2012 NFL Draft Preview: What Direction Will the Chiefs Go?
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However, things changed drastically in 2011 when the Chiefs finished the season with a record of 7-9.
Head coach Todd Haley was fired late in the season and replaced by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. The Chiefs won two of their final three games under Crennel and he was named the team’s head coach following the season.
Part of the reason for Haley’s dismissal was his failure to get along with general manager Scott Pioli. Haley certainly didn’t deserve to be fired for the team’s record as the Chiefs were decimated by injuries early in the season.
After Jamaal Charles tore his ACL in Week 2, the Chiefs never recovered. Tony Moeaki, who had a promising rookie season in 2010, missed the entire season.
Eric Berry, the team’s star second-year free safety, was lost in Week 1 to a torn ACL as well.
Quarterback Matt Cassel was injured and missed several games, forcing Tyler Palko to start before the team claimed Kyle Orton on waivers.
Palko was clearly not up to the challenge. The offense improved somewhat with Orton under center in the final few weeks of the season.
One of the questions facing the Chiefs concerns the quarterback situation. Many are not sold on Cassel and for good reason. The team was interested in Peyton Manning, although he wasn’t interested in them.
There have also been rumors of Pioli’s interest in Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
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While it seems the interest in Tannehill is part of the pre-draft process, the fact the Chiefs are even visiting with him should put Cassel on notice.
The Chiefs lost Brandon Carr in free agency, but they were prepared to be without him. Signing Stanford Routt just before free agency was a smart move in preparation for Carr’s departure.
For a team coming off a seven-win season, the Chiefs don’t have a lot of glaring holes.
So, what are the Chiefs’ three biggest needs heading into the draft?
The Chiefs have been playing the 3-4 defense for a few years, but have yet to find a long-term answer at nose tackle. In any 3-4 scheme, the nose tackle is arguably the most important position. Veteran Kelly Gregg filled the role admirably last year, but he will not be back in 2012.
Dontari Poe of Memphis has been linked to the Chiefs in several mock drafts. Although Poe has the size, his college film doesn’t indicate he has the ability to be a 3-4 nose tackle in the NFL.
Poe projects better as a defensive tackle in the 4-3. He lacks shorter-than-ideal arms to play the nose. And, his effort has been questioned at times.
Alameda Ta’Amu of Washington could be available with the Chiefs’ second-round pick and would be an ideal selection. Ta’Amu had a good career at Washington and followed that up with several good workouts.
The Chiefs have Derrick Johnson at one spot and he is a tremendous player. Jovan Belcher started all 16 games opposite Johnson in 2011 and was solid.
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But, Belcher is not a sideline-to-sideline playmaker and his deficiencies put more pressure on Johnson.
The Chiefs are in excellent position to draft the top inside linebacker available: Luke Kuechly of Boston College.
Kuechly was an extremely productive player in college and he blew away scouts with an impressive combine performance.
Kuechly would be a safe pick and pairing him with Johnson on the inside would give the Chiefs perhaps one of the better inside duos in the league.
Injuries were blamed for the Chiefs’ downfall in 2011 and rightfully so, but the offensive line wasn’t as strong as it had been in the previous year.
Ryan Lilja played left guard in 2011 and by all accounts wasn’t bad. But, Lilja wore down as the season went on and he isn’t getting younger.
With the No. 11 overall pick, the Chiefs could take Stanford’s David DeCastro. Many consider DeCastro the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson. That is a lofty comparison for sure, but DeCastro is a complete player.
Playing in a pro-style offense in college, DeCastro can step right in as the starter beginning in Week 1. While not an elite athlete, DeCastro is physically dominant and never misses assignments.
Give Pioli credit, he has many guessing about what direction the Chiefs will go in.
His reported interest in Tannehill only enhances the notion the Chiefs could go any number of ways on Thursday night.
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