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…….