2013 NFL Draft: 8 Prospects Kansas City Chiefs Should Already Be Watching
While the Kansas City Chiefs roster is as deep as it has been in years, there is always room for improvement.
The Chiefs were ravaged by injuries in 2011, but that does not mean there are any excuses for not having adequate depth around the board to fill in for injured stars.
The Kansas City faithful hope to have a low draft pick in 2013 following a successful season, but that does not mean it is too early to see which players from the college ranks could be valuable additions to the Chiefs’ young and improving roster.
Quarterback and defensive line are sure to be two positions of scrutiny next offseason, so take a look inside to see who Scott Pioli and the rest of the scouting staff should keep constant tabs on at those positions as well as elsewhere this upcoming college football season.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
If incumbent signal caller Matt Cassel does not perform this season, it will be his last in a Chiefs uniform.
Even a strong performance by Cassel should not prevent the Chiefs from looking to upgrade at the game’s most important position.
Landry Jones brings an ability to read coverages before the snap with ease, and he has the arm to take advantage of the holes he finds in opposing defenses.
The Chiefs need more dependability from the quarterback position, considering how Cassel has not completed 60 percent of his passes in any of his three years in Kansas City.
Jones’ specialty is his accuracy, and he is especially lethal in the pocket. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards in his past two seasons, and has all the tools to be the Chiefs’ quarterback of the future.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Logan Thomas is a star if he wants to be. Jones will be a good to great quarterback, but Thomas has the ability to be a game-changer.
After starting off his college career as an elite tight end prospect, Thomas has the perfect build (6’6”, 254 pounds) for a quarterback. Even better, he possesses the arm to match and is confident in his ability to throw downfield, as well as to find a receiver whenever he is chased out of the pocket.
Thomas has 40-yard speed in the 4.6 range, and uses his size to bowl over smaller linebackers and defensive backs in short-yardage situations.
To better prepare himself for the NFL, Thomas should be throwing a lot more this season, especially considering that too often in 2011 he decided to tuck it and run early rather than look for his receivers. He may love to carry the ball, but he still averaged just 3.1 yards per carry last year.
2012 will be crucial in seeing if he can continue to translate his pure athleticism and talent into reliability and production.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Considering the uncertainly over Dwayne Bowe’s long-term future as a Chief, wide receiver is likely to be a focus next offseason.
While Pac-12 standouts Robert Woods and Keenan Allen are likely to be off the board by the Chiefs’ turn, Justin Hunter is a physical force at 6’4” and 200 pounds, and uses his size and speed to be a dangerous downfield threat on every pass play.
He missed most of 2011 with a torn ACL, but should have a breakout year this fall, especially with strong-armed quarterback Tyler Bray being more than willing to heave the ball deep and see what Hunter can do.
If Bowe leaves, Steve Breaston is not suited to be a No. 1 wideout, while Jonathan Baldwin does not have the agility and is better suited as a split end rather than a constant deep threat.
That leaves Hunter as the perfect candidate to be the Chiefs’ big-play guy, as well as an explosive kick returner if needed.
Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Butch Dill/Getty Images
Barrett Jones was a first-team All-SEC selection at guard in 2010, then moved to left tackle in 2011 and was an All-SEC first-teamer there.
A nomad of the offensive line, he’s moving to center for his senior season as he looks to become the first player in recent memory to be named first-team All-SEC at all three spots on the offensive line.
Simply put, Jones’ versatility is unrivaled. Even better, he has the strength to barrel through linemen when run blocking, yet has the speed to limit explosive ends in pass protection.
The Chiefs are solid with young talent at the guard and center positions. Yet, there are no stars among the interior line, and left guard Ryan Lilja is in the final year of his contract, so Jones would be the perfect upgrade over whoever might not be back in the starting lineup for the 2013 season.
Khaled Holmes, C, USC
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Just like Jones, Khaled Holmes has had success at every spot he has been among the offensive line. Due to depth issues at USC, he moved from guard to center before the 2011 season and earned 2nd-team All-Pac-12 honors there.
A powerful run blocker, Holmes would be a dynamic complement to the Chiefs’ line and would soon become running back Jamaal Charles' new best friend.
Current Chiefs center Rodney Hudson is in his first season at the spot, and if he does not rise to the occasion, Holmes would be an ideal pick to fill a void there or at either guard spot.
William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
This season could be the final one in the Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson experiment at defensive end. Both entered as top-five picks out of LSU, and both need to be consistent this season to merit keeping around.
Enter William Gholston. At 6’7”, 280 pounds, the younger cousin of former Jets’ first-rounder Vernon Gholston has the mean streak and college track record in order to avoid becoming a mega-bust like his kin.
Dorsey and Jackson are mainly run-stoppers, so even if they are kept around, Gholston would be invaluable in his ability to jump off the line of scrimmage and provide an athletic force on the defensive front.
Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State
Brandon Jenkins’ forte as a pass-rusher off the edge would make him the perfect complement to the massive Dontari Poe in the middle for a Chiefs defense that had just 29 sacks last year.
At 6’3” and 250 pounds, Jenkins is not a physical force. Still, he had 20.5 sacks in the past two seasons at Florida State, despite receiving constant double teams last year after a breakout 2010.
Jenkins has the skills to get around opposing linemen, but if he could bulk up and add some strength to his frame, he could become a pass-rushing demon right after the snap.
Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Chiefs might have bigger needs, but current ILB Jovan Belcher looks to be just a stopgap.
Many mock drafts this past April had the team taking Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly with the 11th pick, but Kuechly came off the board two picks before that. So the Chiefs will again be looking for an upgrade at the spot next offseason.
Manti Te’o always seems to find the ball, and has racked up 261 tackles with 23 tackles for a loss in the past two seasons. Not only does he have an innate ability to wrap up, he also has the intelligence and instincts to be a superb defensive field general.
Linebacker does not look to be a glaring weakness in 2012, but Te’o would nonetheless be a valuable commodity if he is available next April.