August 24, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) in the first quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs Are Strongest At Linebacker

The two biggest components to building a team from a 2-14 record into a winner are recognizing and evaluating talent and skills, and prioritizing team needs. The line backing corp for the the Kansas City Chiefs is arguably the most talented and skilled position on the field for the Chiefs. Three of the four line backer spots are filled by a Pro Bowl level player.

The Chiefs do need to fill the spot vacated by the tragic death of Jovan Belcher at middle line backer but this shouldn’t be a high priority for them. Kansas City has three terrific starting line backers in OLBs Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Derrick Johnson has developed into a force to reckoned with in the middle. The issue for the Chiefs is how to fill the other middle position next to Johnson.

Despite this hole at middle linebacker next to Johnson, filling that hole should not rank high on the priority list for the Chiefs with their first few picks. Over the past 2 seasons, the Chiefs have suffered because of a lack of quality depth at nearly every position on the field. There is no one to effectively spell running back Jamal Charles, the signing of free agent wide receiver Donnie Avery should help the receivers’ depth but another quality talent could be added, and the defensive backfield has some very good starters. Players like Brandon Flowers, new acquisition Sean Smith, and Pro Bowl performer Eric Berry provide a solid core, but the back ups at cornerback and safety have not produced the needed results in the past 2 seasons. The Chiefs have done a decent job rebuilding the quarterback slots, adding starter Alex Smith and back up Chase Daniel.

The defensive line has been a problem for years now and it needs to be bolstered in a big way. The offensive line is actually a strength, especially if Brandon Albert is retained by the club and quits acting like a spoiled, selfish athlete. Both Donald Stephenson and Jeff Allen showed promise the second half of last season when they were called upon. The offensive line isn’t as urgent need as some of the other positions around the field, but a franchise can never have enough quality behemoths up front, protecting their investment at quarterback and creating holes for Charles to dart through.

When drafting early, especially when a team has the first overall pick, it is advisable to select the most talented, impact player possible, regardless of team need. Football teams need as much talent as possible; good players will find a way to get on the field. If the Chiefs have a left tackle graded out as the top player, then take him. Again, no team can ever have enough good offensive linemen. It is later in the draft when franchises should start taking the best player available according to need. This is where talent evaluating and prioritizing really comes into play. The Chiefs must decide where they need the most help and who are the best players on the board at each of those positions.

The linebacker position should be down the priority list. The Chiefs now have bookend, pass rushing, outside linebackers in Hali and Houston. Hali had 43 tackles and 9 sacks in 2012, both numbers right at his career averages. He is known for putting outside pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and was the Chiefs only pass rushing threat for several of his seasons in Kansas City. Houston, who really emerged half way through his rookie season in 2011, tallied 53 tackles and 10 sacks, making offensive lines account for the rush coming from both sides. Derrick Johnson though, is the key. He wracked up 110 tackles and 2 sacks on the inside. He is never been asked to pass rush much but his strength is to patrol the middle of the field and pursue the ball, something at which he is very good. Outside of these three guys, there is not much left to cover that second inside line backing position. Cory Greenwood and Chad Kilgore are the only other signed inside linebackers on the roster, and they do not inspire much excitement or confidence . The Chiefs also recently signed Frank Zombo from the Packers, and although he played outside line backer, he may be versatile enough to move to the inside, especially if Kansas City ever increases the numbers of blitzes from the inside spot. Zombo has shown he can produce in the NFL; he has not proven he can stay healthy.

It is not that Kansas City doesn’t need a another linebacker, it is just that because of the other three talented starters, they can afford to look at other positions early in the draft. If a player they have ranked high falls to them at a position of need, like inside linebacker, and they believe they are getting good draft value, the Chiefs certainly shouldn’t hesitate in grabbing that player. Despite the hole next to Johnson, Kansas City does have more pressing needs than linebacker because their other starters are so strong.

Few teams can sufficiently fill all the holes in their roster with top notch talent. That is why evaluating talent and prioritizing team needs are so important. General Manager John Dorsey and Head Coach Andy Reid must fill as many holes as they can with as good talent as they can find. Kansas City is short a line backer but they are also short at other positions. Unless they can select a player they really like, linebacker can wait until later in the draft.

Tags: Derrick Johnson Justin Houston Kansas City Chiefs Tamba Hali

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