The Chiefs have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, but a solid understudy can be found in the later rounds of this year's draft
Everyone is wondering what the Kansas City Chiefs will do on April 25th with the first overall selection in this year's NFL Draft.
One thing is certain: It won't be Leon Sandcastle.
What most people seem sure of is that the Chiefs will not be selecting quarterback Geno Smith. And barring a trade of franchised left tackle Brandon Albert, selecting a replacement at left tackle will certainly spark some locker room drama in Kansas City this season if Albert is asked to change positions.
Unfortunately, barring a situation where Albert is traded, the overall seven-round draft logic of selecting a player like Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher would be a waste of the first overall pick. Doing so would undoubtedly prevent them from addressing one or two other positions with far less talent available in the later rounds.
On the following slides you will find the perfect combination of the right type of players to fill the Chiefs' needs, and the selection Kansas City should be able to use to get them.
Chiefs' remaining needs:
- Offensive tackle
- Defensive line
- Inside linebacker
- Running back
- Kick returner/wide receiver
- Tight end
Star Lotulelei has a clean bill of health and could be a dominant force on Kansas City's defensive line
So why should the Chiefs spend the top overall pick on Lotulelei, even if he is healthy?
First, the Chiefs only have three defensive ends listed on their roster: Tyson Jackson, Mike DeVito, and Allen Bailey.
Second, in the version of the 3-4 defense that Kansas City plays in the pass-happy AFC West, they often bring in an extra defensive back and go with only two interior down-linemen.
In that 2-4 set, it is ideal to have athletic space-eaters who can command double-teams in the middle of the line. Last year's first-round pick Dontari Poe proved he can be that player on one side, but Jackson underwhelmed when moved inside to play the spot opposite Poe.
Lotulelei brings a strong inside presence that could not only spell Poe at nose in the base 3-4 but would be the ideal fit next to Poe when they go to that 2-4 alignment. His versatility, size and ability to demand double teams will also allow him to get on the fast-track to unseat Jackson at end in the base 3-4 set.
Bakhtiari was one of the only bright spots for a bad Buffalos team, earning 2nd team All-Pac 12 honors
The Chiefs need to find themselves another offensive tackle, but with the talent available in this year's draft they will likely be able to find a capable starter like Colorado's David Bakhtiari with the first pick of round three.
While the Buffaloes weren't very good this past season, Bakhtiari continued the recent tradition of strong offensive tackles to come out of Boulder following 2011 first-rounder Nate Solder and 2012 fifth-rounder Ryan Miller.
Bakhtiari was a solid left tackle in college who has the ability to play anywhere across the offensive line at the NFL level. He will need some work if asked to play left tackle for the Chiefs, but could eventually unseat Albert after a season or two on the right side.
His tenacious style allows him to show his nasty side in the running game as he consistently looks to pound defenders into the the ground and maintain his blocks downfield.
Taylor is a solid all-around back with the makings of the perfect Jamaal Charles backup
The Chiefs have one of the best game-breaking running backs in the league in Jamaal Charles.
However, after one season of Peyton Hillis as Charles' backup and short-yardage back, Kansas City needs to find a suitable back to help Charles for 10-15 plays per game.
That player is Stanford's Stepfan Taylor.
While Taylor would never be considered a "big back" by any stretch of the imagination (5'9" and 214lbs), he is an excellent short-yardage back who has a knack for getting the important yards that move the chains.
Just ask the Wisconsin Badgers how good Taylor is in those types of situations. In January's Rose Bowl, Taylor ran for a hard fought 84 yards, one touchdown, and the all important game-clinching first down late in the fourth quarter.
Taylor won't awe fans with elite top-end speed like Charles will, but he will provide a solid backup runner who is also an excellent receiver for quarterback Alex Smith out of the backfield.
Johnson is relentless in defending the run, something the Chiefs defense needs at linebacker
The Chiefs have three of the AFC's best at linebacker in Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, and Justin Houston.
Hali and Houston's ability to rush the quarterback is unmatched by any other tandem of outside linebackers in the league, and Johnson's versatility as the team's best overall defender makes him invaluable.
What is missing for the Chiefs is an inside linebacker who is an absolute animal against the run.
The Chiefs can fill that glaring need with Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson.
Johnson has ideal size for an inside linebacker (6'2" and 248 lbs), and could be considered a run-stuffing specialist in this year's linebackers class. He shows absolutely no fear in taking on and shedding blockers and is relentless in his attacking of the ball carrier.
Johnson is the perfect inside linebacker option for a team looking for a tough player to play inside on early downs and obvious rushing situations and then exit in favor of an extra defensive back on obvious passing downs.
Looking for a late-round quarterback gem? Zac Dysert could be that player
Many so-called experts either love him or hate him as a prospect, but no one can dispute how productive Miami of Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert was during his career with a questionable-at-best surrounding cast.
Despite playing for three different head coaches during his career, Dysert was able to unseat current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as Miami's all-time career passing leader with 12,016 yards.
Also, at 6'3" and 231 lbs, Dysert looks the part of an NFL quarterback. He is a solid decision-maker and can also make all of the throws with excellent accuracy that you wouldn't expect from a player drafted this late in the draft.
If the Chiefs want a solid player to serve as an understudy and eventual long-term replacement for Alex Smith, Dysert is that player.
NC State's Wolff could fill the need at safety across from All-Pro Eric Berry
The Chiefs have one of the rising stars in the league in safety Eric Berry.
Unfortunately, because of injuries to Kendrick Lewis, the team's other safety position has been a revolving door of "not good enough" solutions the past two seasons.
Lewis's shoulder injuries appear to be chronic enough that he can't be counted on for a full season, making it a necessity for the team to find a viable replacement.
While many anticipate the possibility of moving recently-signed cornerback Dunta Robinson to safety, a better option would be to keep Robinson at nickel and find a young player in the draft.
That player is NC State's Earl Wolff.
Wolff has good size (5'11" and 209 lbs) and is fast for a safety (4.40 second 40-yard dash). As a player who is excellent in play recognition, Wolff excelled in pass coverage as well as a solid tackler against the run.
After registering 113 tackles in 2011, Wolff tallied 136 in 2012 including four games of 17 or more, making him the perfect compliment to Berry in the Chiefs' defensive backfield.
In search of another gamebreaking-type player, Andy Reid could do a lot with a talent like Robinson
With Jamaal Charles as the only real threat for the Chiefs to score anytime he touches the ball, Reid and Dorsey need to find another potential breakout threat.
That need both on offense and on special teams can be filled by drafting former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
While he worked out as a wide receiver at the combine, Robinson can return kicks and lineup at either receiver or running back. Stated simply, his versatility and pure talent is limited only by a coach's lack of creativity in getting him the ball.
Whether you judge him by the 4.43 second 40-yard dash he posted in Indianapolis or the 4.34 second dash he put up at his pro day, Robinson has displayed elite speed. That speed will create nightmarish mismatches for whatever defense lines up across from him.
With a need for an upgrade in the return game and at the slot receiver spot, Reid will undoubtedly find ways to get Robinson the ball. As a result, it will supply the Chiefs with another player in addition to Charles who can take it to the house on any given play.
Rivera would provide quarterback Alex Smith another reliable target at tight end
One of the biggest moves made by the Chiefs this offseason was the free agent signing of former Dolphins' tight end Anthony Fasano.
Fasano will provide the Chiefs offense with a solid blocker and receiving target in the passing game, something incumbent Tony Moeaki has been slow to provide in his short, injury-marred career.
While the team is obviously hopeful that Moeaki will continue to improve and make it through a full season without injury, they need to find another solid receiving tight end in case he can't.
Rivera was a second-team All-SEC selection and was one of the Vols leading receivers in 2012 with 36 catches for 562 yards and five touchdowns.
While he is not going to be your typical blocking tight end, he does provide a very athletic option in the passing game with excellent hands ideal for a role similar to how the New England Patriots utilize Aaron Hernandez.