Why The Kansas City Chiefs Will Draft A Defensive Lineman In The First Round

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The old saying goes that NFL games are won and lost in the trenches. While the focus of that trench battle has shifted from being based around the running game to being more about protecting/attacking the quarterback and the passing game the expression still holds true. Even in the era of the quarterback the team that can impose their will on the other team up front usually will walk away with the win.

KC’s current head coach and general manager have a track record of building their teams in this manner. If you look back at Andy Reid’s first round draft picks as a head coach (dating back to 1999) and the first round picks made by Green Bay with John Dorsey as their director of college scouting (dating back to 2000) they have made 27 combined first round picks. Here’s how those picks break down:

10 DL (6 DT/4 DE)
5 OL (4 OT/1 OG)
4 LB
3 WR
2 QB
2 CB
1 TE
0 RB
0 S

Of those 27 first round picks 15 of them (55%) have been on the offensive or defensive lines. If you expand those numbers to include LBs it shows you that over 70% of their first round selections have either been on the offensive line or defensive front seven. Neither man has ever taken a running back or a safety in the first round (worth noting, given that some have predicted a safety in the first for KC this year). The philosophy seems clear to me. Build your team from the line of scrimmage out. If you take the reverse numbers and look at the positions farthest away from the line of scrimmage (WR, CB, and S) you see that these two men have only used 5 of their 27 first round selections on those spots.

So while KC does need another WR, the endless parade of mock drafts that have KC going WR in the first round may not be correct. While you can argue that Reid and Dorsey have shown the precedent of drafting a WR in the first round by doing so three times, it hasn’t been all that successful for them. Those three first round WRs were Freddie Mitchell, Javon Walker, and Jeremy Maclin. If you compare those names with the list of WRs that they drafted in the second round and on (Desean Jackson, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, etc.) you can see that they’ve had better success by finding value in the second and third rounds. With this draft overflowing with WR depth, don’t be surprised if they go that route again this year.

So if they opt to pass on positions of perceived need like WR and safety and follow their history of building from the trenches out, what position are they most likely to target? Let’s look at the numbers of their past picks again at specific positions.

DT – 6
DE – 4
OT – 4
OG – 1

Defensive tackle has been the position that both men have targeted the most in the past. While the nose tackle position is occupied by Dontari Poe their is a need on the defensive line. The departure of Tyson Jackson leaves a starting DE spot up for grabs and while Vance Walker appears to be in position to claim the job, he has never played that position before and his strength appears to be more as an interior pass rusher. Speaking of the pass rush, the Chiefs are in dire need of adding some pressure up the middle this offseason. Once teams realized they had to double team Poe on every down, the Chiefs had virtually no push up the middle last season. It allowed opposing QBs to step up into the pocket away from KC’s edge rushers and pick apart their secondary. Having multiple defensive linemen in a pass rush rotation that can continuously disrupt the pocket and take QBs out of their rhythm will go a long way to reviving KCs pass rush which will in turn make the secondary look much better.

If you don’t believe me look no farther than the current Super Bowl champions. The Seahawks secondary is viewed as the best in the NFL, but its no coincidence that they continually load up on defensive linemen to make sure opposing teams don’t have time to find any holes in their coverage. Adding a player that could contribute both as a base 3-4 DE and as an interior pass rusher would be a major score. I believe adding a player like this is more important than the other positions “in the trenches”. With Tamba Hali and Justin Houston at OLB, a first round edge rusher doesn’t make as much sense to me. They need a long term replacement for Hali, but I don’t know that they need to spend a first round pick on it. While the offensive line could use some help, they seem content with last year’s first round pick, Eric Fisher and Donald Stevenson as the starters at tackles. While I think a tackle could be added, I again think it makes more sense to do that in the mid to late rounds.

So what about offensive guard? KC clearly has a need at the position. While they have some options on the roster, their is no proven starter. So would KC consider using their top pick on a guard? Well, Andy Reid did draft a guard in the first round once before, but it didn’t go well. Danny Watkins was the Eagles first round pick in 2011 and was sent packing after only two disappointing seasons in Philly. As has been pointed out by others here at AA, both Reid and Dorsey have often used mid round picks on college tackles and then moved them to guard. This has been done with a lot of success in both Green Bay and Philly. I think that option is probably more likely for KC than using a first round pick there.

So we’ve established that Reid and Dorsey have a track record of building in the trenches, that the position they have targeted the most is DT, and that you can make a strong case that the position in the trenches that would make the most sense for KC to target is a DT/3-4 DE that could add some interior pass rush. The final question then becomes will their be anyone available at pick #23 that fills these needs and would make sense to draft at that spot?

My answer is 100% yes. In fact, I have two strong candidates that would make perfect sense at that spot and a third dark horse candidate. Let’s start by looking at my top choice…….

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Dominique Easley Kansas City Chiefs Ra'Shede Hageman Stephon Tuitt

  • berttheclock

    Actually, both Mitchell and Walker had early success after being taken. Mitchell was doing well, but, Philly brought in Owens and the playing time of Mitchell was curtailed. Walker made the Pro Bowl for Green Bay, but, fell into a major contract dispute with the team when he demanded a contract extension after playing for two productive years and Thompson refused. When, he learned they were treating Brett Favre differently and he felt Favre had not stood up for him, he said he would never play for the Packers again. After going to the Broncos, he played well until injuries slowed him. As to the “on ” part of taking wide outs, Donald Driver was very much an “on” as he was taken in the 7th round. However, the majority of the fine pickups by the Packers have been from the second round.

    • Lyle Graversen

      My counter to that would be that if given the chance to make the pick again that they would pass on both Mitchell and Walker.

      • berttheclock

        Well, when you factor in Reggie Wayne went 5 picks later than Mitchell, yes.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Good work, Graversen!

    While I agree that it’s likely, I’m terrified of the team taking a defensive lineman with the R1 pick. Not only is it a position with one of the highest bust rates over the past decade (first round defensive tackle prospects are the only group that pan out less often), but these prospects don’t intrigue me.

    Hageman’s a hell of an athlete, but he’s raw. I don’t want a project at 23. I want a guy that can contribute right away. Tuitt’s the better pass rusher. If I had to choose between the two, it’d be him.

    Either way, neither excites me. If it’s me, that’s probably the third or fourth position I’d look at in the opening round. I think there will be quicker returns on safety and wide receiver.

    You make great points though and given the Dorsey-Reid historical draft record, it’s highly likely a defensive lineman will be taken at 23.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I think any of the three guys listed would make an impact for KC as a rookie. They may not be at their peak, but no NFL player is as a rookie. Hageman excites me as much as any prospect out there. The idea of he and Poe together is frightening.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Hageman scares me. If he can be coached up, the level of talent and athleticism between the two would be scary. If not, we’ve wasted yet another No. 1 on an underachieving defensive lineman.

  • berttheclock

    Wonder which Hageman would show up for KC. The one who plays to his abilities or the one who takes plays off?

    Easley reminds me of a Tank Carradine situation. Carradin was a fierce pass rusher who had suffered ACL injuries and was going to have a late Pro Day before the draft. The Niners took a chance on him, kept him while letting him fully heal and will bring him forward for this season.

    • Lyle Graversen

      If Hageman is going to succeed, I think KC is as good of place as any. I think Easley will be a star if he’s healthy. It’s a big if, but he’s a monster.

  • berttheclock

    Lyle, I marvel at both you and Laddie taking time from your respective busy school teaching duties and devoted family life to provide us with such in depth threads. Thanks and I am not forgetting the fine threads from the other excellent writers at this site. But, I know on Monday and Wednesday, how both you and Laddie have taken extra time to prepare your respective threads.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Thanks bert, I appreciate that. Laddie is the man. I’m not sure how he comes up with two a week like he does!

  • freshmeat62

    If the BPA is an outside rush LB, any chance of moving Hali inside?

    • freshmeat62

      After all, how often does Hali come from the 3-4 ROLB position. It seems like a lot of plays he is all up and down the line. If there are 2 of them, Hali and new guy jumping around, could cause some problems w/ blocking assignments.

      • berttheclock

        Remember when Hali was the other side of the front four? Interestingly, after Jared Allen went to the Vikings, he was asked about Hali moving back to linebacker for a 3-4 and he thought it fit him better than being up on the line. Have you noticed how the Texans have used J J Watt? It appears he sets up wherever he feels most comfortable and that drives the opposition crazy as he rarely sets up in the same place.

        • freshmeat62

          I know. Hali starting at LDE years ago is what made me think he could come from just about anywhere and be effective. He can search for what he thinks is the weak spot.

          • berttheclock

            There were several times last season where Hali was rushing the passer and I wondered if the NFL had ever considered banning choke holds ala the way many police departments have banned that technique.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I’ve wondered that about Hali as well. The bottom line is probably that they won’t be willing to pay him the huge contract he has to be an experiment at a new position. I think they’ll get one more season out of Hali at OLB and then cut him loose.

  • e_racer

    I was all set to kick sand in your face. No way could the Chiefs go DE in this draft with so many WRs of high caliber! That was until I read your piece.

    A good article has several components. It must be well written, and keep the interest of the reader. It was make a valid point, and back it up with data. It must have a purpose, coherent point of view, and bring the reader along for the ride. Finally, a good article needs to tell you something you didn’t already know, or weren’t sure you already knew. In summation, a good article must be of value.

    You did all that. I learned something. I still don’t know if the Chiefs won’t take a WR in the first round. However, you have persuaded me they might not. That is something I did not think you could do before I read the article. For that… I have these two words.

    Thank you.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Thanks e_racer that means a lot. Thanks for reading!

  • CrispySBC

    Interesting but is this pick based on Catapano playing this year? With Cat’s second year in AR system I expect him to have a breakout year … maybe we take Hageman but only if the Chief’s think he’s a Pro-Bowl class player I don’t think he’s our guy.. I still think it’s Zack Martin if he’s there at 23 …I’ve seen some mocks showing him going to the Cowboys … I’d really love to see CJ Moseley fall to the Chief’s but then I live in Denver so I must be smoking the wacky stuff. Heck, I’ve seen some mocks that have Bridgewater falling to the Chief’s … if that happens can you spell trade down for more picks … that is the best scenario for the Chief’s. If Pryor or Ha Ha fall we take either of them … but again snowballs chance in hell. I guess not knowing what’s going to happen is both frustrating and interesting. I know I’m ready for the draft and thank you Roger Goodell for moving the draft back a month … you ass!

    • Lyle Graversen

      I have high hopes for Catapano as well, but again I say that the elite defenses have multiple guys that rotate. That’s why they’re so good.

  • Allison Bell

    Of those picks in the first how many times did dorsey or reid not have a second round pick? That’s a lot of receiving talent leaving in the first two rounds if we don’t take one in the first.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I would counter that with the fact that this year you can find 2nd round caliber WRs in the third round. So I would argue that the value of a WR in the 3rd is about as good as you can get.

  • Stan Colbert

    Before Walker signed I would have completely agreed with you.

    • Lyle Graversen

      The good teams don’t have just one starting caliber player at each spot. They have multiple guys that they can rotate to keep guys fresh and explosive and provide depth in case of injury.

      • Stan Colbert

        I agree completely! However I can think of 4 positions which could use upgrades at least. Plus o-line depth, maybe another CB. Six draft picks only go so far. I would love to have another stud d-lineman though. No doubt.

  • Brian Dempsey

    Good article, Lyle. The Chiefs do have a very good D-line coach in Tommy Brasher with a proven track record with D-Lineman, plus some good veteran mentors like Hali and DJ, so yes, D-Line could be the top pick.

    Tuitt, as a true 3-4 DE in college would be the best fit. Tuitt is a very young man ( he won’t turn 21 until mid-May) and he’s a bit raw, but he was productive in college & he does have potential to become a beast on the D-line — same as Dontari Poe and Poe was nowhere close to being as productive in college as Tuitt was, but look at the product the Chiefs have now with Poe thanks to D-Line coach Tommy Brasher and some good veteran mentoring.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Yes, I believe that the Chiefs have a great team to mentor and develop young players. I think the combination of coaches and hard working veterans are good combo. If a player won’t work in KC I’m not sure there’s any hope for them.

  • Daniel Mayfield

    WOW Lyle… A DE wasn’t even on my mind until now. After reading this and watching a few of the videos, Hageman is who I’m hoping they can get. Hopefully him anyway. Teams have to double on Poe, mostly. If they do, that gives him room to get in. If they double on Poe and Hageman, then Vance can upgrade his game(Jackson) will be sorry he left. Plus Hali and Houston are great with getting around/edging.

    Still, they could end up drafting a player we never though of. Just gotta wait and see.

  • Gumby

    It’s wise to take a WR in the first round because ALL 8-10 best wide receivers available will be gone by a late 3rd round pick. Drafting one of these 3 guys you speak of will NOT start at defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014. I guarantee you Beckham Jr., Cooks, Lee or Benjamin WILL start from day 1. Imagine having D. Bowe, Donnie Avery and Cooks/Beckham Jr./Lee/Benjamin on the field at one time. Tell me you wouldn’t want to see Beckham Jr. as your new kick/punt returner than to bargain one of these 3 guys you speak of and grab a random no-name receiver late in the 3rd. Makes no sense. If it were up to me, I’d take Beckham Jr. or Cooks, it’s a lock. Those guys are INSANE after the catch and have 4.3 speed. McCluster MUST be replaced. We need a return man that has pure vision and Knile Davis just won’t cut it.

    • Brian Dempsey

      All fine & well except for a couple of things — Cooks/Beckham Jr./Lee could be off the board by the time the Chiefs pick and Benjamin is another Jon Baldwin-type and that’s the last thing the Chiefs need with their top draft pick in 2014.

      And how do you know that Hageman or Tuitt wouldn’t start? And even if they didn’t start, they would see a LOT of playing time to help the Chiefs have a solid rotation with their DE’s and would line up next to Poe in obvious passing situations to help bring inside pressure.

      • Gumby

        You’re right about Cooks, Beckham Jr. and Lee, I think people are saying their stock is falling lately because in reality it’s still sky-high. But I still think Cooks will fall right in our hands cause the Jets will probably take Beckham Jr. and a lot of teams, even the Chiefs, may pass on Lee for his drops and injury status. Same with Benjamin, I think he’ll fall because keeping a dude his height healthy physically is tough. He is very similar to J. Baldwin but Baldwin is not as fast as this guy Benjamin is. Benjamin will no doubt catch some touchdowns, unlike Baldwin could do. You have to watch Benjamin on field to get a grasp of his dominance.

        Hageman and Tuitt won’t start, trust me. They will do exactly as you say, come in on obvious passing situations to bring inside pressure and back up a year or two. But obviously the guys the Chiefs already have can already do that. Hageman will disappear from the field at times. I guarantee you, Cooks or Beckham Jr. will not disappear. They will be feared and watched all day long, catch after catch, and on special teams as well. The Chiefs offense thrives with short screens and slants which in turn will get one of these guys into the open field. Smith will have a career year with Beckham Jr. or Cooks, bank on it. It’s going to happen. Don’t even get me started on what this will do for D. Bowe and D. Avery, not to mention, TRAVIS KELCE.