>\n\nWorst to First: 3. Kansas City Chiefs \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 3. Kansas City Chiefs

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/07/2009

For so many years the Kansas City Chiefs were the nearly team. Year after year they nearly made the playoffs. This year they nearly finished last. Despite what some stats may say, to my mind, the Chiefs had the worst defense in the league last year. Not talentwise necessarily, and perhaps not even statwise. No, the Chiefs had the worst Defense because they were everything any NFL fans dread. They were quitters. They couldn't tackle if their lives depended on it and for much of the season they just didn't seem to have too much heart. I'd have hated to be a Chiefs fan last year. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for them but it was hard to like them much last year. If the Defense had played with even half the heart and guile as Tyler Thigpen did, well they might not be picking in the top 10 let alone at number 3. Which makes it so surprising that the Chiefs would essentially give up on their one piece of success last year, Thigpen, so quickly. We're expecting to see an influence from Todd Haley so expect some sort of Cardinals style offense. On the Defensive side they're moving to a 3-4 Defense if reports are to be believed. That's the current fashion. What's worrying for the Chiefs is how few teams outside of Pittsburgh have made the 3-4 a genuine success in the modern era. Baltimore made it work too of course but I'd argue they were even better with the same players in a 4-3 alignment. This is a big risk and bearing in mind they don't have the personnel to run it yet, this draft needs to be huge for KC. With the right choices and the right coaching though this is a team I think can have a dramatic turnaround in 2009. Every year some team comes from nowhere to make the playoffs. That's assuming they make the right choices of course and for my money switching to a 3-4 and giving up on Thigpen for a precious second round pick wouldn't be what I was necessarily thinking.

Here's the skinny.

2009 Free Agent Losses
2009 Free Agent additions
Patrick Thomas LB (Buffalo, UFA), Damon Huard QB (49ers, cut)
Mike Vrabel LB (Patriots, via trade), Darrell Robertson (Patriots), Mike Goff G (Chargers), Monty Biesel LB (Cardinals), Terrance Copper WR (Ravens), Travis Daniels CB (Browns), Bobby Engram WR (Seahwaks), C.J. Jones WR (Patriots), Corey Mays LB (Bengals)
2009 Unsigned Free Agents
2010 Potential Free Agents
Jason Babin DE (UFA), Rocky Boiman LB (UFA), Oliver Celestin S (UFA), Quinn Gray QB (cut), Donnie Edwards LB (cut), Adrian Jones OG (UFA), Patrick Surtain CB (cut)
Matt Cassell QB, Derrick Johnson LB, Brodie Croyle QB, Mark Bradley WR, Mike Vrabel LB, Jarrad Page S (2009 RFA), Jeff Webb WR (2009 RFA), Bernard Pollard S, Rusy Niswanger (2009 RFA)

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks No Need

Tyler Thigpen surprised pretty much everyone last year. He showed a ton of heart and some ability to win games by himself. Even so the Chiefs chose to trade a precious second rounder to the Pats for Matt Cassell. Cassell is a definite upgrade but I thought Thigpen had done enough to warrant being handed the keys for 2009 at least. With switching to a 3-4 I don't think losing the second rounder was a smart move but what's done is done. Cassell will start, Thigpen should be a capable backup. Brodie Croyle's still there too, you probably needed reminding of that after his utterly forgettable run as starter. Technically Cassell is due to be a free agent in 2010 but that's only because they haven't got round to giving him a long term deal yet. That should happen before Training Camp.

Runningbacks Minimal Need

This could be an interesting year for Chiefs RBs. With Todd Haley coming to town it's unlikely Larry Johnson will be asked to carry the rock 400+ times again. That is if Haley brings his offense without any changes. For me, I'm not sure how much of LJ's slide in numbers is down to that stellar line he once had going their separate ways and how much is down to that 400 carry season. It's tough to tell but given his off field antics and a possible move away from the running game trading LJ might not be the worst idea in KC. LJ had his injury problems last year but he still managed a very serviceable 4.5ypc. The interesting thing will be if they're not going to use a RB all that much the 5.3ypc and 27 receptions Jamaal Charles got in relief last year looks pretty inviting if you can get something in return for Johnson. The Chiefs really do IMO need to get back into the Second Round. LJ is unlikely to bring that sort of offer in of himself but he may get them a trade up from their early 3rd rounder if they can find a willing dance partner out there for a 29 year old RB. Doubtful but there is always the chance the new coach makes an example of him and just outright cuts him too. Having won their arbitration the Chiefs would no longer be on the hook for money that was previously guaranteed in LJ's contract. That means the cap pain of cutting him is significantly lessened. If they can't swing a trade for him I'd expect them to just cut him. Until then though, I'm going to stick with Minimal Need here based on current personnel and Haley's history of not calling many running plays. A little more depth would be nice, Battle and Kolby Smith haven't really panned out but anything more than a late rounder is probably uncalled for.

Wide Receivers
Minor Need

You know, this is a tough one to call. How good is Mark Bradley? How much was him, how much was the system. Dwayne Bowe could be a star and at the very least Bradley seems like he could be a possession type of guy. It's interesting to see with Todd Haley coming in, Bowe is not Larry Fitzgerald but he can make some of those catches. Bradley, well he could be a poor man's Anquan Boldin. He seems to run good routes, plays disciplined and doesn't seem to let much get away from him. Bobby Engram's come in, he's ancient in NFL terms but he provides some much needed veteran leadership to a young group and also he's still a pretty good slot guy. Terrance Copper could be an intriguing one, he's never really caught on anywhere but he does have speed. I think this is still a Need position. WRs typically take a couple of years, sometimes more to develop so any WR you pick today you probably won't see the best of until Bobby Engram is long gone from Arrowhead. They could do a lot worse than spend a pick on a WR but I have a feeeling it won't be until at least round 4. Bowe/Bradley/Engram are not Fitz/Boldin/Breatson but oddly I can see these guys working out well in Haley's system. There's enough similarites at least to see what they can do this year before moving on. The one thing to note is Bradley is a free agent in 2010. That might factor into their thinking if a WR they like falls unexpectedly to one of their picks. I also won't completely rule out the possiblity that Todd Haley's influence could lead to Michael Crabtree going #3 overall.

Tight Ends
No Need

Every year people say Gonzo can't go on forever. Every year he proves them wrong. He's 33, still a star and a stone cold certainty for the Hall of Fame. I don't think this is the draft to look for his replacement and having spent a 3rd rounder last year on the intriguingly huge Brad Cottam (listed anywhere between 6'7" and 6'9"!), I don't think this position is going to be on their radar this year.

Offensive Line
Minor Need

A couple of years back the Chiefs OL was second to none in the league. There's not much left of that line now but it's not all bad, Branden Albert was a good pick last year and though he struggled at times, almost all rookies do, especially when on bad teams. They seem to have a solution long term for the toughest spot on the line to find though: Left Tackle. They've also brought in San Diego's Mike Goff who's been a good NFL Guard for a number of years. Not his best year last year but the talent should still be there. Brian Waters I rate but he's rumoured to be unhappy and seeking a trade. Niswanger is coming back at Center (RFA), and McIntosh is back at RT. Either could stand to be improved upon but that may be a luxury the Chiefs can't afford in this draft.

Defensive Tackle
Major Need

I'll start off the Defensive talk by saying I don't think the Chiefs are making the right choice in moving to the 3-4. There, I said it. I'm a Steelers fan and what that defense can do is frightening. What bothers me is over the years the Steelers have been successful on D a number of teams have switched to the 3-4, with almost no success. I don't think it suits the Chiefs current personnel and I think it gives them at least 2 former first round choices with no true position. There's no obvious NT. Glenn Dorsey was an early pick a couple of years back and I still think he can be a good player in the NFL but he's not a NT right now and he may never be. Your NT needs to be 6', 6'1" or so, score one for Dorsey. Sadly they also need to be about 315lbs+ with wide hips and thighs. That's Casey Hampton to a tee. It's not Glenn Dorsey but from the noises coming out of KC it seems this is the way they'll go. As such this should be a Major Need position but I doubt the Chiefs will see it as such until mid season. Look for them to be at the front of the queue in 2010 for Casey Hampton's services if the 3-4 experiment lasts that far. Hampton's entering the final year of his current deal and the Steelers never give big money to over 30s. B.J. Raji would be an excellent pick at #3 if they're serious about the 3-4 long term but I don't see it happening. I've listed this as Major Need but it seems the Chiefs have a lot more confidence in their current personnel than I do and realistically they probably give the gig to Dorsey for 2009.

Defensive End
Major Need

Again if you look to the Steelers for the model 3-4 Defense, they've had the most success with converted DTs playing 3-4 DE. Like the NT position the DE's main job in the 3-4 is to occupy blockers and create space for the LBs. Like NT, I don't really see the right guys currently being on roster. Generally speaking you'd like one taller rangier type (think Aaron Smith) and one slightly shorter, squattier type (think Kimo von Oelhoffen). 3-4 DE is not a glory position, the work goes largely unnoticed by all but your Team's most diehard fans. Aaron Smith has never been to a Pro Bowl but to most Steelers fans in the know, he's the most crucial part of that 3-4. There's simply no-one except Tank Tyler on the Chiefs roster I see being a really good 3-4DE. Tyler, I think could fill that von Oelhoffen side pretty well, but I don't think it'd be his best position either. Amongst the current 4-3DEs I just don't see that Aaron Smith type anywhere. Worse still I think the 3-4 will mean guys like Tambi Hali (another first rounder) simply won't have a true position. Like Dorsey I expect they'll force him into a spot he can't produce his best at like OLB but yeah, a waste. Brian Johnston is the one guy I could see being possibly bulked up to play the 3-4. He's 6'5" and 270+lbs, that's pretty close to what both Aaron Smith and Brett Kiesel were when they entered the league. He's also only 22 so it's a possiblity but he won't be starting there this season. This is a massive need position for the 3-4. A guy like Tyson Jackson or Jarron Gilbert would've been great with the second round pick they now don't have. Oh dear. Something had to change of course, 10 sacks in 16 games is simply unacceptable but I can actually see a scenario where they end up with even fewer in 2009 at this rate.

Linebackers Major Need

The Switch to the 3-4 is going to place a huge burden on the LBs, particularly the OLBs who'll be required to not only be the main source of rushing the passer but also to drop into coverage, nainly on TEs and RBs. It's not unheard of for LBs in the 3-4 to have to cover the odd WR as well though. This makes for a tough skill set to find and in Pittsburgh, where the 3-4 has been truly successful, rookie starters are OLB are largely unheard of because of the extra responsibilities and the fact that most guys you're picking played DE in college. In many ways it's a shame that the Chiefs traded their second for Cassell, that second round pick could've given the Chiefs a very good shot at one of the few top notch guys with college experience as a 3-4OLB. Clint Sintim. Because of that I don't see the Chiefs going any other way with the #3 selection than Aaron Curry. He's a born leader, an inspiration and a heck of a football player. I think he'd still start at OLB as a rookie but he may have issues with his assignments but what he brings overall will more than justify it. This is the focal point of your Defense for the next decade, and I think he's capable of playing a number of positions should they abandon the 3-4. I like Derrick Johnson inside in the 3-4 and Darrell Robertson was brought in by Pioli from New England, he's got good size to play OLB but has no NFL experience. Mike Vrabel will be in there somewhere and maybe they'll try Tamba Hali in the more DE like LOLB role. It might work but my money's on the opposite. This is a shame because I think all this Front 7 lacked was leadership and 1 explosive player to completely turn it around. They're certainly not short on talent. I'm unconvinced by the 3-4 with current personnel but if some of these square pegs can fit into the round holes of the 3-4 this defense could turn around quickly and make some plays. Count me as a skeptic though.

Cornerback Minimal Need

Former starter Patrick Surtain is gone, although he didn't play all that much last year anyway. Instead an ultra small school rookie named Brandon Carr started a lot of games. Let's see, small school rookie CB, no pass rush... I think you know which side the ball's going to. Carr struggled mightily but that was to be expected. Rookie Brandon Flowers is hard to read on the other side. CBs can't cover WRs forever but that's what was expected of them in KC last year. The Chiefs really need to generate some form of pass rush. I'll mention it again 10, yes 10 sacks in the whole season. Philly managed 9 in one game last year. You see the problem. Until that's solved it really doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference who's at CB. But when you're relying on three 22yr olds, 2 of whom are from Grand Valley State and Valdosta State as your top 3 DBs, you're probably going to be in trouble back there. What's needed here is a veteran presence to hold down one side for a couple of years. Travis Daniels almost certainly is not that guy but I wouldn't say there's a need for any more young guys at CB.

Safety Minimal Need

Jarrad Page gets some stick, and in the past it was probably richly deserved but in a really rough 2008 season he actually played fairly well. He's not really the ball hawking FS type but he's ok. Certainly not the weakest link on the Defense anyway. Jon McGraw is more special teams specialist than a true backup but he's been re-signed. There were rumours last year that backup rookie SS DaJuan Morgan could step in at FS but Page held him off. Bernard Pollard rounds out the Safeties. Pollard's not really going to scare QBs in the passing game but he's something of a hitter if you go over the middle. With both Pollard and Page free agents in 2010 it could well be a position they look at in the draft. What's more likely is they'll extend one of them and hope Morgan can slide into the other's spot. It's not like they couldn't improve on either Pollard or Page in the draft but they should have their priorities elsewhere this time around.

Specialists No Need

Your punter's one of your best players. Bully for you. In some cases it wouldn't say much except the rest of your team sucks but Dustin Colquitt is actually a good punter. Connor Barth at Kicker was a rookie last year. The Chiefs didn't really generate enough for him to show what he can do (only 12 FG Attempts!) but he knocked them over at 83% and 100% on Extra Points. He's going to need to do better on longer kicks this year if he's to win a camp battle but I seriously doubt the Chiefs even entertain the idea of using a draft pick on a kicker.

Return Game
Minor Need

They weren't good. No-one over 25 yard average on kick offs, 0 TDs nothing much doing on punt returns either. Yeah this is a need, I think it may be one that gets overlooked though. Unless they find a day 2 WR who can return kicks. They almost certainly won't pull out a 3rd rounder on a return specialist anyway.

Dream Day One

1.3 Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest

Player Visit
Jarron Gilbert DE San Jose State
Roger Allen OG Western Missouri
Everette Brown DE Florida St
Mike Thomas WR Arizona
Eben Britton OT Arizona
Connor Barwin DE Cincinatti
Cornelius Lewis OL Tennessee St
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
Taurus Johnson WR South Florida

Last Edited: 04/07/2009

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