Steve Spagnuolo, see above. New coaches like their own QBs and there’s a slight chance they move Sam Bradford and draft RG III. However, many project Justin Blackmon as the best WR in this draft and he may be the piece Bradford needs to succeed. Justin Blackmon or Matt Kalil.
3. Minnesota Vikings- If Leslie Frasier sticks, so does Ponder. In which case, they could also be in the market for a LT. The Vikes seem more likely to take a LT than the Rams.  Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon.
4. Cleveland Browns- The Browns have two first round choices so they could even go RB here but, if Blackmon was still available they probably jump. They also need an ILB and an OT. So, if Kalil is there, they will also jump at him. Neither is there so they have to weigh how good RG III is, against who Colt McCoy has been.If they see Colt is the real McCoy, they try to trade out. Robert Griffin III.
5. Tampa Bay Buccanneers- A starting RT and an OG are both high on their list so there’s a good chance they go for one of the top OTs if they’re there. Morriss Claiborne.
6. Washington Redskins- Man oh man, do the Redskins ever need a QB. If RG III is still there Mike Shanahan will personally sprint the card to the commissioner on draft day. If not, he’ll likely go for Landry Jones or even trade back to do that. In any event, Shanahan must get his QB this off-season. Landry Jones.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars- 9th against the run and 8th against the pass means the Jags need help on offense. They need a WR, an OG and DL. There’s not really a DL freak available but, Quinton Coples comes close. With league leader Maurice Jones-Drew (1606 yards rushing) they stay away from Trent Richardson. They may even jump at someone like G David DeCastro although, this would be very high for an OG. However, he’s worth it. They may think about a new QB but, they will give Blaine Gabbert another year. The next highest rated WR is Michael Floyd from N.D. but he ranks in the twenties so, they probably go OL. Jonathan Martin or Davis DeCastro or Quinton Coples.
8. Carolina Panthers- No QB needed here. But, 24th against the pass and 25th against the run means defense. WR? Absolutely. LT? Absolutely. But, they’ve got to get better on defense. If one of the 3 LTs are there, they’ll be tempted but, end up going DL. Quinton Coples or Dre Kirkpatrick or Jonathan Martin.

9. Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins are in the same “new coach” boat as several other teams but, in the Dolphins case, they need a QB badly. If Landry Jones is still around, I’d bet on him. If not, they need a QB, RT, CB, DE and Safety. They’d probably jump at the chance to get someone like CB Morriss Claiborne or CB Dre Kirkpatrick. Many rank Claiborne in the top five so he may not fall this far. If it comes down to Kirkpatrick or an OL like Riley Reiff or even if Quinton Coples is here, I’m betting they take the lineman. Riley Reiff or Quinton Coples or Dre Kirkpatrick.
10. Buffalo Bills- LT, OLB, CB. Dre Kirkpatrick or Riley Reiff.

There’s a good possibility these 9 players will be taken in the top ten: Luck, Blackmon, Kalil, Griffin III, Claiborne, Jones, Coples, Reiff, and Kirkpatrick. It’s difficult to tell where Trent Richardson would fit in, but he’s deserving, talent wise.

There’s also a definite pattern of teams needing tackles so, Kalil, Reiff and Martin will probably be gone by the time the Chiefs select at #11. Then, the Chiefs choices are; 1) the Chiefs go ahead and select the best player available no matter what position that player plays, or 2) the Chiefs trade out.

If the Chiefs trade out and move up they will obviously have to give something up to go and get the player they want. If the Chiefs move out and down they will be doing so to target a player they want and then be gaining an extra pick in the process.

What ever they decide to do, I hope a top-level offensive lineman is in the plans.

 ____________

Grouped by round, the best offensive line prospects left, using the CBS Sports ranking system, include:

- Overall rankings are in parenthesis on he left
- Bolded schools are schools Scott Pioli drafted from last season

First Round

(9) OG David DeCastro

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if DeCastro ends up being selected in the top ten. It also would not be a surprise if he was taken by the Chiefs at #11. He’s a grizzly man who is relentless in pursuit and I can easily see him becoming a Pro Bowl level performer by, or before, his second season in the league. I’d be tickled if the Chiefs took him and converted him to RT. Just think, then the Chiefs would have two guards playing tackle.

 

First Round
(23) Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia, 6-5, 348- a hefty hunk of steaming junk, he lunges at defenders too often, am not a fan
(25) Peter Konz, OC, Wisconsin, 6-5, 315- best center but, slow of foot, can’t keep up when he has to pull
(31) Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State, 6-5, 307- I have questions about his dedication, oddly took a play off once and stayed in his stance throughout the play, a twilight zone moment

Second Round
(39) Brandon Washington, OG, Miami (FL), 6-4, 320- could play RT
*(51) Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State, 6-8, 320- my American Idol
(64) Ben Jones, C, Georgia, 6-3, 316- quick snap, can be side stepped

Third Round
*(65) Kelechi Oseleme, OT, Iowa State, 6-5, 347- smart, grounded, can dominate
(74) Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State, 6-6, 321- could be good, really good
(78) Nate Potter, OT, Boise State, 6-6, 298- he’s going to play somewhere
(82) Brandon Mosley, OT, Auburn, 6-5, 305
(85) Amini Silatolu, OT, Midwestern State, 6-3, 324
(87) Keith Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin, 6-4, 318

Fourth Round and after
(98) Matt McCants, OT, UAB, 6-6, 295
(104) Mike Brewster – OC – Ohio State, 6-4, 305
(105) Senio Kelemete, OT, Washington, 6-3, 302
(111) Tony Bergstrom, OT, Utah, 6-5, 315
(120) Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 322
(126) David Molk, OC, Michigan, 6-2, 288
(130) Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California, 6-5, 318
(145) Matt Reynolds, OT, Brigham Young, 6-4, 305
(156) Markus Zuscvics, OT, Iowa, 6-5, 300
(169) Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado, 6-8, 298
(171) Philip Blake, C, Baylor, 6-2, 320

*If the Chiefs can’t get one of the élite three (Kalil, Reiff or Martin) then Mike Adams from Ohio State would be my choice. He’s played LT for the Buckeyes and would be a huge improvement at RT for the Chiefs. I also like Kelechi Oseleme from Iowa State because his body positioning and strength sometimes reminds me of Wille Roaf.

Thank you to the CBS Sporting news. Their ranking system was not used in this post to point out that specific players are better than others but, more as a guide to sorting out prospects. In fact, I think Cordy Glenn, Peter Konz and Zebrie Sanders are not as good as the 6 players placed below them in their ranking system.

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