It is year three of the Scott Pioli project in Kansas City. Chiefs fans are starting to come around to the fact that Pioli is a pretty decent talent evaluator who loves to take chances on players in the late rounds.
Everyone knows Pioli's loves for late round quarterbacks, evidenced by Tom Brady and Matt Cassel, who he took in the 6th and 7th round respectively while in New England. However, Pioli is able drafts talented players who are not late round quarterbacks.
In Pioli’s first season with the Chiefs, 2009, it appeared that he had lost his talent for late round picks. Pioli’s only late round selection from that year who has contributed to the Chiefs is Ryan Succop.
Pioli did however pick up one undrafted player who has contributed greatly for the Chiefs. That player was Jovan Belcher, who contributed to both the special teams and defense in 2009 and was a starting ILB all season in 2010.
In last year’s draft, 2010, Pioli took Kendrick Lewis and Cameron Sheffield in the late rounds. Lewis went on to start most of the season and was a key contributor to the improvement of the young Chiefs secondary. Sheffield was looking to have a very promising role in the Chiefs defense until a neck injury in the preseason landed him on the injury reserve list for the rest of the season.
So who will Pioli find this year in the late rounds? Will it be another late round quarterback that turns out to be a gem? Will it be an outside linebacker? No one truly knows besides Pioli, but I have compiled a list of players that fit the traits that Pioli looks for in late round players.
Ricky Stanzi QB
The Chiefs will need to groom a young quarterback just in case Matt Cassel starts to take steps backward during his third season in Kansas City, and I fully expect them to select a QB during this draft.
At 6’4” and 230 lbs. Stanzi has ideal size for the position, has above average arm strength, and shows great leadership abilities. Stanzi has also been a three year starter for the Hawkeyes. Stanzi has been tutored by one of college football’s best coaches in Kirk Ferentz, who is best friends with Scott Pioli by the way.
While Stanzi might not blow you away with his physical tools, he is an intelligent quarterback with terrific accuracy and a high football IQ. Stanzi knows how to manage a game and understands the ins and outs of passing the football.
Stanzi showed improvement each season he played for the Hawkeyes, with a big spike in production his senior season. During Stanzi’s senior season he was able to show the ability to cut down on his INT ratio, largely due to smarter decision making.
Stanzi has the mental make-up, size and football IQ of a starting caliber quarterback. Stanzi possesses great leadership abilities, has improved accuracy and mechanics and has solid experience. Stanzi is ideal for a Pioli late round developmental quarterback.
Ricardo Lockette WR
A Division II prospect out of Fort Valley State, Ricardo Lockette possesses NFL talent that could have the Chiefs calling him on draft day. Lockette is an interesting prospect with elite speed and overall athleticism.
At 6’2” and 210 lbs. Lockette has the height and size of a prototypical NFL wide receiver, and with a 40-yard dash time of 4.27 seconds he cannot be overlooked. In college Lockette showed he possesses strong hands and the body control to make grabs away from his frame.
Lockette is stirring buzz in the late rounds of the draft because he’s a phenomenal athlete that could do some damage at the NFL level with some good coaching pushing him in the right direction.
If Lockette is able to prove he is not just a speed guy and improve his receiving and route running ability, he could be a great asset to lineup across from Dwayne Bowe.
Justin Trattou OLB
At some point during the 2011 NFL Draft the Chiefs should focus on adding depth and a pass rushing threat opposite of Tamba Hali. To address this position the Chiefs should select Justin Trattou, OLB, out of Florida.
Most would think that playing for one of the nation’s elite college programs like the Florida Gators would be a benefit entering the NFL draft. However playing with some of the finest talent around the nation can also cause good players to be overlooked. Trattou was one of those individuals that never got an opportunity as he was stuck behind Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham until his senior season.
Trattou showed patience, a hard work ethic and dedication behind Dunlap and Cunningham, and it paid off as he was name the team Caption of the Gators defense. Trattou capitalized on being the star during his senior year by delivering 57 tackles, ten tackles for a loss, two sacks and one interception.
Per Russ Lande of Sporting News, Trattou, “sniffs out plays, and gets started toward the ball quickly. Flashes ability to fill holes and take on lead blockers, shed blocks and make tackles. Reads screen passes well; gets outside quickly to disrupt the play. Shows the size and instincts to be good in coverage and on special teams.”
Orie Lemon ILB
Orie Lemon has done little to change his draft stock in the last month, but the need for a backup, and project player, at the ILB position still remains.
Lemon did not get on the field during his junior season because of a knee injury suffered in preseason camp. As a senior, he was quickly appointed as the Oklahoma State Cowboys' defensive leader, and despite any rust, he responded with a terrific season.
Lemon was named All-Big 12 First Team for the 2010 college football season as selected by the Big 12 coaches. Lemon was the first Cowboy linebacker since Greg Richmond in 2003 to be named first-team all-conference.
Lemon has a thick muscular build and possesses a good closing burst, fills hard and is powerful at the point of attack. Powell consistently leads with his shoulder, uses his hands to effectively shed blocks and delivers violent shots when tackling.
Lemon is a powerful linebacker that takes on blocks, sheds quickly and has the speed to hunt down ball carriers in the backfield. Lemon could easily come in and immediately be a two-down run specialist, with potential to develop into more.
Greg McElroy QB
Greg McElroy's leadership and experience earned him the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback job in 2009. During McElroy’s two years as a starter he demonstrated good ability to read coverage’s and make the right decisions.
McElroy scored a 48 out of a possible 50 on his Wonderlic test. A quarterback that smart should have an easy time picking up the pro game and reacting to much faster defenses.
McElroy is not overly athletically, but then again neither was or is Tom Brady. Brady was not selected until the sixth round and he has three SuperBowl’s with the Patriots.
McElroy is a tough quarterback who would fit right in with the Chiefs. McElroy’s mechanics are above average, but with Chiefs Quarterback Coach Jim Zorn, he could develop his accuracy and become a very solid quarterback.
McElroy’s football IQ and willingness to learn makes him a good candidate to become a great projected quarterback. McElroy's intelligence and game-management skills would be a definite step up from Brodie Croyle as the Chiefs primary backup quarterback.