Reassessing Chiefs' Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What's Left to Address
In 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs' offseason treated fans to a white-knuckled roller coaster ride, throwing supporters for loops at virtually every turn. This year, local loyalists have felt more like tram-goers, sluggishly treading through the eye of an offseason amusement park while watching peers go from zero to Nirvana at Mach speed.
Roughly a month away from the 2014 draft (May 8-10), things are bound to slowly but surely improve for Kansas Citians.
The Chiefs have severed ties with seven regular starters and/or key contributors, including a trio of trusty staples on the offensive line. Thus far, the ultimate optimist would contend that three players—Vance Walker, Joe Mays and Sanders Commings—will not only fill their respective voids but arguably upgrade them.
Having said that, offsetting three of seven losses is a tradeoff that leaves a sour taste in one's mouth.
Consider this, though: Chiefs general manager John Dorsey obviously wants to build through the draft, and before stepping off the plane at KCI, he spent 14 seasons (1997-1998, 2000-2011) as the director of college scouting for Green Bay.
Within that frame of time, the Packers, who shaped their roster primarily through the draft, only netted two losing seasons, while finishing above .500 on 11 separate occasions. Overall, the team flaunted a 144-80 record, winning 64 percent of their games and securing 10 playoff berths.
Was Dorsey the sole catalyst throughout that impressive stretch? Far from it. But if you doubt the influence of scouting (pro or college), allow me to remind you that during Scott Pioli's four-year reign of tyranny—which, by local standards, seemed less like a bad stretch and more like the Great Depression—the then-Chiefs GM selected just 10 players (in 32 picks) who remain on the active roster.
If you find yourself second-guessing the team's current GM, just remember that he has the ultimate trump card—history—vouching for him in his corner.
In Dorsey's eyes, Kansas City is on the clock—not up against it.
5. Stack Draft Picks by Trading Down
Per CBS Sports, 98 underclassmen have declared for the 2014 draft, which shattered the previous record of 73 from the year prior.
That being the case, one could argue that, from top to bottom, this is the most talent-rich draft in recent memory.
This season's class is a gold mine for GMs tasked with masking handfuls of needs, and it's booming with wide receiver and safety talent—two positions shrouded in uncertainty on the Chiefs roster.
If a reasonable opportunity presents itself, John Dorsey would be wise to green-light a trade and stockpile selections.
4. Find a Punt Returner
One of the most overlooked needs on Kansas City's roster resides at punt returner.
If Knile Davis remedies his fumbling issues (and that's far from a safe bet), the backup has proven that he's capable of becoming a premier kick returner. But in the wake of Dexter McCluster's departure, there's no surefire replacement for the first-time Pro Bowler.
A.J. Jenkins was a prolific kick returner, but he never handled a punt throughout his collegiate career. Meanwhile, Weston Dressler made a name for himself as a fourth-down returning threat, but if Devon Wylie didn't survive the 53-man cut a year ago, then there's no reason to think that a CFLer is a shoo-in.
As of now, Joe McKnight, who has carved out a niche as a game-changing returner, is likely the odds-on favorite, although, entering training camp, he, too, won't find his status cemented on any depth charts.
If the Chiefs aren't sold on the current slate of candidates, they might roll the dice and take a mid- to late-round flier on a prospect like Dri Archer or Jalen Saunders.
3. Add O-Line, Linebacker and Safety Depth
Jeff Linkenbach was signed for interior depth, but if Donald Stephenson is crystallized as the starting right tackle, don't bank on the former becoming a (successful) swing option. While Rishaw Johnson showed promise in last year's Week 17 finale, his past is checkered with inconsistencies.
A year ago, then-rookie Eric Kush arguably endured the worst preseason of any member on the active roster. Snagging a versatile linemen such as Russell Bodine would go a long way in shoring up the offensive interior.
As far as 3-4 linebackers are concerned, the skill set of Jordan Tripp—a Day 2 gem waiting to be plucked—is tailored for the “Will” position. Meanwhile, a lengthy edge-rusher like Alabama’s Adrian Hubbard could effectively spell Tamba Hali.
For all intents and purposes, Sanders Commings' rookie season was a 17-week rehab session. If healthy, though, he's perfectly capable of starting and excelling at free safety.
Though Husain Abdullah shares the same position, he's best-suited for Cover 2 concepts. Otherwise, the vet is most successful when slotted in roles akin to those of strong safeties.
At 25 years old, Darian Stewart is a free agent who has age on his side and fits Bob Sutton's scheme. Terrence Brooks and Marqueston Huff are post-Day 1 fits who can also strengthen the back end, as both exhibit the physicality of strong safeties and closing speed of single-high defenders.
2. Draft Future Starters at Wide Receiver and Guard
Thanks to the three-headed monster of Trent Green, Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez, the Chiefs annually touted the NFL's No. 1 or No. 2 offense between 2002 and 2004. Again, for your money, who were the five pillars of consistency?
If no blockers breached your top five following either question, then you probably cringe at the thought of John Dorsey selecting one in the first round. If so, brace yourself, because over the course of the offseason, that once-afterthought has mushroomed into a legitimate possibility.
The clubs spotlighted in the above stretches shared one commonality: The front five protected passers like their livelihood(s) depended on it. Throughout the aforementioned years, Cowboys quarterbacks were sacked (on average) 22.8 times per season, while Chiefs linemen limited opponents to 26.3.
In one fewer start, Alex Smith, despite being infinitely more athletic, was sacked (39) on nine more occasions than Philip Rivers (30) and 21 more times than Peyton Manning (18)—and that was prior to losing three starting-caliber pass protectors.
Kansas City desperately needs to bolster its front five, particularly at guard. A first- to second-round talent like Stanford's David Yankey—a smart, nimble-footed prospect with ideal size—can upgrade the team's unseasoned squadron to a promising one, if nothing else.
The receiving corps also reveals its fair share of glaring holes, but if wide-eyed wolverines crash every 3rd-and-umpteen pocket, pass-catchers are rendered useless.
The upcoming crop of wideouts are the creme de la creme of the 2014 draft, and worthwhile contributors—especially those of the speedy variety—can be found throughout all three days.
Names like Donte Moncrief, Paul Richardson and Martavis Bryant could slip into Round 3.
1. Extend Alex Smith and Justin Houston
If, for whatever reason, you still consider yourself "on the fence" in regards to Alex Smith, take a glance at his stats over the past three years.
No. 11 has posted a record of 30-9-1, completing 63 percent of his passes and lobbing 53 touchdowns to a meager 17 interceptions. Within that span, he also led seven fourth-quarter comebacks.
To take it a step further, throughout three playoff games, Smith has averaged 291 passing yards, 42.3 rushing yards, 3.3 touchdowns (including rushing) and no interceptions.
Take a breath, swallow your pride and embrace logic.
The edge-rushing oppressor is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, which affords Kansas City the right to woo him at the negotiating table.
Both Smith and Houston are cornerstones whose arrows point north, and if the Chiefs delay the inevitable, the same will hold true for their respective price tags.
Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
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