Kansas City Chiefs 2011 NFL Draft Class Is Built To Battle the AFC West

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Kansas City Chiefs 2011 NFL Draft Class Is Built To Battle the AFC West
Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have their eyes set on beating the AFC West foes

This draft was different. 

The Kansas City Chiefs veered away from their "choir boy" label and selected playmakers with huge boom-or-bust potential.

General Manager Scott Pioli and company took a perceived "diva" with their first-round pick, Jonathan Baldwin. Third-round pick Justin Houston was caught with marijuana in his system at the NFL combine. Defensive end Allen Bailey would rather eat raccoon than possum, but doesn't mind either as his daily meal.

And nose tackle Jerrell Powe couldn't even read when he entered the NCAA.

Yes, this is an interesting group of players the Chiefs have chosen to become part of the "Right 53."

But each of them has the potential to become Day 1 contributors, and a guy like wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin could become the next physical freak superstar.

One thing stands out to me about this class: Scott Pioli had a vision of turning that 2-4 divisional record around and to not only dominate outside the division, but to make an impact in the division as well.

Let's begin with Jerrell Powe. Of course he fills a major need at the nose tackle position, and because this position is typically the anchor of the 3-4 defense, it was obvious at times in 2010 that the nose needed a major upgrade. For example, Knowshon Moreno, an average back at this point, gashed the Chiefs up the middle of the defense and achieved his first 100-plus yard rushing performance of his career against Kansas City.

Nose Tackle Jerrell Powe will have to fight for playing time along with veteran Ron Edwards

Not only did he do it in the 49-29 win in Denver, he did it again in Kansas City on December 5, this time averaging 7.0 yards per carry and racking up 161 rushing yards for his only 100-yard performances of the season.

The addition of Jerrell Powe and expected re-signing of Shaun Smith will help fill that void along the interior defensive line. Pioli wants to stop Moreno, and Darren McFadden while he's at it. 

Defensive end Allen Bailey, where does this guy fit? Although he weighs around 285 pounds his brute strength will likely find him along the defensive line more often than as a stand up outside linebacker. But with guys like Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Shaun Smith already owning the defensive end positions, Bailey will have to fight for playing time along with Wallace Gilberry.

That's the thing about this pick. Bailey will be paired with Gilberry during their 2-4-5 front as situational third-down pass rushers. Having more athletic lineman on third downs will be important considering the threat that Tim Tebow can become as a runner in certain situations. Having Bailey will also help when Oakland wants to pull out the good old McFadden draw play.

Now for the best value pick for Kansas City. Before the news broke that Houston was caught with marijuana in his system, he was considered late first, to early second round material. He led all linebackers in pressures on the quarterback in this draft class, and fits better in a 3-4 than as a 4-3 end.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The combination of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali could rival the combo of Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith

Houston has an explosive first step, that will actually give Tamba Hali some help on the other side of the defense.

The problem with Houston is that he isn't always running his motor 100 percent. He occasionally took plays off, and wasn't always the most reliable teammate at Georgia.

Yet he now steps into an atmosphere where football comes first, and winning is everything. Head coach Todd Haley won't take Houston lightly. He knows how to get the most out of his players. When a guy that compares to Terrell Suggs is on the board in the third round, you take that player and run.

With discipline he helped make Tamba Hali one of the most feared linebackers in the NFL, and Hali had more quarterback disruptions (95) than any other defensive player in 2010.

The combination of Hali and Houston could be lethal for any opposing quarterback. 

Now to the media perceived "diva."

Jonathan Baldwin was the perfect selection, and if anybody had their doubts, watch the Chiefs playoff game when Dwayne Bowe was shut down and Matt Cassel had no one to throw to.

Baldwin's prima donna attitude was overblown by the media, to put it lightly. Scott Pioli did his homework on this guy. He checked with Aliquippa, PA high school coaches. He checked with the janitor at Pitt.

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Most importantly he checked with Baldwin's college head coach Dave Wannstedt about Jonathan's off-field issues. "I know—I don’t think, I know—they’re going to be very pleased with Jonathan Baldwin the person," Wannstedt said to Nick Wright of 610 Sports Radio of Kansas City when asked about Baldwin's character. 

Now remember, this is the same coach who Baldwin "threw under the bus" and was accused of only calling "go" routes to actually hurt Baldwin's draft stock. Now maybe there's some truth to this.

Possibly Wannstedt realized that his all-star, record breaking running back Dion Lewis would be gone in 2011, and if Baldwin went pro after his junior season, he would no longer have any weapons on his offense. Therefore, if he could plummet Baldwin's draft stock by not allowing him to run intermediate routes, maybe he could persuade his all-star receiver to stay one more year.

"Some inexperience at some positions, and there was a little bit of frustration. I think people magnified that whole situation. But, Jonathan, he’s never been a problem from a practice standpoint. You’ll see when he gets there, this guy is a ball player. He is a big play guy and he can win games for you by himself," Wannstedt said.

Apparently all is forgiven, and Wannstedt has no hard feelings on Baldwin.

This guy is going to be a playmaker. Teams can no longer double team Bowe, or stack the box on Jamaal Charles. If the Chiefs see a size mismatch you better believe Todd Haley will attack a corner with less the appealing measurables. Also if Champ Bailey can get his hands on Bowe again this year, you better believe Matt Cassel will be targeting Baldwin on the other side.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The Chiefs now have their own version of Vincent Jackson

Any way you want to look at it, this offense is going to be explosive, even with their so-so quarterback.

And if Baldwin gets out of line, Todd Haley will be on hand to get this guy's mind right. Haley improved Larry Fitzgerald's career, Keyshawn Johnson's career, Dwayne Bowe's career and even Terrell Owens'.

In conclusion, this 2011 Chiefs draft class was fantastic. I didn't even touch on the perfect system fit selection of Rodney Hudson, or the depth/future pick of Ricky Stanzi in the fifth. Scott Pioli hit a home run again, and this time the AFC West will be facing an even better Chiefs team, because the winner of this year's division will more than likely be won inside the divisional battles. 

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