Biggest Questions Kansas City Chiefs Will Answer over Draft Week
It's finally arrived.
After months of (mostly baseless) speculation about what's in store, it's upon us.
Names will be called. Hearts will be crushed. Television screens will be yelled at. Twitter will be abused.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen: It's draft week.
It's a week that Kansas City Chiefs' fans have been anticipating since their devastating 45-44 AFC Wild Card loss to the Indianapolis Colts. It'll throw a bucket of ice water on the waning flame that is KC's 2013 season, shifting complete focus to the upcoming one.
With free agency in the rearview mirror, fans should gain a better understanding of what the Chiefs' final 53-man depth chart will look like by sundown on May 10.
But Kansas City has several needs still to address, and there are decidedly varying opinions on how exactly it should address them. But, ultimately, nobody's quite sure what general manager John Dorsey's true intentions are—a realization that's equal parts exciting and nerve racking.
The uncertainty has predictably created a flurry of questions from Chiefs Nation—most regarding which positions are of most concern and what implications potential picks would have on players currently on the Chiefs roster.
Here are five of those questions that, one way or another, will be laid to rest by week's end.
5. What Does Chase Daniel's Future Look Like?
One option not explored nearly enough is the possibility of parting ways with backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
Just last offseason, Daniel was handed an extremely generous $10-million contract—he'll be the NFL's fourth-highest paid insurance plan next year. It was a surprising show of confidence for an undrafted free agent sans a regular-season NFL start to his name.
When Ricky Stanzi is behind door No. 3, you gotta do what you gotta do.
But since the signing of the Daniel, Kansas City has dropped Stanzi, adding current third-stringer Tyler Bray to the mix.
Bray declared for the NFL draft following his junior season at Tennessee, in which the Volunteers finished a disappointing 5-7 finish with him at the helm. He wound up slipping out of the draft entirely, and eventually, like Daniel, signed as an undrafted free agent.
Had he returned for his final year in Knoxville, he could plausibly be mentioned among the top-five signal-callers available for this Thursday's draft.
Alas, he didn't, and as it stands now, he's just a promising talent with a strong arm and questionable maturity. At only 22 years old, he's locked in as the Chiefs' developmental QB but could feasibly serve as backup if needed.
He turned in an impressive preseason in 2013, and Kansas City would retain an additional $1.4 million by cutting ties with Daniel. For the stability and depth that Daniel offers at the position, that's probably not enough for general manager John Dorsey to actively shop him around.
But, if a favorable offer slides across the GM's table anytime during the draft, he could still wind up elsewhere in 2014. He's displayed enough competence throughout his four NFL preseasons to command a late-round pick from an organization with an injury-prone starter.
And with this year's draft class boasting a rather deep pool of talent, there's no telling what that late-round pick could eventually become.
Though, even if this situation doesn't manifest itself, Kansas City could still tip its hand for 2015 by targeting a QB in the middle to late rounds anyway. While Daniel's cap hit is minimal this year, the Chiefs will save a considerable chunk of change by releasing him prior to next season.
Selecting a prospect like San Jose State's David Fales or Connor Shaw of South Carolina in the fifth round or later would be a quality addition that could provide competition for Bray in coming years.
It's highly improbable that the Chiefs would carry four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in 2014— initially, a practice-squad designation would be the move here. Daniel could serve as a reliable second option for a final season, while giving both younger QBs an additional year to develop.
In the "getting rid of Chase Daniel" scenarios, this hypothetical is likely the most desirable.
KC's front office isn't looking to ditch him, but he's certainly expendable. Bray owns a wealth of untapped potential, though it's questionable whether he's ready to serve as a backup quarterback at this point.
Ultimately, it's a risk Dorsey should be willing to take if an opportunity presents itself.
4. How Comfortable Are They with Jeff Allen at Left Guard?
Jeff Allen, projected to start at left guard in 2014, has done little to prove himself worthy of the second-round pick that Kansas City sacrificed to grab him two years ago.
He started during his rookie season in 2012—a season in which some considered him to be the Chiefs' weakest link on the offensive line. He started during his sophomore campaign in 2013 as well—a season in which some considered him to be the Chiefs' weakest link on the offensive line.
Notice a theme beginning?
As an integral piece of the unit directly responsible for the success and well being of Jamaal Charles, Allen is running out of time to prove himself. He's been thrown around like a rag doll in several games, looking more like a sixth- or seventh-round pick than a second-round one.
It's not a question of whether Kansas City is concerned or not, but rather, how concerned is it?
If the Chiefs target an offensive lineman with either of their first two picks, it'll likely be a guard, and they likely will make that choice with the idea that this new guard will replace Allen as the starter. Dorsey comes from the "best player available" school of thought, and won't hesitate to grab O-line help over a safety or wideout if there's a palpable talent discrepancy.
If Kansas City snags a guard with either its first- or third-round pick, expect Allen's hot seat to become even hotter heading into training camp.
3. How Concerned Are They About Travis Kelce's Injury?
If Travis Kelce can manage to stay healthy, he should own the edge to serve as Andy Reid's starting tight end in Week 1.
Kansas City's 2013 third-round selection poses an imposing combination of speed and size—he runs a 4.64 40-yard dash at 6'5", 260 pounds. NFL.com thought it enough to garner a comparison to Rob Gronkowski; the two have strikingly similar measurables.
Last season's starter Anthony Fasano, who was bitten by the injury bug himself, was little more than average when he was on the field. It confirmed what seven years of mediocre NFL production had already hinted at, as he was visibly outperformed by Henderson State-product Sean McGrath.
McGrath was a quality fill-in but simply doesn't project as a long-term answer—particularly with a guy like Kelce on the roster.
But does the Chiefs front office have confidence that its third-round investment from last season can keep off of injured reserve? One may be able to gauge its level of concern by if and how early they pull the trigger on a TE.
Kelce struggled with injuries prior to his professional career ever beginning—an abdominal tear forced him to miss the 2013 NFL combine. He completely recovered, only to then wind up on Kansas City's injury report prior to training camp concluding. The initial diagnosis was a bone bruise, but it turned out to be quite a bit more serious than that. He underwent a microfracture procedure in early October, which ended his season prematurely.
It's been tricky over the years to predict how well athletes bounce back from these microfracture surgeries, particularly in the NFL, where they're markedly less common than in sports like the NBA.
Miami Heat team physician Harlan Selesnick says that only 40 percent of athletes return to their previous level of play following the surgery. Of the rest, 40 percent return to "play in a diminished capacity," and 20 percent don't return at all.
Additionally, a recent article by Sporting News casts more dark light on the procedure, referencing the objections of several distinguished medical experts. An anonymous NBA team doctor goes as far to say that "the thinking has changed. It is still a good surgery in some cases, but not for high-level athletes."
Though it may seem like a grim outlook, there's still reason for optimism in Kelce's case. In the NFL, younger players seem to have a better shot at bouncing back from this type of injury than seasoned vets.
Kansas City certainly hopes he'll be in the organization's future—but whether or not the team snags additional depth in this draft may tell how much it believes he actually will be.
2. Will They Find a Starting Free Safety in the Draft?
Roger Goodell will be calling out the name of at least one free safety for the Kansas City Chiefs at Radio City Music Hall later this week—it's simply a question of when that will occur.
This offseason, K.C. predictably elected to let 2013 starter Kendrick Lewis walk in free agency.
He appeared to be moving in slow motion the entire year, proving utterly inept as the lone deep man in Bob Sutton's single-high coverage.
When Lewis finally signed elsewhere in late March, it was less surprising than Anthony Weiner failing to win the 2013 NYC mayoral election.
What was mildly shocking, however, was that Dorsey didn't acquire any outside free-agent to replace Lewis. Other than retaining the services of Hussain Abdullah, who's again likely destined for a part-time role, Dorsey did little to improve the situation at the one defensive position that is most in need of attention.
As things stand now, Abdullah and Sanders Commings, a rookie who was limited by injury to two games in 2013, are set to duke it out for starting snaps at free safety.
Kansas Citians have been bubbling about Commings' potential; he's a large, athletic ball hawk, expected to cover sideline to sideline significantly better than the departed Lewis. But, at the end of the day, he's still an unproven fifth-round draft pick, who has essentially zero in-game experience at the position.
He may well end up being the answer, but putting all their eggs in the Commings' basket would be unwise for the Chiefs.
The K.C. front office has been thought to be considering selecting a FS with the 23rd overall pick. If so, it'll likely be one of three players: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor or Jimmie Ward.
Clinton-Dix and Pryor are the consensus top two at the position—each would have to slightly slip in order to be available when the Chiefs are on the clock. Of the two, the bigger, laterally quicker Clinton-Dix would provide the better fit for Sutton's defensive scheme.
Pryor is among the draft's hardest hitters and excels against the run, but his discipline has occasionally been called into question. As for Ward, he's a fairly distant third, but may warrant a reach if Dorsey's intent on adding help at the position.
If Kansas City chooses to pass on a safety in the first, there's still a chance that it could add starting-caliber talent with its third-round selection.
Names that could compete to be Week 1 starters include Terrence Brooks and Antone Exum.
Brooks has steadily climbed up analysts' draft boards for the past couple of months; the former Florida State Seminole was recently listed among NFL.com's top-10 draft sleepers to watch for 2014. At February's combine, he logged the fastest 40-yard dash for a safety by a significant margin, and he tied for tops in the vertical jump.
Though still adjusting from his natural spot at cornerback, he'd be a great value pick with loads of potential upside.
Exum, a large-framed FS out of Virginia Tech, is another viable option, given that he remains available until this juncture of the draft. He's not quite as fast or athletic as Brooks, but makes up for it with his size and strength.
Behind a decent showing in training camp and/or preseason games, any of these four prospects could wind up filling the vacancy left by Lewis.
1. Will They Select a Wide Receiver in the First Round?
It's a question that's been pondered by every Chiefs-related blog, website or publication at least once over the past four months.
An answer will be provided on Thursday, May 8.
Nearly every available wideout has been mentioned as a potential option for Kansas City at one time or another. The knee-jerk assumption was that possible targets included Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews.
That's slowly morphed into the present idea that Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham Jr. are the best fits.
Selecting a receiver seems to be the move that would please the most fans as well. The vast majority of the fanbase believe that the Chiefs should nab one with their first pick.
And scanning through various mock drafts you'd think that it was nothing less than a sure thing.
In reality, it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see Kansas City take an offensive lineman or free safety as its first-round selection. Particularly when considering the impressive depth of this draft's WR class.
As noted earlier, Dorsey is very much a "best player available" type of GM. Which need he addresses with that much-discussed first pick will be entirely dictated by what happens with the 22 selections before the Chiefs get a stab at it.
Cooks and Beckham have each watched their name slowly creep up the draft board over the past couple of months. If both are off the board by the 23rd selection, does Dorsey take somebody like Cody Latimer over Calvin Pryor? Marquise Lee over Xavier Su'a-Filo?
Though, when there's the possibility of grabbing a wideout like Paul Richardson, Donte Moncrief or Bruce Ellington in the third round, there's incentive for patience. All three are projected to mesh well with Reid's system and would still compete for a starting job.
If both Cooks and Beckham have been swiped by the time the Chiefs' first-round pick rolls around, don't be shocked if they decide to hold off on taking a receiver until Day 2.