"It’s like déjà vu, all over again."
In the 2009 NFL draft, Kansas City had nearly every option available as they sat with the third pick. And considering the first two picks were a quarterback and offensive lineman, the entire board was open on defense.
Considered a “reach” pick, defensive end Tyson Jackson certainly didn't cause the champagne to flow or confetti to fall from the sky. But while Jackson might have been expected to go later in the draft, the Chiefs couldn't.
So they went with the top player on their board, ignoring popular opinion in favor of who they believed would help the team most.
And so it goes again in 2010. As our featured columnist mock draft has watched premier defensive talents Ndamukong Suh go to the Rams, Gerald McCoy to the Lions , and Eric Berry to the Buccaneers, the Chiefs are dressed to the nines with the fifth overall pick while their potential dance partners are wearing business casual.
This is the state of affairs, with solid talents still available but a number of question marks for each.
Offensive tackle Russell Okung seems to be name mentioned most, but the Oklahoma State product seems to be more the de facto top option rather than by virtue of immense talent. This is not to say Okung won't be successful in the NFL, but no one is hailing Okung as the next Orlando Pace. And with the depth available at offensive line in later rounds, Okung becomes even less of a priority for Kansas City.
Besides, since our Redskins featured columnist team has selected Russell Okung with the fourth pick of the draft, the discussion is rather moot. Anthony Davis from Rutgers would be the next option, but the arguments against drafting Davis are the same for Okung, only more so.
Another option would be cornerback Joe Haden from Florida. The undisputed top corner in this year’s draft, Haden has all the tools to shine in the NFL. However, the corner position is not one highlighted in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s scheme, and Kansas City’s current pairing of Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr is not without its own merit. Flowers certainly elevated to the next level in the shift to the 3-4 defense, while Carr struggled at times. That wasn’t quite the case in their rookie year, where Carr at times looked the part of the cover corner.
Carr’s play should improve next year, as he gets more comfortable with the new defensive scheme, not to mention the tutelage he will receive at the hands of the Chiefs’ new secondary coach, Hall of Fame cornerback Emmitt Thomas.
That brings us to inside linebacker Rolando McClain. McClain is a solid prospect with proven leadership skills, anchoring the championship Crimson Tide defensive squad. However, if the Chiefs intended on drafting an inside linebacker with a top five pick, Aaron Curry would have been the better option last year. This would have allowed Kansas City to go for a 3-4 end in this year’s draft with players like Derrick Morgan and Carlos Dunlap available this year.
Plus, as noted in a recent article by my fellow Chiefs columnist James Adkins, McClain closely compares to current Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who has been a disappointment since being drafted in the first round in 2005.
When all is said and done, Kansas City may not get exactly what they want, which would probably be to trade further down in the top 10. That doesn’t mean they won’t get someone they need, however. And the Chiefs find that in McClain. Having been without a true leader at the middle linebacker position since Mike Maslowski, McClain brings a strong, commanding presence to a young defense. And with his solid ability in run support and ball-hawking skills in space, McClain will be a three-down performer to improve the league’s 30th ranked defense.
What’s more, playing alongside McClain should elevate Johnson’s play as well. Johnson fell to the 15th pick overall due to concerns about his ability to rush the quarterback. Despite that, he spent the first few years playing at the outside position where generating a pass rush is essential.
Johnson has always performed best working in space, dropped back in coverage. This was best evidenced in his performance in the Chiefs’ season-ending shellacking of the Broncos, Johnson scoring twice on interceptions.
And McClain does bring a similar skill set—one that is especially valuable in the 3-4 defense. Johnson and McClain should build a quick rapport and regularly challenge one another. As the saying goes, nothing encourages improvement like competition.
So in this mock draft, Kansas City misses out on some of the best defensive talent in years. As the 2010 season kicks off, though, Chiefs fans shouldn’t have much to complain about once McClain takes the field.
Opposing offenses might, though, as the underneath coverage becomes one of the most dangerous places to play to in Kansas City.