Last year, Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli made a completely unpredictable move in the first round of the NFL Draft, by trading down several spots and landing problem-child WR Jonathan Baldwin out of Pitt. To say this was unexpected is a drastic understatement — Baldwin was and is a headcase, and at no point did he ever appear to be on the Chiefs’ radar all draft season. The next day, Big Matt famously declared “We Do Not Know This Man” in response to Pioli’s surprise pick.
Well, we don’t. But we do.
Because despite the fact that once again, nobody in the entire universe knows how the Chiefs are going to select in the 2012 NFL Draft when they go on the clock, it’s pretty simple to distill down the selection that Pioli is probably going to make, and all signs indicate that if the Chiefs remain with the 11th overall selection (rather than trading down, which remains very possible), they will select Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly (pronounced “keekly”).
A couple weeks ago, Chiefs blogger extraordinaire and former Pioli scout Field Yates spoke on Arrowhead Pride‘s Chop Talk radio about numerous subjects, one being who the Chiefs might target at the highest spot. Yates never targeted anybody for the Chiefs in the conversation, but he spoke at length about Kuechly.
Kuechly, according to Yates, has the look of the classic “mike” inside linebacker (the Belcher position), rather than the “will” inside linebacker (DJ’s position). He said that this position, along with the nose tackle position, is the toughest position on Crennel’s defense to fill. In Crennel’s defenses, it is preferable to have both inside linebackers on the field for all three downs, rather than just the first two downs because, in Belcher’s case, he’s a liability in pass defense.
But what about the concern we all have that Kuechly, while being an elite tackle machine, seems to have that ultra-athletic look like Derrick Johnson does, and not the hard-nosed line-of-scrimmage gladiator of a “mike”? At Boston College, Kuechly rarely racked up sacks, if ever.
Yates’ response was that Boston College’s defense was absolutely terrible the past couple years, so the defensive coaching staff put Kuechly in the middle of the defense and allowed him to roam freely, to essentially be the defense, and rarely if ever asked him to blitz the quarterback.
Besides, Kuechly projects to play like Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots, who only puts in a few sacks a year, racks up ungodly tackle stats, and expertly plays that same position. Like Mayo, Kuechly boasts uncommon athleticism, an unrivaled nose for the ball, brilliant instincts, and great ability to shed blockers.
And where did Scott Pioli take Mayo in the draft? Number 10 overall. So yeah, you can put the pieces together.
After last year’s surprises, we can go back to expecting Scott Pioli to act in according to his trends, rather than bucking them. Taking a diva in last year’s draft proved to be a massive headache, so I think we can expect the safe-and-sound approach that we usually get.
For fun, I applied the typical Pioli standards to a slew of potential draftees who the Chiefs could ostensibly take at #11 overall:
- QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
- OLB Quentin Coples, North Carolina
- NT Dontari Poe, Memphis
- OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
- OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
- DE Michael Brockers, LSU
- OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
- CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
- CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
- ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
- OG David DeCastro, Stanford
- WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
- WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
- C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
- OG Cody Glenn, Georgia
- DE Devon Still, Penn State
- DE Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
- SS Mark Barron, Alabama
- OLB Nick Perry, USC
- OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Now let’s apply the following metric to the above players:
- Will the player be available when the Chiefs pick? (If the answer is “maybe,” they get a strike.)
- Does the player fit our system? (If the answer is “no,” they’re out. If it’s “maybe,” they get a strike.)
- Is there a character flag? (If the answer is “big flag,” they’re out. If they only have small flags, they get a strike.)
- Is the prospect NFL-ready? (If the answer is “not even close,” they’re out. If they only need some development, they get a strike.)
- Does the player fit a team need? (If they don’t fit a glaring need, they get a strike.)
- Is this player a team captain? (If not, they get a strike.)
- Are there injury flags around this prospect? (If yes, you get a strike.)
- How important is this player’s position? (A less valued position gets a strike.)
- How deep is the draft at this player’s position? (If it’s deep, the Chiefs could draft later in the draft, so this prospect gets a strike.)
And here’s what I came up with:
Will the player be available when the Chiefs pick?
Might be (strike): Coples, Poe, Reiff, Martin, Brockers, Upshaw, Tannehill
Yes: Everybody else.
- Strike 1′s: Coples, Poe, Reiff, Martin, Brockers, Upshaw, Tannehill
- All goods: Kirkpatrick, Jenkins, Kuechly, DeCastro, Floyd, Wright, Konz, Glenn, Still, Cox, Barron, Perry, Mercilus
Does the player fit our system?
No (out): Cox, Coples
Maybe (strike): Poe, Upshaw, Glenn, Perry, Konz, Kirkpatrick, Still, Tannehill
Probably/yes: Brockers, Reiff, Martin, Jenkins, Kuechly, DeCastro, Floyd, Wright, Barron, Mercilus
- Strike 2′s: Poe, Tannehill, Upshaw
- Strike 1′s: Brockers, Glenn, Perry, Reiff, Martin, Konz, Kirkpatrick, Still
- All goods: Jenkins, Kuechly, DeCastro, Wright, Barron, Mercilus
Is there a character flag?
Big flags (out): Jenkins, Floyd
Minor flags (strike): Still, Kirkpatrick, Barron
No flags: Poe, Upshaw, Glenn, Perry, Konz, Tannehill, Brockers, Reiff, Martin, Kuechly, DeCastro, Floyd, Wright, Mercilus
- Strike 2′s: Poe, Tannehill, Upshaw, Still, Kirkpatrick
- Strike 1′s: Barron, Brockers, Glenn, Perry, Reiff, Martin, Konz
- All goods: Kuechly, DeCastro, Wright, Mercilus
Is the prospect NFL-ready?
Not even close (out): Poe, Tannehill
Needs some work (strike): Brockers, Perry, Wright, Mercilus
Yes: Upshaw, Still, Kirkpatrick, Barron, Brockers, Glenn, Reiff, Martin, Konz, Kuechly, DeCastro
- Strike 2′s: Upshaw, Still, Kirkpatrick, Brockers, Perry
- Strike 1′s: Wright, Mercilus, Barron, Glenn, Reiff, Martin, Konz
- All goods: Kuechly, DeCastro
Does the player fit a team need?
Not in the least (out): Reiff, Martin
Minor need (strike): Perry, Wright, Mercilus, Glenn, Upshaw, Still, Kirkpatrick, Kuechly, DeCastro, Konz, Barron
Major need: no one
- Strike 3′s (and now out): Upshaw, Still, Kirkpatrick, Brockers, Perry
- Strike 2′s: Wright, Mercilus, Barron, Glenn, Konz
- Strike 1′s: Kuechly, DeCastro
Is this player a team captain?
No (strike): Wright, Glenn, Kuechly, DeCastro, Konz
Yes: Mercilus, Barron
- Strike 3′s (and now out): Wright, Glenn, Konz
- Strike 2′s: Mercilus, Barron, Kuechly, DeCastro
Are there injury flags surrounding this prospect?
Yes (strike): Barron
No: Mercilus, Kuechly, DeCastro
- Strike 3′s (and now out): Barron
- Strike 2′s: Mercilus, Kuechly, DeCastro
How important is this player’s position?
Less important (strike): DeCastro
More important: Mercilus, Kuechly
- Strike 3′s (and now out): DeCastro
- Strike 2′s: Mercilus, Kuechly
How deep is the draft at this player’s position?
Fairly deep (strike): Mercilus
Not deep: Kuechly
- Strike 3′s (and now out): Mercilus
- The Cheese Stands Alone: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
At this point, I think Kuechly has to be considered the front runner to be the Chiefs’ selection if they somehow stay at the #11 spot.