Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: What to Watch For in the NFL Draft
by Jeff Herr,posted Apr 23 2012 11:37AM
With the Royals in the midst of a 10 game losing streak, Kansas City sports fans are granted a reprieve this Thursday with the NFL draft. The Chiefs currently have the 11th pick in the draft and there are a lot of possibilities open to this team at that spot. I’m going to give everyone a few things to look out for this Thursday in regards to how the Chiefs will handle their spot.
First of all, we will have to deal with this business concerning Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Wherever the Tannehill hype machine started, I’m not buying it. As a QB, Tannehill was only an average to slightly above passer in college. There are those that bring up the fact that he didn’t have the solid receivers around him, and that is a valid point. However, receivers don’t generally cause bad decisions and Tannehill has made some crucial ones in his time.
With Tannehill it’s also important to remember that he doesn’t fit the mold of a QB that Pioli likes to draft. As one of Pioli’s biggest influences, Bill Parcells devised a method for drafting QBs in which they had to meet a set of criteria. For a QB to be drafted, they had to have graduated, had to have been a senior, must have been a 3-year starter, and had to have started 23 wins in his career. Tannehill only started 20 games in total in 1 ½ years as a starter. Further, he only won 13 of those games. He was even a wide receiver for his first two years at A&M.
It seems that the Tannhill business is most likely a smoke-screen. Pioli loves doing this and playing shadow games with the rest of the league. Being so secretive lends itself to unpredictability and people won’t be sure if Pioli is actually interested or not. This benefit is two-fold: (1) a team interested will trade above the Chiefs causing a player they actually want to slide down, (2) with Seattle being interested in Tannehill (reportedly) and drafting 12th, a team interested would have to trade with the Chiefs to get him if he fell that far. This means if Tannehill is there at 11, the Chiefs will have plenty of options. However, the consensus seems to be that he will be taken by Miami at the 8th spot so this is probably all a moot point anyway.
Which brings us to, if not Tannehill, then who? Number one target for the Chiefs should be David DeCastro (G, Stanford). An offensive lineman has never been a sexy pick, but has always been a necessary one. With this pick and the pro-bowl potential of DeCastro, the Chiefs would immediately have one of the best young lines in the league. If Rodney Hudson takes over for Casey Weigmann, then Lilja is the only player over 27 years old (and he’s only 30). This offensive line unit has the potential to be dominant like the one from the early 2000’s (though not quite as dominant) and stay together for the next 5-10 years.
Assuming DeCastro is either off the board or the Chiefs don’t feel the value is appropriate they have a couple of other options. A name that has risen up draft boards and a lot see the Chiefs having interest in is Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College). Boston College has had some success as of late with linebackers transitioning to the pros (Mathias Kiwanuka of the Giants is a prime example). Kuechly put up some pretty impressive numbers at BC including 532 total tackles in 3 years as a starter. He seems to fit the mold of a solid ILB in a 3-4 scheme so might fit perfectly next to pro-bowler Derrick Johnson.
The problem with Kuechly here is that coming from the ACC it’s necessarily a very strong football conference. Even with the success of players like Kiwanuka from BC, a recent example sticking out in people’s minds is Aaron Curry. Curry rocketed up draft boards in 2009 making himself the 4th overall pick after a strong showing at the combine, but has since been disappointing in the NFL. This could be a possibility for a player like Kuechly. If the Chiefs are going to go linebacker, I feel they should look elsewhere.
Looking elsewhere would mean moving on down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where Dont’a Hightower plays. Coming off a national championship squad and a recent history of solid linebackers, Hightower would make a lot of sense for the Chiefs. While only a one-year starter at Alabama, he had 85 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 interception in 2011. While not huge numbers he was an integral part of the defense and showed himself to be a slightly more versatile linebacker than Kuechly.
If they Chiefs don’t decide to go linebacker, there are some defensive linemen that they could choose. Dontari Poe seems to be a big name at that spot, especially given the Chiefs need at nose tackle. At 6’5” and 350 pounds he has great size for a NT and could be a big space eater there. Even so, Poe comes from a weak football conference where he didn’t dominate as you might expect and often had problems staying on the field. The 11th pick might be too high to draft someone who only factors into being a part-time player.
The next defensive lineman is Michael Brockers (DT, LSU). At 6’6” 306 lbs, he’s not prototypical nose tackle size but could fit in at defensive end in the Chiefs 3-4 scheme. The biggest hurdle here would be the Chiefs getting over drafting yet another lineman from LSU who isn’t a perfect fit in this defense. While I don’t think Pioli factors those things into his decision a ton, it’s still out there.
Ultimately, I think the Chiefs will go defensive line or offensive line. I don’t see Pioli valuing linebacker high enough to take at 11. If I had my way the Chiefs would trade down and maybe get a couple of other picks, but I don’t see that happening. With Tannehill most likely gone at the 8th spot, there are not many teams who would look to trade up with the Chiefs. I wouldn’t be shocked to see one of the linebackers taken, but I would suspect either DeCastro or one of the defensive linemen to come off the board with the Chiefs pick. Whomever they pick, at the very least, the NFL draft will be a momentary distraction from the Royals’ all-too-common poor start.