Situation: The only real question marks for the Chiefs Linebacker corps is whether or not Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali will be back in 2016. Even if the answer to both is “no”, the Chiefs are still well-situated with heir apparents already on the roster in Ramik Wilson and Dee Ford. Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses are both also slated for Free Agency, but either retaining or replacing either player should not be a difficult task.
Options: The Chiefs are heavily invested in Justin Houston and Dee Ford, so going Outside Linebacker early doesn’t seem like a likely course of action. In the middle, Josh Mauga surprised many of his critics, and Ramik Wilson flashed signs of being a quality player. So, again, it’s tough to see the Chiefs going Inside Linebacker early as well. John Dorsey doesn’t have much to consider here.
Much in the same boat as #1, the Chiefs could decide to ignore everything they saw from Ramik Wilson and get an Inside Linebacker early. Again, a long shot at best, but can be considered.
The most likely option is that Dorsey will continue to churn the bottom of the roster with mid and late round picks in an effort to fortify Special Teams and maybe find a diamond in the rough. The driving force here will be Dave Toub telling the front office types what he needs to help solidify the return and coverage teams.
My Move: Yannick Ngakoue – Maryland – 5th
A quick and athletic edge defender, Ngakoue has demonstrated a knack for getting into the backfield and making plays. He shows the ability to change directions in a hurry, which is ideal for misdirection as well as for being on Special Teams. He has also demonstrated the ability to incorporate pass rush techniques with his athleticism, which means coaches can spend more time refining than they would have to on most rookies.
Ngakoue struggles when matching power on power, and his short arm span makes it difficult for him to keep more powerful blockers at bay. The short arm length is what has most scouts souring on him as they don’t feel there is a lot of room for development in his game. He will also need to improve his functional strength before being able to get in the mix on defense.
As I said, the Chiefs Linebacker needs really revolve around Special Teams, and Ngakoue appears to have all the tools to be a real force on coverage teams. This would definitely be a Dave Toub pick, but it has some interest for the defense as well because of his ability to put himself in position to make plays. He may be able to develop into a first-off-the-bench reliever for Houston, Hali, or Ford.
Situation: The Chiefs secondary was an absolute strength for 2015, but it looks like it will be largely a different collection of players in 2016. Eric Berry, Sean Smith, Husain Abdullah, Tyvon Branch, Jamell Flemming, Marcus Cooper, and Daniel Sorensen are all set to be free agents.
It is highly unlikely the team will be retaining many of them. And with a weak cornerback market, it’s all but guaranteed that Sean Smith will be getting a big money deal from someone. So the Chiefs will most certainly have to invest in their secondary in the draft, as well as looking at Free Agency for decent value players.
Options: The Chiefs will need to be proactive when it comes to the secondary. A lot of this depends on what happens in terms of our in-house Free Agents, but heading into the draft looking for an immediate starter at either Cornerback or Safety does seem like a likely outcome.
As Sean Smith is most likely leaving in Free Agency, the Chiefs will probably be looking for a Cornerback early. I would be amazed if the team finished day two of the draft without having added someone to help on the outside. Even with Phillip Gaines coming back, the Cornerback position is important enough that you want to have a solid rotation ready to go at all times.
If for some reason Eric Berry is not retained…and Arrowhead isn’t subsequently burned to the ground by an angry mob of Chiefs fans…Dorsey could look to grab a Safety early. The class is not overly strong, but there are a few decent options that could fit in very well.
The middle and late rounds will likely see a number of secondary players taken. Filling the back end of the secondary roster will be important, and Dorsey will probably select a couple of players in the draft to help out with that.
My Move: Eli Apple – Ohio State – 1st
Eli Apple is a big, physical, defender who also possesses quality speed and athleticism to match up well with almost any mold of Wide Receiver. Excellent balance and explosion to attack contested throws, and smooth in his turns to shadow in coverage. He plays with a “that ball is mine” mentality, and demonstrates an amazing combination of no fear and short memory. A willing and reliable run defender, as well as a guy who will eat up a blocker when the situation calls for it. He challenges offensive players every step of the way, refusing to give an inch of ground.
Can get a little over-aggressive which will leave him in less than ideal positions, and in some cases draw flags that should be avoidable. Just a red-shirt Sophomore, he is still very young and learning. Has some technique issues that can be exploited by the more heady receivers he will face.
Picking at the end of the first round might be a blessing in disguise here, as I think Eli Apple (much like Marcus Peters) is going to be available much later than he has any business being. I won’t say he’s the best Corner in this draft class, but I wouldn’t put up much of an argument with anyone that does say it. A lot of people view his youth and over-aggressiveness as draw backs, but I see them simply as signs that he is only going to get even better. He’s an ideal fit on a Chiefs team that can trot out Phillip Gaines to start if they need to.
Next: Wrapping it Up