NFL Combine 2011: 20 Offensive Players The Kansas City Chiefs Should Watch
The Kansas City Chiefs offense made great strides last season both through the air and on the ground. The Chiefs had the number one rushing attack in the league thanks almost solely to the work of All-Pro back Jamaal Charles. Running back Thomas Jones helped to keep some of the wear and tear off of Charles but at 33 years of age the Chiefs may want to look for a younger backup next season and one who can give the Chiefs more production.
In the passing game quarterback Matt Cassel showed a lot of improvement as he was selected to his first Pro Bowl and he showed that he has what it takes to help the Chiefs win games. Backup Brodie Cryole has not stayed healthy over the course of his career and when he has played he has failed to notch a victory so the Chiefs may be in the market for a new backup next season.
Dwayne Bowe finally came through for the Chiefs this season as the team's number one wide receiver, leading the league with 15 touchdown receptions but he was the only player the team could count on at the position this season. Rookie tight end Tony Moeaki appears to be the answer as Tony Gonzalez's successor so the Chiefs will most likely not draft another tight end this season.
The offensive line was improved this season but was still not a great unit and the age of the starters is a concern moving forward. Starting center Casey Wiegmann is pondering retirement while guards Brian Waters and Ryan Lilja are also entering the last stage of their career. Branden Albert showed improvement at left tackle last season but some believe the team should still move him to right tackle or to his more natural position of guard. The Chiefs appeared to have found good value in last year's draft when they selected Jon Asamoah in the third round and he should be a productive player at guard as early as next season.
The Chiefs will also look to upgrade the front seven on defense through the draft but the team will look to find a receiver or two in this draft, as well as some younger offensive lineman and potential backups at running back and quarterback.
Here are 20 offensive players the Chiefs should keep their eye on as the combine begins.
Delaware Quarterback Pat Devlin
If the Chiefs do draft a quarterback, it will be as a backup and it will be someone who the team will look to develop over time.
Devlin would be a great choice if the Chiefs can get him in the middle to late rounds of the draft. I would prefer to see the Chiefs take a quarterback in the fifth or seventh round (they do not have a sixth round pick) and by that time Devlin will most likely be gone, but if Kansas City feels there is no better fit on the board with one of their earlier picks than Devlin could be a good fit.
Devlin does not possess the arm strength of former Blue Hens quarterback Joe Flacco but he does appear to be a good leader and he was an honor student at Delaware, something that Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli will look at favorably.
Idaho Quarterback Nathan Enderle
Enderle is another potential quarterback for the Chiefs to look at in the middle to late rounds and someone who could develop into a valuable backup at the very least.
Enderle completed 56.7% of his passes for Idaho this season while throwing for 3,314 yards and 22 touchdowns. At 6'4" he has good size and decent mobility in the pocket, something the Chiefs would definitely enjoy having from their backup, instead of seeing Brodie Croyle as he leaves yet another game early.
Much like Devlin, Enderle does not have a rocket arm but he is capable of making all of the throws at the next level.
The 23-year old was a four-year starter and team captain in 2010.
Penn State Running Back Evan Royster
The Chiefs rushing attack was the best in the league this season, but that was on the shoulders of Jamaal Charles and anyone who watched the Chiefs on a regular basis knows that Thomas Jones had little to do with that.
Jones was nice to have on the team this season, mainly because he spared Charles some wear and tear and because he was a quality leader, but he will be 33 next season and the Chiefs could use more production from their No. 2 running back.
A runner like Royster could be just what the Chiefs need, he would not be counted on to get the bulk of the carries but he could come in and pick up some tough yards when needed.
Royster is an average receiver and he does not have great speed but he is a solid runner who would give the Chiefs another weapon and good value in the later rounds of the draft.
By all accounts he has a better attitude than the last big time running back to play at Arrowhead from Penn State.
Iowa Quarterback Ricky Stanzi
Pioli is good friends with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz so the Chiefs are often naturally linked to players from the Hawkeye State.
Last season offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga was a popular candidate to land in Kansas City and while the Chiefs wisely took Eric Berry instead, Stanzi could make some sense given the right price. Like Devlin and Enderle, Stanzi may be worth a shot in the mid to later rounds if the Chiefs are worried they will have no better options to back up Cassel.
Stanzi's numbers were impressive than Enderle's this season as he completed 64.1% of his passes while throwing 25 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions.
Stanzi has above average arm strength and perhaps his greatest asset is his abilities as a leader. He was also a team captain for the Hawkeyes this season.
Georgia Fullback Shaun Chapas
Tim Castille did an alright job as the Chiefs fullback this season but the team could use a new one and I believe Chapas will be high on the Kansas City target list.
The 6'2" 234 lb. lead blocker is about as good as they come in the intangibles depart; Chapas was a team captain in 2010, and he earned numerous team awards throughout his career at Georgia such as the coaches leadership award for special teams and the Leon Farmer Award for dedication to strength and conditioning. He also won the David Jacobs Award as the player who by example portrays courage, spirit, character and determination, as well as the True Grit Award in spring of 2010.
Chapas is a solid football player as well and he could contribute right away with his blocking and receiving skills.
Hawaii Running Back Alex Green
Green is a bit underrated as he comes from the pass-happy Hawaii offense, but don't let that fool you, this guy can play.
Green was the Jamaal Charles of college football this season, running 146 times for 1,199 yards (8.2 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns. Green also caught 27 passes for 363 yards this year and coming from the Warriors offense there is little question that he will be able to contribute in the passing game at the next level.
Green is not a burner but he does have solid speed and the ability to break tackles so he would be a nice compliment to Charles if the Chiefs decide to spend a pick on the running game in the middle rounds.
Indiana Wide Receiver Tandon Doss
The Chiefs have to find someone to play opposite of Bowe during this offseason and Doss may be the kind of player they are looking for.
At 6'2" 202 lbs., Doss has good size and the strong hands that the Chiefs have been lacking from their receiving corps in recent seasons.
Doss caught 63 passes for 706 yards and seven touchdowns for the Hoosiers this season. All indications are that Doss is a strong character guy and good teammate who was the first from his family to attend college.
Miami (FL) Wide Receiver Leonard Hankerson
Hankerson had a very productive season for the Hurricanes this past year and he has continued to rocket up draft charts with his strong postseason performances.
The 6'1" Hankerson appears to play bigger than his listed height and while he does not possess blazing top-end speed, he has more than enough speed to compete on Sunday's.
Hankerson is a legitimate big play threat when he gets in open space and he is the kind of receiver the Chiefs could use opposite of Bowe next season.
Boise State Wide Receiver Titus Young
Young is not the ideal candidate to be the Chiefs new No. 2 wide receiver but he would be an upgrade over what the team currently has and if Pioli can find himself another receiver through trade or free agency than Young would make a very nice target in the slot next season.
The 5'11" 174 lb. receiver caught 71 passes for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns this season for the Broncos.
Young is dangerous after the catch but so is Dexter McCluster and the Chiefs may feel they don't need two undersized receivers on the field at the same time. Another question mark surrounding Young is his 10-game suspension during the 2008 season for off-the-field problems.
There is no denying Young has plenty of talent but the question will be whether or not he is a good fit for the Chiefs come April.
San Diego State Wide Receiver Vincent Brown
Brown would be another solid pick at the receiver spot for the Chiefs if they choose to spend their second or third round pick on the position.
Brown had a very productive season this past year, catching 69 passes for 1,352 yards and 10 touchdowns at San Diego State. At 5'11" Brown does not have great height but he is thicker than Young as he weighs 184 lbs. Brown does not have blazing speed but his 19.6 yards per catch average is evidence that he can make the big play.
Brown would be a good addition to the Chiefs roster and he is someone who definitely bears watching at the combine.
North Carolina Wide Receiver Greg Little
Little was one of the many talented players at UNC to be suspended for the past season, but he is an unquestionable talent with the size to match.
At 6'3" 210 lbs., Little would look great lined up across from Bowe at Arrowhead, but there are big questions surrounding him because he was not on the field this season.
Little reportedly received improper benefits from an agent while he was at UNC, resulting in his season-long suspension. Little's draft stock was clearly hurt by the suspension but whoever does scoop him up will most likely be getting good value.
Little has very good hands and he is an above average blocker at the position, two traits that Pioli and Co. will look at favorably.
Mount Union Wide Receiver Cecil Shorts
Shorts played for Division III Mount Union, where the 5'11" 200 lb. wide receiver helped the school all the way to the National Championship before falling to Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Shorts put up some impressive numbers this season, catching 70 passes for 1,196 yards and 18 touchdowns.
He is projected to go in the middle rounds and although I would prefer the Chiefs get someone taller at receiver in the draft, Shorts is a player Kansas City will likely have their eye on during the combine.
Mississippi State Offensive Tackle Derek Sherrod
If the Chiefs decide to take an offensive lineman in the first round then Sherrod may be one of the players they are targeting. He lined up at right tackle during the start of his career and he has spent the last three seasons as the Bulldogs left tackle.
Kansas City could choose to keep Sherrod at left tackle and move Albert to right tackle or guard. Sherrod is known as a good leader and his strength lies in pass protection, although he is an effective run blocker as well who figures to only improve.
Pioli likes players from the SEC so that is another reason Sherrod could be a fit with the Chiefs first round pick.
Hawaii Wide Receiver Greg Salas
Salas put up huge numbers over the course of his career in Hawaii's pass-happy offense and he would be a great addition to the Chiefs receiving corps if they can land him in the middle rounds of this draft.
Salas will probably be a slot receiver in the NFL and the Chiefs could stick him there if they are able to find another receiver through free agency or trade, allowing McCluster to move to the fourth receiver and to special packages.
This past season Salas caught 119 passes for 1,889 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has sure hands and good size at 6'1" 206 lbs., but the question is how much of his success was a product of the offense he was in?
Salas is one of the more intriguing prospects to watch at this year's combine and definitely someone for the Chiefs to keep an eye on.
Connecticut Guard Zach Hurd
Most people figure that Asamoah is going to be a very productive guard for the Chiefs for years to come and I am among them, so now the team needs to find another guard it can plug in for years to come.
Uconn guard Zach Hurd would be a player that could be good down the line given some development, much in the same way that Asamoah was given this past season to adjust to the NFL lifestyle.
Hurd is not one of the higher rated offensive lineman, in fact he's ESPN's 13th ranked guard but I believe he could be a steal for the Chiefs if they are able to get him in the 7th round or maybe trade up or back into the 6th round to select him.
Hurd was a team captain for the Huskies and he made great improvements during his time at the school to quickly become an impact player in the trenches. Hurd is a hard-nose player who is at his best in a zone-blocking scheme and he is someone the Chiefs should consider in the later rounds.
Florida Center Mike Pouncey
Mike Pouncey's draft stock has clearly benefited from the play of his twin brother Maurkice, who as a rookie center this past season helped lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl and because he played so well many people are hoping his brother will be just as good.
Mike Pouncey is the top rated center in the draft and if Wiegmann decides to retire then the Chiefs will probably want to pick up a center in this draft.
If they go after Pouncey it will have to be with their first round selection, but there are many things to like about the 21-year old.
Pouncey is a strong character guy who has good awareness at a position where that is very important, he would make Cassel's job easier in recognizing blitzes and he is also a good blocker with adequate strength.
Clemson Offensive Tackle Chris Hairston
Hairston is another potential draft target for the Chiefs to watch at the combine and a player that will most likely be taken sometime in the third to fourth rounds.
Hairston is a big, strong kid who flourishes in run blocking while being an adequate pass blocker. He was the Tigers starting left tackle for the past two seasons but he could move to right tackle if selected by the Chiefs.
He has been a solid worker throughout his career without any character concerns and he would be an upgrade over the current starter Barry Richardson.
Florida Offensive Tackle Marcus Gilbert
The Gators offensive line had little to do with the struggles of the Florida offense this season as evidenced by the fact that another Gator finds himself on this combine watch list.
Gilbert is another potential third round target at the offensive tackle position and yet another hard worker with good character as his father is a retired secret service agent.
Gilbert could play at any position on the Chiefs offensive line but he would most likely be a fit at right tackle where he could use his long arms to fend off potential sack artists.
Gilbert has good size and plenty of upside which would make him an enticing pick for the Chiefs front office to keep an eye on this week.
Utah Center Zane Taylor
Taylor would add some beef to the offensive line that the team wasn't getting from undersized starter Casey Wiegmann last season and he is another intelligent guy who should be productive in the NFL given time to develop.
Taylor was the Utes starting center for the past three seasons and he could also play right guard for the Chiefs if they take a chance on him. He is not an elite blocker at this point in his career but he is effective and his best attribute is his effort and toughness, which shows that he should improve as his career moves along.
Arkansas Offensive Tackle DeMarcus Love
Love has experience at both right and left tackle which could make him a good fit for the Chiefs offensive line as they decide where to line guys up next season.
The 6'4" 318 lb. senior started at tackle the past two seasons for the Razorbacks, where he was at his best in pass protection. Love is also an adequate run blocker who can have a bit of a mean streak at times, something the Chiefs offensive line could use heading into the future.