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2011 NFL Draft: With the 21st Pick, the Kansas City Chiefs Select...

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2011 NFL Draft: With the 21st Pick, the Kansas City Chiefs Select...
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
The Chiefs 2010 first-round pick made the Pro Bowl

The Kansas City Chiefs approach the 2011 NFL Draft with needs at many positions. Depending on the position, those needs are driven by the need to improve talent, replace an aging veteran, fill a spot previously occupied by a player who is now an unsigned free agent, or a combination of some or all of those factors.
 
A year after landing Pro Bowl rookie Eric Berry in the first round, Scott Pioli and his scouts were able to find players who started at some point during 2010 with five of their remaining six selections. That is extremely impressive for a team that also turned around its losing ways, rebounding from a 4-12 2009 season to go 10-6, win the AFC West and make its first playoff appearance since 2006.

The Chiefs still have holes to fill at other positions, but they won't likely find five starters for 2011 in this year's draft. That said, you can fully expect the team to look for players in the first three rounds that it expects to play prominent roles in their run to repeat as division champs. Here are the Chiefs most pressing needs, and the players likely to be on the board when it's the Chiefs turn to pick at the 21st selection.

 

Wide Receiver

 Dwayne Bowe turned in an excellent season in 2010, but unfortunately for Chiefs fans, 2009 free agent pickup Chris Chambers didn't even come close to what he did prior to signing a contract extension before last season. Second-round pick Dexter McCluster was dynamic when he wasn't hobbled by injury, but his value is in playing the slot, not as the team's No. 2 receiver.

The Chiefs desperately need to find someone to stretch the field and take pressure off of Bowe and young tight end Tony Moeaki in the passing game.

Who will be available that the Chiefs may pick in round one?
1.
     Torrey Smith—Maryland
Smith is one of those guys you want to root for. He overcame a difficult childhood that resulted in him becoming the man of the house at age seven with six younger siblings. Character alone would make this guy a target for Pioli.

Throw in the fact that he's blazing fast, has great size (6'1" and 204 lbs), runs extremely well on short throws after the catch and blocks well in the running game, and coach Todd Haley would be licking his chops to get this kid on the field. He could be the surprise pick of the first round.
 

2.     Randall Cobb—Kentucky 
Cobb doesn't have elite speed but he runs excellent routes, isn't afraid to go across the middle despite his size (5'10" and 191 lbs), and his ability and tenacious blocking in the running game could mean that Chiefs rotation at wide receiver on running downs could finally come to an end.

Who will be available but won't be the Chiefs pick...
1.    Jonathan Baldwin—Pitt
 
He's had a tendency to drop balls, and his arrest for indecent assault in 2009 won't endear him to Pioli who wants good character guys.

 

Nose Tackle

 It was two years ago when new head coach Todd Haley declared that his team would move from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, and the team has struggled to find a player who could thrive at the nose tackle position.

Last season, veterans Ron Edwards, Shaun Smith and Anthony Toribio each saw their fair share of time at the position, with Edwards seeing the majority of the snaps. And when Edwards is your best option and only tallies 26 tackles, two sacks and hasn’t forced a fumble in seven years, you need an upgrade. Oh and did I mention that Edwards is a free agent?

Who could be available that the Chiefs may pick in round one?
1. Phil Taylor—Baylor
  
Taylor is enormous (6’3” and 334 lbs) and has the talent to become one of the most dominant nose tackles in the game. He plays the run very well, which would fill the exact need that the Chiefs have along their defensive line. However, questions abound about Taylor’s work ethic and lead most to believe that Pioli will ultimately pass on Taylor.

2. Stephen Paea—Oregon State

Despite what could be considered “smallish” size for a nose tackle prospect (6’1” and 303 lbs), Paea is ridiculously strong and is an anchor against double-teams in the running game. He broke the NFL Combine record with 49 bench presses of 225 lbs. Paea was a team captain in each of his final two seasons with the Beavers, something we know Pioli loves. And finally, if there was one word used to describe this guy’s motor, it would be relentless.

Who could be available but won't be the Chiefs pick...
1. Marvin Austin—North Carolina
  
Austin’s questionable work ethic and maturity issues resulted in being disciplined by his coaches in the past and his eventual dismissal from the team this season for improper dealings with an agent. Pioli won’t touch him. 


Outside Linebacker

 Like the situation at the nose tackle position, the Chiefs' 2010 starter at the position (Mike Vrabel) is an aging veteran who is a free agent heading into the 2011 season. The question is, how much faith does Pioli and the coaching staff have in backup Andy Studebaker and last year’s final draft pick Camerson Sheffield, who missed most of the season with a neck injury? 

Who could be available that the Chiefs may pick in round one?
1. Brooks Reed—Arizona
  
Reed is another team captain whose makeup will attract the Chiefs' personnel. Although he played defensive end in college, his size (6’2” and 263 lbs) and speed (4.65 - 40 yd dash) translate well into the 3-4 OLB he’d play for the Chiefs. He tackles well, is very good at rushing the passer, has the skills to drop back into zone pass coverage, and has long blonde locks and a motor that will remind Chiefs fans of the Packers' Clay Mathews.   

2. Akeem Ayers—UCLA  
Unlike Reed, Ayers played outside linebacker for the Bruins. Like Reed, he was a team captain and a good student without any off-field issues. Ayers is a very good pass-rusher but has trouble wrapping up at times against the run. 

Who could be available but won't be the Chiefs pick...
1. Bruce Carter—North Carolina
  
Carter was a solid producer for the Tar Heels, and has excellent speed sideline to sideline. However, he plays with a finesse style of play that leads to too many missed tackles, and would give Haley flashbacks to the type of player Derrick Johnson was when he lost his starting job.

 

Offensive Tackle

 Ever since the retirement of Willie Roaf, the Chiefs have had a need at offensive tackle. While many fans and draft experts keep saying the team needs to find a left tackle that will allow them to move Brandon Albert to the right side, there likely won’t be that type of player available who could start on day one on the left side. There are a couple of players however, that could step in as starters on the right side and perhaps develop into future left tackles. 

Who could be available that the Chiefs may pick in round one?
1. Nate Solder—Colorado  
Solder is regarded by many as having the highest upside of any of the tackle prospects. He played all 36 games of his college career at left tackle for the Buffaloes, and displays exceptional athleticism.

His size will remind many of former Chiefs left tackle John Alt (6’8” and 319 lbs), and he is considerably faster (4.96 – 40 yd dash) than most who play the position. Is the ideal candidate if the Chiefs want someone who could start on the right side and eventually replace Albert.

2. Gabe Carimi—Wisconsin  
If you’ve ever been to the upper Midwest during the winter, Carimi’s blocking skills in the running game will remind you of a Wisconsin snowplow. A four-year starter at left tackle for the Badgers, he’s not as accomplished a pass-blocker as Solder is, but he uses his massive frame (6’7” and 314 lbs) as perhaps the draft’s best  blocker in the rushing game.

Who could be available but won't be the Chiefs pick...
1. Marcus Gilbert—Florida
  
If you followed the Chiefs draft last year, you know the affinity Pioli showed for the SEC. Gilbert is huge (6’6” and 330 lbs) and while he can hold his own with his pass-blocking, he’s not the type of run-blocker that would pave the way for Jamaal Charles.  



So Who Will the Chiefs Pick?

With the exception of the tackles who will be available when the Chiefs pick, most of the others listed here could be available if the Chiefs are able to trade down a few picks, or even into the second round. Regardless, given Pioli's draft track record of not picking offensive linemen in the first round, I predict he'll stick to that M.O. in this draft as well.

If the Chiefs keep the pick… Reed. 
He is the best value at 21 and could step into Vrabel’s outside linebacker spot and start immediately, and in all likelihood Reed will put up much better numbers than Vrabel did last season. 

If the Chiefs trade down a few spots… Smith. 
The offense, including the offensive line, would benefit greatly from acquiring a receiver the caliber of Smith, who would step right in and start opposite Bowe. 

My sleeper pick… Paea.
The guy is simply a beast and with his motor, I can see him becoming a Chiefs fan favorite who will do his fair share of firing up the Arrowhead faithful on Sunday afternoons.  

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