As the future of the 2011 NFL season hangs in the air, the teams have more to focus on than just negotiations with the NFLPA. These teams will start shifting at least a portion of their attention to the NFL draft and offseason free agency.
After winning the AFC West last season, the Chiefs will be looking to use the draft to bolster a few of their weaker positions and fill the gaps that caused them to look out of place and unprepared against the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.
While the Chiefs remain a young team with a strong future, their weaknesses became glaringly obvious in that 30-7 loss to the Ravens. There are several issues that must be addressed through the draft or free agency.
With Tamba Hali locked in as the Chiefs’ franchise player, Kansas City has successfully hung onto the AFC sack leader for another season. The Chiefs will need another body to help out with the pass rush if they expect to bolster their defense.
To fill this gap, the Chiefs will look at a solid defensive end or linebacker in the draft. Several mock drafts have the team looking at Thomas Keiser out of Stanford in the fifth round of the draft. If the team looks for an outside linebacker, expect them to look for a player who specializes in pass defense to counteract Hali’s weak points and allow him to pass rush more.
To combat the defenses’ struggles late in the season against the run, the team will look for a nose tackle like Phil Taylor out of Baylor. If they choose to go with Taylor in the first round, the team would end up with a quick 300-pound tackle able to limit the opposing running game.
Taylor or no Taylor, this is a major need for the team. If this need is pushed to the back burner, they will watch their opponents run away again (literally) late in the season.
On the offensive side of the ball, one of the biggest needs for the Chiefs will be at the wide receiver position. With Dwayne Bowe’s improved play last year, the Chiefs were able to develop a passing game between Cassel and Bowe. Unfortunately, Chris Chambers, Kevin Curtis and Terrance Copper were unable to be effective, allowing the defense to concentrate most of their pass defense on Bowe.
The Chiefs will need another effective receiver to split the defense if they expect to advance past the Wild Card game. Having several targets for Cassel is vital for a successful season. Look for the Chiefs to take Vincent Brown out of San Diego State in the third round.
Another way to set up Cassel for success will be an improved offensive line. This is being looked at as the Chiefs’ biggest need by most experts. Several mock drafts have the Chiefs filling this hole in the first round with Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi out of the University of Wisconsin.
If the Chiefs select Carimi, they will be able to bolster an already effective running game, leaving opposing defenses unable to cover both the run and pass adequately.
Other, less vital, needs for the Chiefs lie in the halfback and center positions, as the Chiefs will be looking to replace aging players Thomas Jones and Casey Wiegmann in the next couple of years. The team may also look to improve their depth at quarterback after last season‘s lackluster performance from Brody Croyle.
If the Chiefs are able to fill these gaps, expect next season to be another successful one, proving the value of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley’s game plan.