Despite the Chiefs success in 2010, with their playoff appearance, they have a lot of issues at several positions. They are still early in their building process under GM Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley, and while they have made serious strides in the past two years, they have more work to do before they can be expected to compete at an elite level with teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Colts, and Ravens in the AFC.
The things that went right for the Chiefs in 2010 was the solid play of QB Matt Cassel, a strong running game helmed by Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, and Cassel hooked up numerous times with Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki. Up front, the additions of veterans like Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja solidified their front. Defensively, they were young but Romeo Crennel got solid production from them. Rookie safety Eric Berry had a strong first year. Corners Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are arguably the best pair of under-25 year old starters in the league at that position. Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are Pro Bowl-caliber linebackers and Glenn Dorsey is now emerging as a gamer.
All of these things in conjunction mean that the Chiefs are headed in the right direction. But they still have their issues at most of the other areas that were not named. I think the Chiefs will choose to address their needs up front on the offensive line by taking left tackle Anthony Castonzo out of Boston College with this pick.
Offensively, the Chiefs glaring issues is find a comrade to Bowe on the outside. When the Ravens took away Bowe and their ground attack in their playoff loss, the Chiefs were stuck with almost nothing to help move the ball. Dexter McCluster is an explosive talent, but he’s not a threat on the outside. They need to find another playmaker that can help stretch the field on the outside. That’s where a player like Torrey Smith would be a very good fit. Smith is a fast, explosive receiver that shined on the vertical routes at Maryland and would give them a second very good target on the outside to go along with Bowe.
They also need to get younger up front. Veterans like Weigmann and Brian Waters solidified their interior line, but both are on their last legs. They need a center badly to groom behind Wiegmann. While Mike Pouncey would be intriguing, he’s not quite a great fit because he really struggled this past season at that position and is a much better fit at guard. A year sitting behind Wiegmann could be an option with Pouncey, allowing him more time to develop, but the Chiefs can probably afford to wait until the middle rounds to address their need at this position.
Right tackle is another area of weakness, and the team has contemplated the idea of moving left tackle Branden Albert to that side of the ball where his size and run blocking ability will be better utilized. That will be dependent on them finding a solid left tackle first. They should have their choice between Anthony Castonzo and Nate Solder. Solder is probably the more athletic of the pair, but Castonzo is probably the more polished and NFL-ready.
Defensively, the Chiefs are still in the process of building their strong 3-4 defense. They sorely need to invest in a nose tackle, but at this juncture in the draft there isn’t a strong possibility. Someone like Baylor’s Phil Taylor has been moving up some boards, but taking him would likely only happen if the Chiefs traded down some spots. And while Taylor is arguably the best of the class, there are other quality nose tackle candidates later in the draft.
Defensive end is a strength of this year’s draft class, but the Chiefs are still hopeful Tyson Jackson can start to emerge this year, and Glenn Dorsey has been solid on the other side. Unless someone like J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan falls to this point in the draft, they’d likely pass. But they certainly will do their homework on Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson.
Linebacker is a concern when you consider that besides Johnson and Hali there isn’t a lot to like. Jovan Belcher is a decent starter, but Illinois’ Martez Wilson would be a clear upgrade, but may not slip this far in the draft. On the other side, Mike Vrabel is on his last legs, so they will certainly sniff around players like Akeem Ayers, Ryan Kerrigan, and Justin Houston.
The Chiefs certainly draft for need, but it remains to be seen which of their four main holes they likely see as their biggest need: wide receiver, left tackle, outside linebacker, or defensive end. It’s doubtful it’s defensive end, not unless they absolutely fall in love with Wilkerson. Linebacker is definitely a need, especially when you consider Hali is a free agent. But is the right fit there with someone like Houston or Ayers? Wide receiver is definitely a need, but Pioli tends to be a very conservative drafter, which means that he usually takes a lineman with their top selection. That likely means left tackle is the likeliest candidate. And Castonzo is probably the best bet among those potentially available.