Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs Draft Needs: Offensive Line Evaluation


MerlinsMagicThe Kansas City Chiefs are on run for the ages. This season, the Chiefs are so far ahead of expectations, Chiefs fans are dreaming of a playoff run that was, realistically, more of a fantasy at the beginning of the year. It is true that the Chiefs have benefited by a softer schedule and playing several teams at the optimum time. Personally, I try not to get too high when the Chiefs are up and not get to low when they are down. So, my advice for all fans is to enjoy this run. It’s a wonderful, unexpected ride.

As always, I am keeping one eye, well more than one eye, on the future. That is, Christmas in April, otherwise known as the NFL Draft.

Often, I get asked how I put draft needs together. In the past, I have talked about stratifying needs. Today, I want to delve into positional group analysis by breaking down the hardest group to evaluate, the offensive line. Why is that line so hard to evaluate? While a football team is truly a team, with coordinated effort all around; nowhere is that more true than on the offensive line. The amount of communicating and synchronized effort that goes into offensive line play is staggering. That is why the best teams often have year after year continuity on the offensive line.

So, how do we go about breaking down the Chiefs line?

Numbers are always a good start. The fine folks at Profootballfocus.com (subscription required) do an excellent job of grading each play and each player. What does that tell us about the Chiefs line? For Tackles, Branden Albert ranks #26 overall while Eric Fisher ranks #56. This is among all tackles, not left tackles and right tackles. Among all guards Jon Asamoah is #13 and Jeff Allen is #51. Center Rodney Hudson comes in at #18.

What do those numbers tell us? Well, they are disappointing. Only Jon Asamoah grades out well and he hasn’t started the last two games. If I expand the selection criteria (lowering the snap percentage) Geoff Schwartz checks in at #8, easily the best ranking of any Chiefs lineman. In case anyone was curious, Donald Stephenson is ranked #68 when you include him in the rankings. These number do help us understand how the various players rank compared to their competition. What does this mean for 2014?

 

Branden Albert:

This one is easy. Albert and the Chiefs have been working on a slow motion divorce for well over a year. Albert sees himself as a top left tackle and wants to be paid like one. The problem is that two Chiefs regimes don’t agree with that assessment and neither do the PFF numbers. Albert will probably entertain offers from other teams. Someone will probably offer Albert money that the Chiefs can’t match. Going forward, we can’t assume Albert will be a Chief next year.

 

Jeff Allen:

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

 

On the surface, this one looks easy. Ranking #51 means you are in danger of losing your job. However, Allen is quite young and there is lots of room to grow. If you look at the game by game grading, Allen has played well the last three games. Complicating the analysis further is the fact that Allen was a college tackle. Would the Chiefs be better off moving Allen to tackle?

 

Rodney Hudson:

Another young lineman, Hudson is in his first year of starting at center. Number 18 is not a bad ranking for a first year starter. His pass blocking and screen blocking have been very good. However, he grades out poorly as a run blocker. This is something to keep an eye on, but Hudson has shown enough not to worry about replacing him.

 

Jon Asamoah:

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

 

Jon grades out as the Chiefs best lineman who has played more than 50% of the snaps. It would be easy to just pencil him in at right guard and move on. However, life just isn’t that easy. First of all, Jon’s contract is up at the end of the year. Secondly, we have Geoff Schwartz. So, we will hang onto this analysis until we discuss Schwartz.

 

Eric Fisher:

Fisher has had a rough rookie year. Starting at tackle as a rookie is hard enough. Fisher has been battling shoulder injuries all year long. I am not worried about Fisher, yet. A full offseason under a NFL training program should do wonders for him. One thing seems clear. He is not ready to take over as left tackle next year. He needs another year on the right side.

 

Geoff Schwartz:

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

 

Schwartz has played well for the Chiefs. He grades out quite well, however, we need to go deeper in our analysis. His game splits are very interesting and an obvious trend emerges. He grades out well as a left guard, but grades out much better at right guard.

 

Donald Stephenson:

Donald has filled in at both Right and Left Tackle this year. He had horrible games against the Giants and the Titans. Outside of those games, he has been serviceable, but not great. He has been a nice backup swing tackle, but can he start?

 

Conclusion:

Where does this leave the Chiefs going forward?

Contract-wise, my working assumption is that Albert leaves and the Chief resign Asamoah.

Player development is the next area of concern. The Chiefs line is very, very young. Every player should be learning, growing and improving. Andy Reid has stated that he wants to play the best five lineman on the team.

Taking him at his word, I would project this lineup: LT Stephenson, LG Asamoah, C Hudson, RG Schwartz, RT Fisher.

Allen would battle with Asamoah, but probably side into a swing guard, swing tackle role. Kush may be the second active lineman.The Chiefs could bring in a draft pick or sign a veteran free agent.

Where does this leave the draft needs analysis? I would like some competition for Stephenson at tackle. The Chiefs need to bring a player in there. Then again, I am greedy when it comes to the offensive line. I want a top ten line. A line like that makes offense much easier.

That is my take Addicts. What is yours?

Next Chiefs Game View full schedule »
Thursday, Aug 2828 Aug6:00at Green Bay PackersBuy Tickets
Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Kansas City Chiefs

  • ArrowFan

    It is hard to disagree with your analysis. However playing on a winning team may be just what the doctor ordered as far as Albert and a contract is considered. It all depends on who comes calling there. I wouldn’t mind just keeping are line the same as it is this year and adding other positions through the draft. But that would all depend on Albert and Asamoha. I do think Allen needs to be on the bench for now.

    • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

      I would like to keep Albert too. He has shown us that he really wants the biggest paycheck and I am not sure the Chiefs can/want to pay that price.

      • Jim Harper

        In my opinion Albert was losing his job based on his performance even before getting hurt. He has not played as well as last year and that will hurt him going forward. As much as it pains me to agree with Micah on anything I think he is right this time. The offense does seem to be playing better without Albert.

        • Harm Williams

          Agree. Donald seems far more athletic than Albert too when getting to the second level. I still think we move Fish to the left side in the offseason though and stick Donald at starting RT.

          • Doc

            I’ll sort of agree with you harm about moving Fisher back to the left side – but do we want to take a step backwards and sacrifice another year for him to re-learn the left side? Might be better to pick up a LT in the draft, see how he, or the other replacements, do. Worst case we move Fisher back to the left if all others fail.

          • Harm Williams

            Fish would have played left tackle from jump if Albert hadn’t thrown a hissy fit about refusing to play RT. Fish was impressive at LT in college and he would be fine moving back now that he is used to NFL speed, size and technique.

        • Doc

          I’ll have to agree too. Is it just me or does Albert look slow when he stands up? I suspect his back injury from a couple years ago has not (will not) fully heal. I would not want to take a risk by signing him long term based on this. I also agree that it appears the O-line is playing better without Albert in there. This is a young line and a whole new coaching staff, so they are going to need another year. Also remember that Fischer moved to the right and is learning that position too – as a rookie. He has appeared to get better each game but the injury bug is a small concern. That may be because he switched sides and is learning new technique on his opposite side now.

        • micah stephenson

          What you mean as much as it pains you to agree with me on anything?

  • Teddy Long

    Spot on. We saw what a top o-line can do in the Dick Vermeil era. We need more talent at defensive back and receiver as well…as always it seems like.

    • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

      Have you been peeking at the rest of my draft needs?

  • micah stephenson

    What’s crazy is the line looks like its playing better without Albert and Asomoah n the line up. Allen may b ranked low but I think he has finally got it and is turning the corner. Allen is even more of a keeper sinse he played LT in college. That versatility is a plus. I been day dreaming about giving Alberts 10 mill to TE Jimmy Grahm and getting a super good wr in the draft.

    • berttheclock

      Geez, whatever happened to the poster, who referred to offensive linemen “as boring”?

      • micah stephenson

        They are boring to draft in the 1st rd. Im drafting QB, Wrs, CBs, pass rushers 1st rd. The rest can b drafted 2nd rd or later.

    • berttheclock

      Good dream about Graham, but, that ship sailed the moment Pioli selected Moeaki at 93 leaving Graham to be taken by the Saints at 95. Unless Graham has a huge craving for some great BBQ, he ain’t goin stop being a Saint and enjoying his Cajun and Creole cookin’.

      • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

        If the NFL knew what Graham would become he would have been a first round pick.

    • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

      The odd thing about Allen is that his game by game chart looks like a ‘U’. He had very good games weeks 1 and 15. Average games weeks 2,3,8,13,14. He had poor games weeks 5,6,7,9,11,12. He did not play weeks 4 and 10.Week 15 was only very good based on some nice downfield blocks on screens. His run and pass blocking splits were OK, not great. He is young and I will reserve final judgement on him. He does need to step up and improve next year to solidify a spot on the roster.

  • berttheclock

    The Chiefs will be drafting in the lower part of the 1st round and they will have no 2nd round pick. The top offensive linemen will be gone much earlier in the 1st round. So, we really will be looking at the 3rd round for drafting any O-lineman. Will Shields was a 3rd rounder, so, Gold might be struck once again.

    Allen might be playing better in spots, but, my doubts about him stem from his lack of being able to use his feet to position himself. He is too easily turned and has ended up far too often as nothing more than a dance partner. He might have played LT at Illinois, but, unless he can rapidly change his footwork, he would be a disaster at LT in the NFL.

    • Harm Williams

      Sorry dude, that 3rd round pick will either be a FS, OLB depth in case Hali and Houston both go down again, or another receiving threat. We won’t even get into OL depth until rounds 5 and 6

      • tm1946

        Traditionally, OL have been found late in draft but not sure remains so today. Bigguns, quick feet, long arms, and speed are not always there.
        I am betting Reid goes free agent for next years OL help and Albert gets to walk.

  • berttheclock

    Albert and his agent may still believe he is worth more money, but, one of the tackles, who has been rated higher than Albert, will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He is Veldheer of the Raiders. Veldheer would command more money than Albert. Ironically, had only Pioli selected Veldheer instead of Asamoah, he could have been placed at LT for the Chiefs with Albert moved to LG. At that time, the large money signs for playing LT would not have been so prominent in his head and that side of the line would have been solidified. Of course, the money problem of resigning both of them next year would have cause some concern for our gap. Funny how selections or missed selections can cause a ripple effect down the line. But, Veldheer was taken in the 3rd round, so, it shows quality can still be found in lower rounds. Just takes a lot more work in proper scouting. Veldheer came out of the small school of Hillsdale, same one which produced Holmes who made that sensational one handed grab against the Chiefs last Sunday. Type of schools many scouts fail to study.

    • Harm Williams

      Agree with you about the knock on small schools…. It’s exactly why this organization really need to look long and hard and drafting Jeff Janis at WR in the 5th or 6th round. Kid is a baller.

    • micah stephenson

      Albert wud get ten million a yr easily on the open market. We need that ten million to spend other places.

    • micah stephenson

      You spend waaaay to much time trying to throw Pioli’s name under the bus. He is gone. Move on.

  • Blake Molina

    Always a great idea to grab an offensive lineman or two in the draft, can never be too deep, plus they can push the starters

  • jimfromkcj

    I would agree on all counts. I would also have to consider Asamoah’s salary demands before signing him. As I recall, one of the reasons given for choosing Fisher over Joeckel were that he had practiced at RT and that would give him a leg up on Joeckel . Remains to be seen how Dorsey deals with the 800 lb gorrlia of a cap that doesn’t leave much wiggle room to keep the players we have and add some better players at the weak spots, like CB, S, and younger pass rusher to back hali up. Also a couple of receivers with hands that can hang on to the ball would be nice too.

  • Gene Haigler

    Wr with the 32nd pick of the first round…no 2nd round pick…3rd round pick db/fs lose Albert and get fa help next yr at ol