>\n\nWorst to First: 5. Kansas City Chiefs \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 5. Kansas City Chiefs

Written by Ben Morgan on 02/23/2010

After another tough season in Kansas City yet again they're picking early. Not as early as last year, but then again, if you're going to blow an early pick on a space eater, maybe that's a good thing. Matt Cassel didn't bring the instant success many hoped for but on the bright side, they have gotten shot of perrennial problem child Larry Johnson and found someone better. Jamaal Charles. In fact the overall improvement of the Chiefs offense down the stretch was huge. But when you start from such a humble position, a small improvement looks mountainous. You can't describe 259 yards rushing in week 17 as anything other than mountainous though. It's not all good of course. There's still major headaches amongst the WR corps and Cassel is not Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning can make a guy like Pierre Garcon look like Anquan Boldin. So you're going to need to surround Cassel with better talent for him to succeed. That must start this offseason, if not the Chiefs are going to be picking at the head of the draft again next year. So let's take a look at what's happening in the Mid West, what needs to improve and who they should be looking at in the draft and a little bit of free agency.
2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Andy Alleman OG (Colts, UFA-cut), Sean Ryan TE (Redskins, UFA), Wade Smith OG (Texans, UFA) Thomas Jones RB (Jets, UFA-cut), Ryan Lilja OG (Colts, UFA-cut), Shaun Smith DT (Bengals,RFA), Jerheme Urban WR (Cardinals,RFA), Casey Weigmann C (Broncos, UFA-cut)
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Thomas Gafford C (RFA), Rudy Niswanger C (RFA-CBA), Jarrad Page FS (RFA-CBA), Corey Mays ILB (RFA-CBA), Brodie Croyle QB (RFA-CBA), Ryan O'Callaghan T (RFA-CBA), Mike Vrabel OLB (UFA), Mike Brown SS (UFA), Bobby Wade WR (UFA), Mike Goff OG (UFA-cut), Devard Darling WR (UFA-cut), Dantrell Savage RB (UFA-cut) Brandon Carr DB (RFA), Jamaal Charles RB (RFA), Brad Cottam TE (RFA), Travis Daniels DB (UFA), Ron Edwards DL (UFA), Wallace Gilberry DL (RFA), Tamba Hali OLB (UFA), DaJuan Morgan S (RFA),
Quarterbacks Minimal Need
Love him, hate him. or more likely being indifferent to him, Matt Cassel will be the starting QB in Kansas City for this year at least. Though a big option bonus due to him in 2011 may mean he has to perform this year or else. It's not like Cassel was appalling in 2009 either. I mean by no stretch could you call him good. Or even above average. But given the struggles of everyone on this team finishing up 16/16 in TD/INT could be a lot worse. So there's some reason to hope there. Especially with Charlie Weis coming in to run the Offense. That should make Cassel a lot happier but he's got to win some games in 2010 or there will be a twofold problem for him. 1) His big option bonus and 2) the Chiefs will be picking early enough to grab a top QB in the draft (who right now could be Mallett or Locker). Underneath Cassel is Brodie Croyle who's a restricted free agent thanks to the lack of a CBA. As a former 3rd round pick, even the lowest tender should be enough to scare off any potential suitors. Croyle has never really done much in the league but he could be a decent backup and they're short on other options. Matt Gutierrez rounds out the roster. He's a former Patriot and so could be a useful #3 guy under Weis. He's upgradeable though so if the right guy is there late on in the draft I wouldn't count the Chiefs out. This is Minimal need at worst for 2010 at least.

Runningbacks No Need
Wow, what a finish to the season Jamaal Charles came up with. 4 Consecutive 100 yard games culminating in a 259 yard Monsterpiece at Denver. Charles can be some impact player in this league. But to me that's what he is, although he did incredible work with over 20 touches per game for the last half of the season I'm not convinced he can handle that level of work for 16 games in a season. Having said that Charles does garner legitimate comparisons to the Titans Chris Johnson, who handled that workload manfully in 2009. Though it remains to be seen what effect a 400 touch season will have on Johnson in 2010, I believe the Chiefs would be well advised to pick up a bigger back to take some of the work off Charles' shoulders between the tackles if they want him to play for more than a couple of NFL seasons at that level. Kolby Smith should be back for training camp but he's probably on the bubble having suffered with injuries and a lack of big plays in his career so far. Hoping Javarris Williams improves in his sophomore year is a risk, but he has nice size and to be fair stepping up to the NFL from Tennessee State is a big leap. Dantrell Savage is mostly a returner type and Jackie Battle is a former Youtube wunderkind who hasn't done anything as a pro. This is going to be a crowded position at training camp but with virtually no depth behind Charles. Most of the current backups are some kind of free agent but all should be back if the Chiefs want. But at the very least the Chiefs need to find a second runner as a backup. I, personally would be looking for a viable guy to take 5-10 carries a game away from Charles, so I'm listing this as a Minor need. You have your star RB in Charles but RBs need some help from the guys on the pine. At least one beat reporter has mentioned LaDanian Tomlinson as an option. He could be a good fit but he's nothing like the player he was and his ability receiving out of the backfield might actually be a detriment to Charles' game. There's nothing out there in terms of unrestricted guys, except possibly Willie Parker? A shame Le'Ron McClain is restricted. Getting Charles off the field on short yardage and goal line situations would be great for everyone except Jamaal's fantasy owners. UPDATE: The addition of Thomas Jones is just what the doctor ordered, there's really no need for any RB in the draft now. Oh and Dantrell Savage was cut to make room.

Wide Receivers Minor Need
With Chris Chambers a free agent, as things stand this a Major Need. To make matters worse Bobby Wade is unrestricted too. That's before we even get to the maddening up and downer that is Dwayne Bowe. In 2008 despite spotty QB play and not much else on offense Bowe put up the kind of numbers his talent has always hinted at. With a new QB in place 2009 was a massive, suspension interrupted disappointment. We all know he has talent, we all know he could be an elite WR. It just seems that the biggest thing stopping that happening, is himself. I question if Bowe can be a #1 receiver at this point, or if his great 2008 was down in no small part to Tony Gonzalez meaning less attention for Bowe. Underneath it makes for pretty stark reading. Devard Darling is due $2m that could be better spent elsewhere following a season on IR (UPDATE: Darling got cut), Quinten Lawrence, Lance Long, Chandler Williams could be summarised as Who? Who? And who? They're all young and one of them may develop (Long has the inside track right now) but this corps is seriously lacking a veteran presence to bring some maturity. Bowe may be a vet and a fabulous athlete but his suspension highlights he's not the guy these young WRs are going to be looking up to. They could sure use Chris Chambers back but in a real down year for unrestricted free agents and an uncapped season to boot, if his agent let's him sign another deal with the Chiefs he should fire him immediately. So where do the Chiefs go? Do they wave a small fortune at Chris Chambers? Do they contemplate using their #1 on a guy like Dez Bryant? A second rounder on a lesser talent? WRs notoriously take time to develop in this league, except for the classy route runners but those guys are so few and far between straight out of college and typically don't have huge upside. If they want Cassell to succeed they have to give him better targets. If that means taking a run at a guy like T.O. would they do it? It's hard to say. Pioli of course was only too happy to bring in Randy Moss to the Patriots. Moss may be a malcontent but he's certainly no Terrell Owens. Could he look at that model again though? Moss and Welker turned the Pats passing game from efficient to explosive. Could Terrell Owens and Jordan Shipley have a similar effect for the Chiefs? Can Dwayne Bowe finally reach his promise and deliver that Moss type of guy? Either way I feel like the Chiefs could do a lot worse that look long and hard at Jordan Shipley with Atlanta's second rounder or their own 3rd rounder. UPDATE: Chris Chambers was re-signed, reducing this to a Minor Need.

Tight Ends Minor Need
Leonard Pope has great size but has disappointed in his career so far. He's a free agent as well. If he's offered a new deal may be dependent on the prognosis of Brad Cottam's neck injury. Pope's not a good blocker but is a half decent receiver, Cottam doesn't really seem to do anything but block. Cottam has only been in the league 2 seasons though and he looks almost like a Tackle out there rather than a TE. Jake O'Connell, a rookie 7th rounder contributed 2 catches for 7 yards. These 3 guys combined for a "stellar" 31 receptions for 301 yards. This on a team that's used to seeing Gonzo better that in 3 or 4 games. Gonzo probably would've beaten out the 1 total TD these guys managed too. But with Todd Haley and Charlie Weis, is the TE position going to be used much anyway? In New England the TEs caught a lot of TDs (plenty even went to current Chief Mike Vrabel, showing up in the goal line sets) but didn't reel in anything like the yardage of the Gonzo-led Chiefs. Of course this never stopped Pioli picking a TE up seemingly every year in the draft either. So a TE is a distinct possiblity, especially with some good talent there this year and an extra second round pick (courtesy of that Gonzo trade). If this were the pre-Haley Chiefs this would be a clear Major Need slot. In light of a seemingly reduced emphasis on the TE position, I'm only comfortable calling it a Minor Need. At this point I'm not really sure what led to the de-emphasis. A change in system or the massive drop-off in talent at the position from Gonzalez to Pope.

Offensive Line Major Need
There's no escaping the fact that 2008 first round pick Branden Albert had a down year after a rookie year which showed a lot of promise. He lost a lot of weight to play last year and adjusting to what is essentially a different body type was always going to take time. The bad news? 9 sacks alowed and 8 penalties given up. The good news? The last few games of the season Albert and the rest of the Chiefs line stepped up big time opening holes for Jamaal Charles and protecting Cassell much better. So there's still cause for hope. That won't however, stop the rumours flying around that the Chiefs will draft Russell Okung at #5 and shift Albert to RT or inside to LG. Being a college Guard Albert may be better suited inside anyway. How much of this is smokescreen or not we'll probably have to wait til April to see. Mike Goff was a vaunted free agent Guard in from San Diego. He pretty much phone in the season up to going on IR. Very doubtful he'll be back. So if the Chiefs can shift Albert inside that would solve a problem. Brian Waters is still probably their best player on the OL, there's some whispers of a move to Center to replace the guy with the best name in Football, Rudy Niswanger. Niswanger's a restricted free agent but may not be tendered. Waters is however 33. Not ancient in OL terms but old enough to wonder how long he'll continue to play at the high level he's been known for. RT Ryan O'Callaghan proved a very good pickup and was instrumental in the Chiefs OL's good finish to the season. I've seen people suggest Branden Albert may get shifted to RT. Unless they think O'Callaghan would be even better inside I don't see it. So where does that leave the Chiefs? Well, one way or another they have 3 good starters lined up for opening day. Brian Waters (whether at G or C), Branden Albert (whether at RT or G) and O'Callaghan (RT or G). So they could be in real need of a Center and a Left Tackle. Or a Guard and a Left Tackle. It's something to build on but it does mean the Chiefs are going to have to look hard, very hard, at the likes of Okung in round 1, any of the LT prospects left in round 2, Mike Iupati in round 2 and Maurkice Pouncey at their second pick in round 2. How this plays out will depend a lot on what's in the Chiefs coach's heads regarding who can play where. I'm no mindreader but suffice to say, OL, despite a very promising end to the season, is still a Major Need. Worst comes to the worst though, they could roll with the unit that finished the season and address their D and receivers on Day 1. UPDATE: The Chiefs have lost Andy Allemann but gained Ryan Lilja and Casey Weigmann. Both should help improve the Offensive Line, but this is still a position of need. Just not quite as urgent as it was before.

Defensive Tackles Major Need
The key to running a good 3-4 Defense is a really good Nose Tackle. Baltimore has Ngata, Pittsburgh has (currently) Casey Hampton, Cowboys have Jay Ratliff. The Chiefs have Ron Edwards. This is a major need. It wouldn't surprise me for the Chiefs to make a run at one of the free agent NTs (assuming any are left unfranchised). They really need help immediately. There are several NT types in the draft as well though. Terrence Cody's stock is falling because his weight isn'tso he may be around in round 2 for the Chiefs. Dan Williams may just slide into round 2 as well. So all is not lost but I felt last year the Chiefs made a mistake by switching to the 3-4. It's become fashionable because of teams like Dallas, Pittsburgh and Baltimore but unless you have the players to play it, you're better off sticking with a 4-3. Contrast Green Bay with KC and Denver. Green Bay had a few guys who fitted in well along the DL. KC did not, Denver did not. Despite an electric start to the season it became clear at the midpoint the Broncos were playing on confidence. Once the confidence went, their deficiencies on the DL were there for all to see. To the Broncos credit though, at least their deficiencies didn't become obvious til mid season. KC's were there for all to see around half time in Week 1. Still, find that stellar NT and you can start to make major progress quickly. First you stop the run, then you rush the passer, then you make plays in the seconday. Converting to the 3-4 is still very much a work in progress and is going to require a fair few more pieces to the puzzle yet. If they can swing an extra pick by trading Glenn Dorsey they should pull the trigger. So many holes to fill and they don't need a guy who just doesn't fit the scheme. UPDATE: Chiefs signed Shaun Smith who looks like a Nose Tackle. But in a good year for NTs this should still be something they look to in the draft as well. Smith's not exactly been a world beater this far in his career.

Defensive Ends Minor Need
Having spent 2 early picks on DE last year and having 2 early first rounders currently occupying the starting slots, this shouldn't be a position of need at all. However, starter Glenn Dorsey is a duck out of water in the 3-4 as a DE. He's far better suited to playing DT in a 4-3 front. I think the Chiefs may look to shop him somewhere for a draft pick. Though obviously it won't be a pick as high as the one the Chiefs used on him in the first place. I think he could still have a nice career. It's just not going to be in Kansas unless he can suddenly put on 30lbs and play NT. Even without Dorsey the Chiefs have last year's #3 overall, Tyson Jackson and fellow sophomore player Alex Magee are physically at least, perfect for the position. Neither did anything of note individually in 2009 but 3-4 DEs are not stat monsters or impact players (which is why using the #3 overall on one is a waste!). They occupy blockers and free up the LBs to make tackles at or behind the line. Given the Chiefs pretty woeful run defense and lack of sacks, it's pretty easy to say these guys are still works in progress. But that's not bad, switching to 3-4DE takes time. Some of the best proponents of it in the league played 2 or even 3 seasons before earning a starting slot. Jackson was thrown in from day 1 and... well he survived. He'll improve in 2010 and so should Alex Magee. There's not much underneath them though. Finding a project kid on day 2 would be nice but with other needs around this is one they're going to have to trust that their 2009 investment matures. Wallace Gilberry, yet another rook, was a pleasant surprise leading all Chiefs DLmen with 4.5 sacks. He's going to give them a nice guy to put in on passing downs on a 4 man front but he's not really going to help so much in the 3 man fronts. Perhaps they could throw him in as a rush OLB a times? Kid has some talent. NOTE: Edited 03/03/2010 Need down to Minor. My mistake for listing it as a Major. And it's realistically only Minor if they ship Glenn Dorsey or move him to NT. They've already made their investment at DE but depth could stand an upgrade. Worth adding here as well that there's a couple of the Steelers depth guys, Nick Eason and Travis Kirschke on the free agent pile this year. Kirschke is old but started plenty of times the last 2 years for the Steelers. Eason has stepped in on occasion and made some good plays too. Either would be an upgrade over Magee right now as a stopgap.

Linebackers Major Need
Well where do we start here? Former first round pick Tamba Hali seems a good place. For all I said about the various holdovers not fitting the 3-4, Hali is one guy who definitely does. He struggled at DE in the 4-3 but it seems he's taken to taking his hand off the ground with aplomb. 8+ sacks is not great for a 3-4OLB but given how few 3rd and long situations the Chiefs forced last year it's pretty exceptional. There's genuine reason for optimism for Hali. The OLB situation in general though is very worrying. Mike Vrabel didn't do an awful lot of getting to the QB last year and he's a free agent. They could do worse than bringing him back, he's 34 and definitely on the downside of his career but there's not really anyone else than former Division III guy Andy Studebaker. Of interest to the Chiefs should be soon to be released Joey Porter as well. He's nothing more than a stopgap but can still provide some rush (more than Vrabel) and 3-4OLB is not usually a position you can throw in a rookie and get success. Picking up a vet at OLB in addition to a draft pick or two (Hali is a free agent in 2011 after all) would be advisable. Looking inside, the rest of the LB corps needs a lot of work. Derrick Johnson is a playmaker but he spent more time in the doghouse than the starting lineup and unless he picks it up he may not even make the roster in 2010 as he's a restricted free agent. The tender amount required as a qualifying offer may scare off the Chiefs, when you factor in that he's not Haley's guy as well.... When your DL is not keeping blockers off your ILBs they're going to struggle, whoever they are. Starting duo Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays are ok but frankly both of them would make for better depth than starting. Both can make their tackles but they lack the ability to produce much in the way of impact plays and either could be upgraded. ILBs are typically under-rated in the draft so picking up a rookie who could start, even outside of Day 1, might not be out of the question. Another former Steelers LB, Larry Foote, could be an option as a 2 down guy inside in the 3-4. He's a free agent this year too, brings experience and 2 SB rings. This is clearly a Major Need both inside and out, a much better DL could make the current guys look a whole lot better but at some point they're going to have to improve at LB too.

Cornerbacks Minimal Need
I'm a big fan of Brandon Flowers. On a team with a better pass rush I think he could be a Pro Bowler. I mean a proper Probowler too, not just the 15th choice guy who gets a ticket to Hawaii because 12 other guys couldn't be bothered to play. There's no issue with Flowers, sure he's not the biggest guy but he plays a lot bigger than he is. On the other side the other Brandon has some real promise too. Now Carr does have great size and being from Grand Valley State he's made remarkable progress. Hopefully he can continue to progress in year 3. He broke up a lot of passes this year. While it might be nice if he could intercept a few more of those, considering the Chiefs laundry list of needs Cornerback is probably not something that's going to be addressed on Day 1. Unless there's some unbelievable value there anyway. Adding to your depth is always nice, the Chiefs are not as deep as you'd like for sure, but they have a very young secondary, Maurice Leggett (also a small schooler) and last year's 4th round pick Donald Washington will hopefully improve as well. Washington is intriguing, incredibly fast and with almost prototypical size for the position. He's more your long term project type though but should he develop, well he has starting potential. The Cheifs would be well advised to seek out a veteran guy to steady the ship a bit as a nickel back in 2010. But in the draft? CB's a position you could, and maybe should, pick up a project on Day 2 every year, I doubt the Chiefs look earlier.

Safeties Major Need
Jarrad Page hasn't developed as you'd hope. Mike Brown is a free agent. There's not a hell of a lot underneath. So how would the Chiefs feel about an Eric Berry? Well, they're bound to look around the NFL, see what Polamalu does in Pittsburgh and what Ed Reed does in Baltimore and think he could be the guy for them in round 1. Without question Berry is one of the Top 5 overall prospects in this draft but Safety is a position that has typically been undervalued in the draft. A Safety at #5? There's a good chance Berry could be on a richer contract without having played a down in the NFL than either of Polamalu or Reed! That seems crazy but there is no doubt a top drawer safety can allow your D to do things you just can't do without one. He can be your biggest playmaker and your best player on Defense. There are other big needs of course and if Mike Brown can be brought back that would help a lot. But Berry might just be too much to pass up. If they can somehow address their needs elsewhere on D (NT and LB) as well he could make a genuine impact as a rookie. He's tempting alright. The only question? Is a rookie safety worth the sort of contract usually paid out to Left Tackles, Pass Rushing Defensive Ends and Quarterbacks? The head says Okung, the heart says Berry at #5. Sidebar your honour: Chiefs cast off Bernard Pollard left and became a difference maker down in Texas. These are the sort of personnel decisions the Chiefs, with precious little talent on board, can afford.

Specialists No Need
Dustin Colquitt is young and a very good punter. Consistently lands the ball inside the 20 and doesn't over cook many into the endzone. He took a big step up last year. He should be a Chief for many years to come. Ditto Ryan Succop who had an excellent rookie year. Perfect from inside 40 and only 1 miss inside 50. From a rookie kicker you can't ask too much more than that. The specialist positions should be sewn up for some years to come.

Return Game Minor Need
Jamaal Charles is a good kick off returner. But if the Chiefs are serious about giving him 300+ touches out of the backfield they can't expect him to handle return duties as well. No-one else tried last season did anything at all. This is something that needs to be addressed. Maybe they can find a WR who they can use on returns like Eddie Royal for the Broncos or DeSean Jackson for the Eagles? A slot type guy who runs great routes and can return kicks as well. Maybe they're just going to have to trawl around and see what they can find in terms of a specialist. Field position last year was pretty awful if you take out Charles' returns. The Offense needs all the help it can get.

Dream Day One

   
 1.5 Eric Berry S Tennessee 2.37 Charles Brown OT USC
 2.50 Terrence Cody NT Alabama
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2.50 Terrence Cody NT Alabama

Last Edited: 02/10/2010




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