Each year, children get their hopes up come Christmastime, looking for that special gift which will light up their world and make everything perfect. They sit on Santa’s lap and rattle off their laundry list, act super-polite with their siblings to stay on the “Nice” list, and anxiously await the morning they can tear into their presents, ripping the paper to shreds to uncover their deepest desires.
Similarly, football fans anticipate April in the same fashion. Wish lists are drawn up and days are counted until each team unwraps their presents. Some children (and fans) jump for joy as each gift is opened, while others flash a sickly smile, looking for the bright side in the package of socks and tighty-whiteys they just received.
Kansas City fans have made that list many times over the years for the NFL Draft, although none in recent memory seems to be as extensive or as desperate as this year. The previous two articles highlighted the current strengths on the Chiefs’ roster and priorities in their free agency pursuits.
But while “teams are built through the draft” is an over-used cliché, it certainly holds more than a small grain of truth. Teams which draft well find themselves in the playoffs. Those who don’t, discover themselves lounging at home and dreaming of their chances next April.
Since the 1997 draft—the year Tony Gonzalez was drafted, Kansas City has made 99 selections. Currently, 23 of those selections are with the team—only half of which are starters and 16 of those chosen in the last two years. While the current roster has a respectable amount of talent, and options will be available for the Chiefs to upgrade in free agency, the draft holds their best chance at improving in many positions.
Numerous mock drafts project the Chiefs to select Russell Okung from Oklahoma State. However, with Tampa’s latest upset over New Orleans and Cleveland’s win against both Kansas City and Oakland, the Chiefs should be looking at the third pick in the draft, behind St. Louis and Detroit.
Both teams should be looking for help at defensive tackle, while St. Louis might seek a replacement for Marc Bulger and Detroit a solid offensive tackle to protect Matt Stafford.
Enter Eric Berry, safety, University of Tennessee. Berry is considered to be one of the best overall talents in the draft, and could drastically upgrade the Chiefs secondary, moving Mike Brown to a reserve/mentor status. This, along with signing free agent Vince Wilfork and perhaps another veteran to the linebacker corps could be the final pieces to field a defense capable of competing with even the higher echelon offenses in the league.
Offensive line is arguably the most critical position for Kansas City, though acquiring a talent of Berry’s level should take priority. Fortunately, there is an abundance of talent which can be acquired in the second and third rounds.
Upwards of 10 offensive tackles could be considered in the first or second round, such as Selvish Capers of West Virginia or Ciron Black of LSU. Likewise, a franchise-quality guard could be found with the second round pick from Atlanta, which will be no lower than 52nd overall.
The trick beyond that, though, is how to bring it all together. With a tackle like Capers in the early second, and a guard in the mid-second or early third—perhaps Rodney Hudson of Florida State or Mike Johnson of Alabama—Kansas City would have two solid pieces added to their line.
Then, tackle Branden Albert and guard Brian Waters have been noticeably struggling this year. Shifting these two players to guard and center, respectively, plus the two draft picks and a right tackle from free agency would revamp the Chiefs’ line into a young, talented, though relatively untested offensive line.
From here, draft picks are more for depth and development, and projecting any particular positions at that point is little more than guesswork. That being said, Missouri receiver Danario Alexander and Hawaii center John Estes could help build depth at crucial positions (though the latter could be mentioned here on the merits of his name alone).
In order for a team to find themselves moving toward the playoffs, they must make the right moves within their own current roster, free agency and certainly the draft. Perhaps this is merely the wish list of another child while he sits on Santa’s lap.
However, should the Chiefs with to find themselves still playing come mid-January, they must be shrewd and aggressive to build their roster. And maybe next year there will be more than just Christmas cheer to excite the loyal fans of Kansas City.