The outlook on a season changes quite a bit in a month. At the start of December, I made my predictions for the Chiefs' 2012 NFL draft based on the thought that Kansas City had no shot a recovering their season.
I can't think of a time where I felt so good about being so wrong.
In an amazing turn of events, the Chiefs suddenly have a reasonable chance of making the playoffs; Kyle Orton infused some life into Kansas City's offense, and brought some much-needed excitement into a weary but loyal fanbase.
But for all the hope about the Chiefs this year, recent wins against Green Bay and Chicago changed Kansas City's draft prospects. Last month, Kansas City's record and upcoming schedule put them in line to potentially draft Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
That's not the case any longer, and it might not be a bad thing. The Chiefs instead face a tough decision between Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton headed into next year. That should also give rookie Ricky Stanzi more time to develop within the system, possibly into Kansas City's quarterback of the future.
The Chiefs are definitely focused on finishing strong this year. That shouldn't preclude them from finding premier talent to fill position gaps and improve their depth for 2012.
And with these projected draft picks, Kansas City would do just that.
Original Pick: Quarterback Robert Griffin III, Baylor
As much as I'd love to see Griffin playing for the Chiefs, there's no reasonable way he'll be available past the top 10 draft picks.
Scott Pioli would not pick a quarterback in the first round unless that player was an absolute can't-miss prospect. According to Michael Holley's War Room, Pioli believes a general manager's career becomes completely linked with a first-round quarterback's success or failure.
So with the Chiefs out of position for an elite quarterback prospect, they go for one of the top talents and address a key need all at once.
I would have picked an offensive tackle like Jonathan Martin a week ago, but someone tweeted this article on pass efficiency which listed Branden Albert as a top-10 blocker.
Albert also had a solid showing in run blocking last year, too. Just before the draft, I wrote about how the Chiefs should pass on drafting a replacement for Albert; part of my case was based on how greater than 50 percent of Kansas City's runs of greater than 10 yards went to the left side of the line.
That production plummeted this year, but the loss of Jamaal Charles and Brian Waters complicated matters.
The Chiefs will get Charles back next year, so the position to upgrade is left guard.
Ryan Lilja isn't a bad player; he's just not an All-Pro like Waters.
With that in mind, I'm going to agree with Matt Miller's mock draft and select Stanford's David DeCastro. DeCastro's big and agile, with sound fundamentals and a bit of a nasty streak. He should pair well with Albert and give Kansas City an interior line who can play together for the next decade.
Previous Pick: Offensive Guard Matt Reynolds, Stanford
Nothing's happened to change this pick yet. Reynolds continues to play well for Brigham Young, while Barry Richardson puts up performances like in the picture above.
Richardson is a free agent after this season; the Chiefs need not only an upgrade, but an actual replacement here.
With two more picks, Kansas City can complete a stellar offensive line that is young, talented and capable of running on all cylinders against any opponent.
Reynolds is the final piece for Kansas City's offensive line starters.
Original Pick: Inside Linebacker Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
Kansas City could use an upgrade over Javon Belcher, but this is a player that really impressed me recently.
Visiting family afforded me the chance to watch a college game I wouldn't normally care for, and the player who stood out beyond everyone else was Derek Wolfe.
Wolfe possesses good moves to beat his block and simply never stops moving. His drive to go after the ball reminds me of Tamba Hali.
Wolfe is listed as a defensive end, but has the size to play inside at nose tackle as well. Wolfe should quickly challenge for playing time, and would help field a team with considerable defensive line depth in the coming years.
Previous Pick: Offensive Tackle Mike Adams, Ohio State
The entire NFL has watched in wonder at what Rob Gronkowski's accomplished this season. The 6'6", 265-pound tight end displays amazing athleticism and power that redefines the term "mismatch."
Kansas City needs an overhaul at tight end, and George Bryan might be the guy to help that along. Considered one of the better blocking tight ends, Bryan also has 30 receptions on the year for over 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Having a tight end who can catch is important in Kansas City's offense; having one who can block is essential. Leonard Pope and Jake O'Connell haven't held up their end this year, each drawing more penalties than anyone else on the team.
A big body like Bryan could help solve that problem; the right coaching and development could give the Chiefs another receiving threat coming off the line.
Previous Pick: Defensive Back Tavon Wilson, Illinois
Another pick that hasn't changed, Tavon Wilson represents exactly the type of player Kansas City wants and needs on their team.
Tireless worker, team captain, selfless—each of these words accurately represent Wilson.
Wilson seems to get more quotes in the media than the rest of the team combined, and when he speaks he says all the right things. He moved to safety last year because of a lack of depth at the position, but possesses the skill to play corner as well.
Wilson will most likely play safety in the NFL, which plays right into Kansas City's need. Wilson would quickly enter the rotation and feel right at home with the Chiefs' other safeties.
Previous Pick: Tight End Michael Williams, Alabama
I'd like to project an inside linebacker here, since I've dropped Dont'a Hightower off my list. Plus, it seems that talented inside linebackers are still often found in the later rounds.
Two things prevented that, though. The first is a lack of any real mid-round standouts The second is my hope that D'Qwell Jackson will leave Cleveland for Kansas City at the end of the season.
That said, the Chiefs should stick with my original pick and grab a second big-bodied tight end to improve blocking and develop at least one of the two into a receiving threat.
Previous Pick: Running Back Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss
Another position I wanted to pick earlier was running back. Kansas City needs a solid one-two punch to make their rushing offense really work.
There just aren't many running backs this year big enough to handle Thomas Jones' bruising carries, though, so the Chiefs should sit and wait until the seventh round and draft a semi-known commodity.
Brandon Bolden and Dexter McCluster played together at Ole Miss with a similar concept in mind; Bolden handled the work between the tackles while McCluster slashed and burned his way on the outside.
The Chiefs would likely also go for a free agent as insurance, but Bolden should provide Kansas City another option in the running game, and at the price of a seventh-round pick he's well worth the selection.
Previous Pick: Safety Janzen Jackson, McNeese State
Could a college player who once faced armed robbery charges, failed multiple drug tests and was kicked off the team in Tennessee be one of Scott Pioli's "right 53"?
Janzen Jackson entered college as a highly sought-after safety prospect. He signed with Tennessee and played as part of a devastating safety tandem alongside Eric Berry.
Now Jackson plays for McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA. Jettisoned in late August this year, Jackson found himself instead playing for a Division I-AA school and his NFL draft hopes faded fast.
By the time all is said and done, Jackson might not be a good fit for Kansas City. The Chiefs might represent the best chance for saving Jackson's career, though.
The Chiefs already have a number of strong, positive personalities on defense, including Berry. Jackson might should find a steady, stable environment should the Chiefs decide to give him an opportunity.
And as I said before, if Jackson can solve the off-field problems, on the field will take care of itself. Jackson could have gone in the third round if not for these incidents. With Jackson and Tavon Wilson in the upcoming draft, Kansas City could have the deepest talent pool at safety in the entire NFL.