2014 NFL Draft Prospects Who Could Be Instant Starters for Kansas City Chiefs
They include as many as three reinforcements along the line, as well as a ball hawk or two for a secondary that was shredded during the latter stages of last season.
Like the rest of the NFL, the Chiefs will naturally target an instant starter with their primary pick. A pair of wide receivers and an accomplished tight end would be worth the 23rd overall selection.
Let's take a look at the eight draft prospects who could start immediately for 2013's AFC West runners-up.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt has justifiably risen up draft boards as a hulking 3-4 end who does more than just occupy double-teams. In fact, Tuitt is a constant disruption to offensive blocking schemes.
Not only does he swat opponents aside with strength, he also uses quickness and technical guile to make his own share of plays behind the line of scrimmage.
NFL.com media analyst Bucky Brooks offered a flattering comparison with another flexible 3-4 stalwart:
Talented defensive lineman with the versatility to play anywhere in a hybrid 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Comparisons to a young Richard Seymour are valid based on his size, strength and athleticism.
The Kansas City defensive front certainly needs a player who could emulate Seymour's ability to create havoc for every phase of an offense.
They currently lack playmakers at end. The uninspiring Tyson Jackson will likely be allowed to find a new home in free agency. Fellow starter Mike DeVito is solid, but far from spectacular.
Putting Tuitt on one side would draw some attention away from mammoth nose tackle Dontari Poe.
If Tuitt is still available at 23, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey would be foolish not to pounce.
That selection would turn a capable front seven into a truly frightening one.
DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
DaQuan Jones is another mountain of meat who would make an immediate impact along the Chiefs defensive front. The beefy interior lineman would be a major asset as someone capable of absorbing multiple blockers.
While he could be a force in the middle in nickel packages, Jones fits best as an end in the 3-4. The Chiefs still use a lot of two-gap principles in their base scheme, and Jones is powerful enough to thrive as a 5-technique.
Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com highlighted Jones' impressive skills as a pass-rusher during Senior Bowl practices.
He is tabbed as either a second or third-round pick by CBS Sports. Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid could easily justify taking Jones if he's still there in Round 3.
Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
Shamar Stephen may have to wait until the draft's third day to hear his name called. But that doesn't reduce his potential as a instant starter in Kansas City.
The UConn D-tackle is a bulky terror who creates a solid push and commands plenty of attention inside.
Stephen will be a late-rounder because he sometimes plays too tall, without the natural leverage to support his ample frame. His first-step quickness in also inconsistent.
But at his best, Stephen is very stout against the run. He also displays decisive instincts to be a competent pass-rusher.
Because of his formidable play against the run, Stephen would work for the Chiefs as a base 3-4 end.
He is projected by CBS Sports to eventually come off the board as late as Round 6, making Stephen the very definition of a steal.
Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina
Victor Hampton is a feisty little terrier of a cornerback who would fit well in the Chiefs' coverage schemes. Despite standing just 5'10", Hampton plays taller and never shies away from clamping on receivers early.
Bleacher Report draft columnist Matt Miller highlights Hampton's competence as a press corner:
A physical cornerback who lives at the line of scrimmage, South Carolina's Victor Hampton left school early to take on NFL wide receivers. His skill set shows that he's ready for that challenge.
As a player who does most of his work up on the line in press or jam situations, he has to be strong and then immediately explode and recover. He does both well.
Hampton has the right kind of defiant swagger for the aggressive, single-coverage techniques favored by defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
Hampton would immediately push to replace the streaky Sean Smith. While he challenges for a regular spot on the outside, Hampton would be an instant upgrade as the nickel corner in Kansas City.
The ex-Gamecocks ace is deemed a second or third-rounder by CBS Sports. Landing either Jones or Hampton in Round 3 would represent excellent work by Dorsey and Reid.
Dion Bailey, FS, USC
Unbelievably, Dion Bailey is tabbed as a fourth-round pick by CBS Sports. If that projection comes true, the Chiefs shouldn't waste a second moving to take a true playmaker at free safety.
Bailey is a natural ball hawk and excellent zone defender. He has the anticipatory instincts and transition speed to break on errant passes out of the single-high alignment Sutton deploys.
As a one-time linebacker, Bailey is also a capable defender in the box, showing good discipline in support.
His weakness is not altogether fluid movement when trailing inside receivers in man coverage. Bailey is more comfortable when he is in areas of the field that let him see a whole play develop.
But his intelligence and versatility outweigh some of his technical issues as a relatively inexperienced safety.
The Chiefs have a major need for reinforcements at the position. Both Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps became liabilities last season.
Drafting Bailey and his blend of coverage smarts and tenacity in the box would let the Chiefs interchange the responsibilities and alignments of their safeties more often.
That is something Sutton sometimes does in dime sub-packages. As an instant starter, Bailey would expand the playbook for Sutton.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Drafting Jace Amaro would show quarterback Alex Smith just how valued he is by the organization. Amaro is exactly the kind of roving "joker" Smith needs in the passing game.
Amaro's style is defined by sneaky move skills that allow the 6'5", 260-pounder to stretch defenses deep. He is a world removed from a natural in-line tight end.
Instead, he is part of the modern evolution of the position, where glorified wide receiver-types have become the tight ends of choice in modern offenses.
As Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News notes, Amaro is the prototype for the new(ish) breed of tight ends:
Jace Amaro looks like a tight end.
But Amaro doesn’t play like a tight end. Few tight ends in the college or NFL games do anymore.
The game has been evolving in recent seasons at all levels — high school, college and pro. In the not-too-distant past, tight ends were more of a third tackle, there for their blocking, than they were a receiver, there for their hands.
Now they are receivers — first, foremost and always. They play the game in a two-point stance from the slot and beyond far more often than they do from a three-point stance at the end of the line.
Need a blocker at the position? Draft one in the late rounds as your third tight end to handle the muscle part of the position. The Jimmy Grahams and Jason Wittens aren’t voted to Pro Bowls annually for their blocking.
And the NFL team that drafts Amaro, probably in the first round, won’t be drafting him for his blocking. He’ll be paid first-round money to catch the football, something he did so well at Texas Tech.
Bleacher Report draft writer Matt Miller originally had the Chiefs selecting Amaro 23rd overall in his pre-Super Bowl mock draft. Miller emphasized Amaro's ability to attack defenses from anywhere out of an offensive formation:
Amaro is an athletic, moving tight end perfect for today's game. He can play flexed out in the slot, almost like an oversized wide receiver with the speed to beat defenses and the size to box out coverage. Amaro would be perfect for a passing attack like the one in Kansas City.
The Kansas City offense certainly has a need for a more dynamic tight end.
Injury woes for Anthony Fasano, along with Tony Moeaki's inability to stay healthy, robbed Smith of key weapons. Sean McGrath filled in well, but is really more of a short-range specialist than a source of big plays.
Snatching Amaro would give Smith a "move" weapon who can create favorable matchups against any covering defender. That is almost as valuable as an explosive wide receiver in today's game.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews should be a favorite prospect for many draft viewers. He is a rarity among players at his position, namely a wide receiver who is all substance and no flash.
Matthews is a big-bodied ball magnet who will instantly become a lucky pro quarterback's best friend. After suffering inconsistent pass-catchers like Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery, Smith would likely relish the chance to throw to Matthews.
The Commodores' standout is first and foremost a thoughtful route-runner. His moves out of a break always make sense, and when combined with his physicality, usually leave covering defenders looking foolish.
Matthews' frame and smarts make him a dream fit for Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson's version of the West Coast offense.
The trustworthy flanker has long been viewed as a second-round pick. But he makes enough sense for the Chiefs to justify a reach, or even a trade, to acquire.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Of course, the Chiefs needn't get embroiled in a strategy to land Matthews if they select their featured wide receiver in Round 1. Penn State's Allen Robinson will certainly appeal in that scenario.
While he doesn't boast the size or field-stretching potential of a Kelvin Benjamin, Robinson thrives at the intermediate levels of a defense. He is also an elusive and imaginative runner after the catch.
Reid and Pederson can take advantage of those skills by moving Robinson around and crafting middle screens to get him the ball in space.
Robinson was extremely productive for the Nittany Lions in 2013. He made 97 catches for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns, per cfbstats.com.
As a dynamic possession receiver, Robinson perfectly suits the way the Chiefs build yards through the air. Think of him as a Bowe-type, only more active and proficient.
Any of these eight players would instantly upgrade key positions of need in Kansas City and inspire a second straight run at the playoffs.