A DeCastro Contingency Plan

If you polled 100 die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fans who they would like to see their team take in the 2012 NFL Draft, you would get several different answers. A lot of fans would like to see the Chiefs trade back, but assuming the Chiefs stay put, the number one vote getter right now is probably Stanford OG David DeCastro. DeCastro is the most hyped OG prospect to come out in a decade. If he ends up being anything less than an annual Pro Bowler he will not have lived up to expectations. Assuming he can live up to those lofty expectations, any team would be well served to draft him. That includes our very own KC Chiefs.

That having been said, I’m here to try and prepare some of you DeCastro die-hards for the possibility that the Chiefs may pass over the top-rated OG prospect. What’s more, this may not only be a strong possibility, but it might be the smart thing to do. Now let me be clear, I’m not doubting DeCastro’s greatness. I’m not questioning what a strong addition he would be and how it could give us a top 5 offensive line for years to come. If the Chiefs draft DeCastro, I’ll be happy with the pick. The question isn’t if DeCastro is a great pick, he clearly is. The question is, is he the BEST pick for KC?

I don’t think he is.

The two main reasons for this are the makeup of the Chiefs current roster and the positional depth of certain positions in this year’s NFL Draft. Let’s start with the current Chiefs roster. There are varying opinions of current LG Ryan Lilja. Nobody thinks he is fantastic. However, just one year ago Lilja was coming off a season where most experts agreed that he outplayed Pro Bowler Brian Waters. Last season, compared to other starting NFL guards, he was right on the line between average and below average. So in a vacuum, would the Chiefs be better off upgrading from Lilja? Absolutely. Unfortunately, there is more to consider then that.

I know we like to scoff at the term “veteran leadership.” It brings up visions of Thomas Jones falling down at the line of scrimmage and 76-year-old Mike Vrabel shaking his cane at running backs as they zipped past him. But hear me out here. If you take Lilja off the offensive line and replace him with a rookie (even one as acclaimed as DeCastro) that would mean that the Chiefs three interior offensive linemen would have one year of playing experience amongst them.

Now the tackles would have plenty of playing experience, but the tackles can’t make the coverage calls and blitz pick ups for the offensive line. That comes from the center. The Chiefs, if nothing changes, will be starting Rodney Hudson at center. Yes, I have a lot of faith in Hudson and he got one year to learn as much as he can from a great veteran in Casey Wiegmann. But watching from the sideline and asking questions in the locker room isn’t the same as lining up against the Steelers and Ravens when defensive linemen are sliding all over the place and LBs and safeties are coming up to the line and showing blitz.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’d feel a lot better about a first year player making those calls if he had a seasoned veteran lined up next to him to say something if he misses something. That help can’t come from the tackles or from the sideline. Now maybe after half a season Hudson will be settled in enough that they could start to bring in a rookie in place of Lilja, but if the Chiefs draft DeCastro that won’t be an option. What fans need to keep in mind is that talent on the interior line is great, but if they’re constantly in the wrong spot or not picking up blitzes, it doesn’t matter how much individual talent they each have.

Now let’s talk about positional depth in this year’s draft.

After first round OG prospects DeCastro and Cordy Glenn I count nine more solid OG prospects that could be solid picks in rounds 2-4. That is outstanding depth. A case can be made that OG is one of, if not THE deepest position in this year’s draft (RB is pretty deep as well). Plus, you have to keep in mind, it’s not wether YOU would pass on DeCastro, it’s wether Scott Pioli would. Look at how he approached Asamoah and Hudson, a second- and a third-round pick that each sat for one season before they became a starter. So although none of these players have the hype around them like DeCastro, they could all be solid NFL starters for years. As you get farther down the list they will take more time before they are ready to step in and play, but as I stated earlier, the Chiefs may be best served by having Lilja’s experience on the interior of their line at least for a little while.

So who are these prospects, and are there any of them that the DeCastro die-hards could get behind if the Chiefs do in fact pass him by? Let’s take a look at some. I’ve tried to put them in order starting with my personal favorite, but honestly some of these guys are so close in value that its impossible to predict who will go first.

Kevin Zeitler – Wisconsin
6’4″ 314 pounds
5.39 forty
32 bench press
Projected Round – 2

Nov 12, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Wisconsin Badgers right guard Kevin Zeitler (70) in the first quarter against the Minnesota Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

I love Zeitler. To me he seems like the perfect pick for KC in the second. He may not be DeCastro, but I see him as a 10-year starter in the NFL who should make some Pro Bowls along the way. Here are some quotes from his scouting report at NFLDraftScout.com.

Pass blocking: Anchors against larger defenders in the middle, resets hands to maintain distance. Athletic enough to help on nose tackle then pick up twist or late blitzer. Mirrors quick interior rushers. Looks to help the center, or even the tackle a few yards upfield, if he is uncovered.

Run blocking: Good fit in a zone system, uses mobility and strength to move defender down the line. Dips shoulder and moves his feet to get outside leverage when needed. Strong and low coming out of his stance, effective in short-yardage situations. Finds the mike quickly and negates him when it is his responsibility. Gives effort to hit as many targets as possible, even if on the ground.

Intangibles: Dependable, no-nonsense mauler who works hard in the weight room and on the field.

Now DeCastro is the man, but if you can get Zeitler in the second and draft an impact defensive player in the first round doesn’t that make sense? You’d be hard pressed to find a defensive player at this point in the second round that is as safe a bet as Zeitler.

So you may be wondering, well if Zeitler is that good, couldn’t he be gone when the Chiefs draft in the second? Now, I’ll be honest, Zeitler is far and away my favorite option out of all of the guys on this list. However, there is a plus that the next eight options have that Zeitler doesn’t. The following eight prospects all played tackle for at least part of their time in college but some if not all experts think they’ll be better served playing guard at the next level. The reason this is a plus is because the Chiefs don’t have hardly any depth at the OT position. So if they did start Lilja for one more year the following prospects could back up multiple spots instead of having to possibly sign another tackle. Let’s look at these options.

Kelechi Osemele – Iowa State
6’6″ 333 pounds
5.36 forty
32 bench press
Projected Round – 2

Oct 8, 2011; Waco, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones offensive linesman Kelechi Osemele (72) blocks the Baylor Bears rush during the fourth quarter at Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears defeated the Cyclones 49-26. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Osemele is another prospect that I believe will be a very good starter for years to come. The only reason I don’t like him for the Chiefs as much is because I think he is best served in a power blocking scheme. He does possess decent agility for a man his size, so he might be able to work. He would definitely be a major asset in short yardage situations, which the Chiefs have been lacking in for years now. I also think Osemele would make a solid starting RT, so a team could also draft him with that in mind.

Amini Silatolu – Midwestern State
6’4″ 311 pounds
5.43 forty
33 bench press
Projected Round – 2

Silatolu is from a very small school so there are obviously questions about his experience against legit competition. However, as scouts have spent time watching him, his draft stock has soared to the point that some have even projected he could sneak into the bottom of the first round. The other possible red flag is that the reason he played at a DII school is because he could never get his grades up to become eligible for D-1. This obviously puts his intelligence into question. However, scouts think that he has the size/agility/strength combination to be as good as any guard in this draft not named David DeCastro. He also has a pretty nasty (in a good way) attitude on the field. You can check out some Youtube highlights HERE. Dontari Poe fans take note, THAT is what dominating lesser competition should look like. Seriously, I actually felt bad for the little DII guys he tosses around the field (and I use the word toss literally).

James Brown – Troy
6’4″ 306 pounds
5.30 forty
24 bench press
Projected Round – 2 to 4

Brown is another tempting player from a smaller school. He probably will take some coaching before he is ready, but check out this section of his NFLDraftScout.com scouting report:

A lengthy athlete with naturally long arms (33 1/2 inches). Quick-footed with smooth movement skills to cover a large area. Rangy with above average lateral ability. Bursts off the snap and sets up quickly with little wasted motion. Has a strong upper body with physical, powerful hands and works hard to gain body positioning in the run game. Finishes and doesn’t quit until the whistle blows, giving full effort and leaving it all on the field. A hard working competitor with a positive attitude and leadership traits that coaches admire. Has good playing experience, starting every game the past three seasons at left tackle for the Trojans (37 career starts). A versatile player with the skill-set to play either tackle or guard at the next level.

Jeff Allen – Illinois
6’4″ 307 pounds
5.28 forty
26 bench press
Projected Round – 2 to 4

Oct 25, 2008; Madison, WI, USA; Illinois offensive lineman Jeff Allen (71) lines up for a play during the game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin defeated Illinois 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Allen has enough athletic ability that some think he could even be a long term LT prospect at the NFL level if a team was willing to develop him for a year or two. At guard he would probably be able to contribute sooner. He does have a reputation of being more of a finesse blocker and has kind of a passive nature.

Brandon Brooks – Miami (OH)
6’5″ 346 pounds
4.98 forty
36 bench press
Projected Round – 2 to 4

Jan 21, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; West guard Brandon Brooks (56) of Miami of Ohio and teammate tackle Matt Reynolds (70) of Brigham Young defend the line against East defensive lineman Julian Miller (97) of West Virginia in the second quarter of the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

Brooks is kind of the Dontari Poe of the OG prospects. He’s very big and strong and also ran a very impressive 40 time for a man his size. Much like Poe, he isn’t quite as impressive on tape. His weight could definitely be an issue and his endurance has been questioned at times. He does show the potential to be very good in a power blocking scheme. The right team might take a shot on him as early as the 2nd round, but he could also slide because of some of the concerns. I think the weight/endurance questions and the lack of scheme fit probably mean KC will look elsewhere.

Brandon Washington – Miami (Fl)
6’3″ 320 pounds
5.25 forty
28 bench press
Projected Round – 2 to 4

Oct 27, 2011; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes offensive tackle Brandon Washington (72) blocks Virginia Cavaliers defensive end Cam Johnson (56) as Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris (12) drops back to pass in the third quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Washington made all conference in the ACC in 2010 at the guard position. He was moved to LT for last season and struggled a little bit. His draft stock may actually be higher had he stayed at guard. Another big body, but Washington does move pretty well for a big guy. If teams go off his upside and how he looked at guard in 2010 he could potentially go as high as the late second round, but because of all the other solid prospects he is likely to be a value pick in the third or fourth round.

Tony Bergstrom – Utah
6’5″ 315 pounds
5.27 forty
32 bench press
Projected Round – 3 to 4

Nov. 19, 2011; Pullman, WA, USA; Utah Utes offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom (70) sings the Utah fight song after a 30-27 victory over the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-US PRESSWIRE

I actually like Bergstrom the best of the mid-round prospects. His short arms and lack of elite athleticism probably mean he won’t be a starting caliber tackle in the NFL. However, Pro Football Weekly specifically said that they think he could thrive playing LG in a zone blocking scheme. Isn’t that convenient? Here’s his strengths from his NFLDraftScout.com breakdown:

Mature, seasoned right tackle. Has the agility, technique and size to contribute early in his professional career. Quick, active hands to latch on to defenders. Adequate foot quickness to remain outside. Can get to the second level with surprising agility when adjusting to moving defenders. Underrated athleticism, agility, balance and even straight-line speed to contribute. Impressed at guard and tackle at the Senior Bowl.

Senio Kelemete – Washington
6’4″ 307 pounds
5.52 forty
21 bench press
Projected Round – 4 to 5

Sep 24, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) runs with the ball as Washington Huskies offensive tackle Senio Kelemete (56) blocks during the game against the California Golden Bears at Husky Stadium. Washington defeated California 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Probably the last guard prospect that I think will be a solid starter (probably never a Pro Bowler) at the NFL level given some time to develop. Kelemete’s Combine numbers weren’t that great, but he does have some quality game experience starting at multiple positions, including two years at LT. Some highlights from his NFLDraftScout.com profile:

Flashes some nastiness to his play and seems to enjoy the physicality of the trenches…..Possesses light feet and the ability to get out and block at the second level. Was occasionally asked to pull from left tackle and serve as Chris Polk’s lead blocker, showing very good agility and physicality when meeting linebackers in the hole. Two-time team captain.

So as you can see, there are a number of solid NFL guard prospects that the Chiefs can add to their roster should they decide to pass on the great David DeCastro and go with a defensive playmaker instead. If that happens, hopefully this post will have helped brace you for it and given you some alternatives to watch for as the draft goes on.

Tune in next week for the Kuechly Contingency Plan, same bat time, same bat channel. (That’s right, I went old school Batman TV series on you, POW!!!! ZAP!!!!)

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Topics: 2012 Nfl Draft, Kansas City Chiefs

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