Going with a Defensive End


The very thought of the Chiefs investing a third first round pick at defensive end, after we’ve invested two of our last three picks (all in the top five) at the position, is enough to make any Chiefs fan white in the knuckles.

Sadly, if the value is there, and I believe that it is, this may be what the Chiefs have to do.

That said, I hope it is not.  In none of the mock drafts conducted on this site have we supported going with a defensive end with #21.  I am personally a huge fan of Glenn Dorsey, and in a future post on this site I will detail how much better Tyson Jackson looked at the end of the ‘010 season.  I believe both are on the up ‘n’ up, and bringing in a top level draftee to compete with them would be unnecessary.

But the idea doesn’t inspire me with the same rage that I felt during the 2010 Draft season, when everybody and their mother was suggesting we should draft an offensive tackle #5 overall.  Matter of fact, the pick could be forward-looking and sensible.

I detail my point of view, after the jump.  Forgive me, this one’s a doozy.

It’s different this year.

For the past two years of the Pioli regime, every mock drafter (outside of DMN’s Rick Gosselin) struck out with Pioli’s first rounders.  It would not surprise me this year, with everybody mocking Baylor NT Phil Taylor to the Chiefs, that Pioli pulled another shocker again.

In 2010, the popular notion was that the Chiefs should go offensive tackle #5 overall, with Bryan Bulaga or Russell Okung or Trent Williams.  Arrowhead Addict, I’m proud to say, led the Chiefs community charge against the idea.  Our reasoning was simple:

* We still have a developing talent at both tackle positions (Albert and Richardson).
* The #5 pick was far too valuable to waste on the trenches with a team in desperate need of a playmaker.
* With the exception of Okung, the available talent (mainly Bulaga) in no way justified the #5 pick.
* With such an expensive pick, you want to make the biggest splash possible.  Tackle, with Albert already on the team, is not that splash.

It’s different this year.  We are in that transition from rebuilding to contender.  And while in that transition, you must be thinking about your future Super Bowl run.

Defensive line is the 2nd most important job on the football field, and it takes years to develop properly.

So ask yourself: with a quality nose tackle between them, are Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson the starting defensive ends on a future Super Bowl squad?

It’s an important question to ask.  Defensive line is not exactly a position Super Bowl teams can look over.  Your defensive line (almost as much as a QB) is the backbone of your Super Bowl team.  And it takes time to build — the average development is THREE YEARS.  That’s AVERAGE.

So if you think a Super Bowl could conceivably be two or three years down the road, and this team’s eyes are clearly on the prize, then you must recognize any of your defensive line troubles now, or risk falling behind the curve of the rest of your team. 

If DL is so important, why pick a defensive end at #21 when we still have nothing at nose tackle?

Well, the job of a defensive end is definitively harder than that of a nose tackle.

Defensive end, even moreso than nose tackle, is a crucial position to fill in Crennel’s 3-4.  Crennel asks his noses to hold the point of attack and absorb blockers at the interior of the line against centers and guards, crushing and clogging all possible interior run lanes.  Defensive ends are asked to do the same thing in wider spaces against tackles, which are better offensive lineman, while also generating a consistent passrush when the time calls.

In a 3-4, where less people directly take on the offensive line play after play, each position is tons more important.  But what you ask defensive ends to do is insanely important.

There’s only one defensive end on this team that we know has a role on our future Super Bowl squad. 

Wallace Gilberry.  He is not a full time defensive lineman, but the pressure he generates in his limited snapcount is unheard of (my guess is we’ll see him rotate with Tyson Jackson a ton at LDE in 2011).

The two Top 5 picks are still question marks, however.  Glenn Dorsey is as powerful a 3-4 defensive end as there is in this league in the run game, but his work in pass rushing is menial at best.  This is probably the part of his game that was hurt the most by the 3-4 transition.  He can still clog lanes and play with force, but passrushing against a blue-chip left tackle versus interior lineman has proven to be very, very difficult for him.  (Not his fault, by the way.  He was not brought onto this team in ’08 to beat left tackles.)

In Dorsey’s defense, I believe his development has been impressive, and his greater abilities have freed up Tamba Hali to be a demon off the edge.  I believe the Chiefs really like the Dorsey/Hali combination, but Pioli knows at the end of the day that a blue-chip 3-4 defensive end at RDE with a serious passrush could do much more for this team.

Tyson Jackson’s play towards the end of the 2010 season suggested to me what the Chiefs believe he can become: a good run defender with six-to-eight sacks a year.  He’s still developing, and I’d suspect we’ll see a different player in 2011, one that fits exactly what this defense wants from him.

What the Chiefs might do if they pick a defensive end at #21:

Draft the blue-chip 3-4 DE at #21, rotate him in behind Jackson and Dorsey all season, and watch carefully who develops into the weakest link between the three.

I think the Chiefs would ideally like Jackson to come on like I think he will, and for the rookie to look like the Super Bowl answer for the other position.  Then they can dangle the miscast Glenn Dorsey out for some quality draft picks, and continue to build.

In case Jackson flounders, you can bring him off the bench until his contract expires in Kansas City, and start the blue chip.

What defensive ends would the Chiefs want at #21?

Here’s where it gets a little cloudy.

Arrowhead Addict has already reported the Chiefs have interest in Christian Ballard, who comes from an Iowa program that Pioli adores. 

The Chiefs would also draft California’s Cam Jordan in a heartbeat, but that would involve him falling out of the Top 15 picks, which he won’t.  (Ditto for Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, but make no mistake, Cam Jordan is the real prize here.)

Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward is too risky of a pick for Pioli in the first round.  Ditto Miami (FL)’s Allen Bailey.  Temple’s Muhammed Wilkerson is strong as a bull with some passrush moves, but he’s pretty huge even for a defensive end (he topples the scales at 308) and he really wouldn’t offer you much more than Glenn Dorsey already does.

My guess: Pioli could reach for Ballard if he had to, but if Watt or Jordan fell, this couldn’t even be a conversation.