NFL mock draft: Chiefs land Alabama linebacker in first round

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 7: Linebacker Reuben Foster
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 7: Linebacker Reuben Foster /

The latest mock draft from Bucky Brooks of lands a player for the Chiefs who will carry the torch after Derrick Johnson hands it over.

The Kansas City Chiefs have avoided investing an early draft pick on inside linebacker for the last few drafts, despite NFL analysts listing the position as a need for years now. The same early story is playing out in 2017 as a new mock draft from’s Bucky Brooks has the Chiefs looking at a linebacker in the first round.

Is this the year? Perhaps it is, especially if Reuben Foster is still available to the Chiefs. Brooks writes:

"After watching Derrick Johnson suffer another injury, the Chiefs could decide to find a long-term replacement at the position. Foster not only brings some attitude and toughness, but he is an instinctive playmaker between the tackles."

Foster’s draft profile believes he’s best compared with Bobby Wagner and has Pro Bowl potential in the middle as a 3-4 inside linebacker. That reads perfectly for the Chiefs, a team with an aging option like DJ in the middle who is coming off of the Achilles injury.

However, the Chiefs play in sub packages so much that back-up cornerbacks and safeties become much more important than an extra inside linebacker. If Johnson is well enough to return to the field, the Chiefs could get by with veterans like they have in the past. It’s the reason they’ve rotated cheaper vets like Josh Mauga, Joe Mays, etc. alongside later round picks like Ramik Wilson. The investment of a first round pick only makes sense if Johnson is out of the way.

While that will happen at some point in the near future, Johnson’s contract is the albatross here. Johnson is owed $7.75 million this year but a release would bring a hefty $5.5 in dead cap space. Those are heavy numbers on both sides, and general manager John Dorsey is likely stuck with Johnson’s contract until next year when it’s much more palatable to say goodbye.

If Foster is truly that special, then maybe the Chiefs take him and we see a hint of what’s to come as DJ gets plenty of reps on the field. But it makes much more sense to add some competition with a mid-to-late round selection this year to team with DJ and Wilson and then make the heavy investment in next year’s draft for an instant starter.