The Top 5 Players the Kansas City Chiefs Should Target Early in the Draft
The mantra that continues to echo from the halls of One Arrowhead Drive from Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey is: "we will build this team through the draft."
Though there are still some "big name" free agents still on the market—read: Alex Mack, Knowshon Moreno and Chris Clemons—for the most part the NFL's version of March Madness has come to an end. All 32 teams now have a much clearer picture of what their 2014 roster will look like and may begin truly concentrating on looking ahead to the draft.
The Chiefs are no different in that regard. Though the team wasn't as active in free agency this year as they were last year—much to the chagrin of many Chiefs fans—they treated the signing of unrestricted free agents as ways to fill some much-needed holes, not as a means to build their entire roster. However, heading into the draft, there are still some significant holes to fill on the team.
Dorsey must have a solid draft this year. With the exodus out of Kansas City by five key Chiefs players—left tackle Branden Albert, guards Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, wide receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster and defensive end Tyson Jackson—several draft picks must make an immediate impact on opening day of the 2014 season.
This will be much easier said than done. Dorsey only has six draft picks to work with as the Chiefs were not awarded any compensatory picks this year, and he is missing a crucial second-round pick which he traded away to the San Francisco 49ers last year for quarterback Alex Smith. While he will get to make the 23rd overall pick, barring any trading, he won't get another selection until the end of the third round.
All that said, no player will be required to not only contribute, but be a "difference-maker" like the Chiefs' first-round selection. The Chiefs have four main positions of need moving into the draft: pass-rusher, free safety, wide receiver and interior offensive line. In that vein, I took a look at five potential players who could make an immediate impact on the Chiefs roster.
Target No. 1: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
Many pundits attribute the Chiefs' defensive decline during the latter half of the 2013 season to a lack of a pass rush. The Chiefs began the season on fire in the sack and QB hurry categories, but once teams picked up on their blitz packages and schemes, the secondary was exposed and the defense suffered. Adding another pass-rushing threat to the fold could aid in that venture.
Attaochu is the all-time sack leader for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with 31.5 for a total loss of 226 yards during his four-year career. Along with that, 16 of his 45 tackles during his senior season were for a loss, showing he has a nose for the ball even when it isn't in the quarterback's hands.
Attaochu is aggressive, smart and relentless when pursuing opposing quarterbacks. The Chiefs' premiere pass-rusher, Tamba Hali, isn't getting any younger and could possibly be on his way out of Arrowhead next season. Bringing in a potential replacement this season would help ease the pain next year should Hali hang up—or be forced to hang up—the red and yellow.
Draft Tek projects Attaochu as the 25th overall prospect. However, other sources like NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki says the 21-year-old linebacker could go as late as the fourth round. Nawrocki cites Attaochu's lack of speed and strength as cons, and why he may drop back on many team's big board.
Still, if the Chiefs are serious about adding a solid pass-rusher— and eventual replacement for Hali—they would do well to give Attaochu a good look.
Target No. 2: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
If there's one thing the Alabama Crimson Tide does well—besides win NCAA national championships—it's prepare young men to play football at an elite level in the National Football League. Safety Ha'Sean (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix is absolutely no exception.
Finding a player who can play "center field" in the defensive backfield isn't the easiest thing to do. In order for Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's "attacking 3-4" scheme to work, he has to have a fast, aggresive free safety who can cover the middle of the field, oftentimes alone because the strong safety is blitzing.
Of the players who played the free safety role in 2013—Kendrick Lewis and Husain Abdullah—only one is still on the roster. Many don't think Abdullah is capable of excelling in the position full time and Sanders Commings—drafted in the fifth round of last year's draft—spent nearly the entire season on injured reserve and is an unknown.
The Chiefs need a safety who can make an impact and a difference from the first play of the first game. Clinton-Dix is exactly that guy.
While his 2013 stats don't immediately jump off the page—two interceptions, 31 tackles and four deflected passes—Clinton-Dix is potentially a game changer in the backfield because of his 4.58 second 40-yard dash speed and his nose for the ball. He's not afraid to lower his shoulder and drive it into a receiver down field.
While the Chiefs already have an "in the box" safety in Eric Berry, Clinton-Dix could be the perfect complement to that play style.
Mayock says Pryor is more of a box safety while HaHa Clinton-Dix is a "complete" safety.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) February 18, 2014
Locking down the defensive backfield seems it should be a top priority for the Chiefs. Bringing in Clinton-Dix would definitely be a step in the right direction.
Target No. 3: David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Drafting an offensive lineman—a guard even—with the Chiefs' first-round pick could potentially be the most unpopular decision John Dorsey could make. However, depending on how the chips fall in the draft, it would make a lot of sense.
During the first 90 minutes of free agency earlier this month, the Chiefs lost three members of the 2013 offensive line. All three were starters at various times during the last season, and while the team does have some options moving into the 2014 season, there is a gaping hole on the right side of the line. That hole would be filled nicely with the 6'6", 315-pound David Yankey.
Last season the Chiefs' line blocked for running back Jamaal Charles as he had one of the best seasons of his career. That success was a huge contributor to the fact the Chiefs had a nine-game turnaround and made the playoffs for the first time in three years. If the franchise hopes to replicate that success in 2014—rather than take three steps back as it did after their last winning season in 2010—it will have to have a strong offensive line.
Should the Chiefs draft Yankey, he would likely be playing next to right tackle Donald Stephenson who has become quite the blocker in his own right.
While it would be an unpopular decision, it could prove to be the best decision.
Target No. 4: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Everybody from Mike Mayock to Gil Brandt has said the 2014 NFL draft is one of the deepest in wide receiver talent in years. Making that more evident than ever, Draft Tek has five receivers listed in its top 35 players on the big board.
The 5'10", 185-pound Cooks has the breakout speed many believe is missing on the Chiefs roster. He was the absolute fastest wide receiver in the 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine with an official time of 4.33. Gil Brandt believes that speed will translate well to the NFL.
Cooks' stats at Oregon State were nothing short of spectacular. In 13 games, Cooks hauled in 126 catches for 1,730 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. Adding another 217 rushing and 72 punt return yards put Cooks at 2,019 all purpose yards for the season. Paired up next to Dwayne Bowe, Cooks could be deadly with the Chiefs and an immediate difference-maker.
Target No. 5: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Yes, there are two wide receivers on the list but only because there were so many good ones to choose from in the top 35 prospects.
A New Orleans native, Odell Beckham Jr. could excel playing across from LSU alumni Dwayne Bowe next season. Though a couple of inches shorter than Bowe at 6'0", Beckham is faster running a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
His stats were solid coming out of college with 59 receptions for 1,159 yards and eight touchdowns, but not as prolific as some of the other receivers on the board.
Not only his speed, but his size makes him an intriguing prospect for the Chiefs as he would match up well against larger cornerbacks that are becoming the "flavor of the week" in the NFL. While Draft Tek has Beckham listed as its No. 22 overall prospect, Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller thinks he'll go a bit higher than that.
Odell Beckham should go top 20. Marqise Lee should go second round.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 22, 2014
With the Chiefs drafting in the 23rd spot—ironically the same position Bowe was selected in the 2007 draft—if they truly covet the former LSU Tiger they may have to make a draft day move.
Honorable Mention: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
I didn't initially add Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro into the top five because I truly don't think TE is a "position of need" moving into the 2014 season. Granted, last year's third-round draft pick Travis Kelce spent the entire season on injured reserve and one of the Chiefs' biggest free-agent acquisitions, Anthony Fasano, was banged up most of last season but they both project to be back and healthy this year. Add in the fact Sean "The Beard" McGrath -- who played well for the Chiefs last season in the absence of their starters -- will return as well and I think the team is sitting well at the TE position.
Still, having a player like Amaro on the Chiefs would be a game-changer.
The 6'5", 260-pound tight end was a pass-catching machine during his junior campaign with the Red Raiders. He hauled in 106 catches for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. Having a target like him for Alex Smith to find in the red zone could be invaluable and mean the difference between six points and three. And as an added bonus, he wasn't a basketball player like other tight ends in the NFL so he won't draw a penalty for dunking over the goal post.