Kansas City Chiefs Should Go Defense Early in Draft


Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Enough already! Everyone says the Kansas City Chiefs need to take a wide receiver with their first pick in the draft. Draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both came out with new draft projections this past Wednesday and they both had the Chiefs taking a receiver (albeit, different players).

Believe me when I tell you that I’m not a big fan of the current group. I like Dwayne Bowe‘s physicality and hands and I am actually somewhat smitten with A.J. Jenkins‘ potential but the rest of the group isn’t doing much for me. On the whole, they drop too many balls and they fail too often to correctly read coverages often leaving Alex Smith hung out to dry.

But here’s the thing, the Chiefs didn’t really have much difficulty scoring points during the last half of the season. In fact, they averaged 31 points per game after week 8, including the 44 points they scored in the playoff loss to Indianapolis without Jamaal Charles. Meanwhile, the defense gave up an average of 28 points over that same time frame.

Given that kind of offensive production, and that sort of suspect defensive play, I’m not sure why there is so much focus on taking a wide receiver in the first round, particularly with the depth at the position. Let’s also not forget that typically, it takes wide receivers two or three seasons before they truly start to understand the complexities of the game and produce.

Of course, there are always exceptions but trust me when I say there is no A.J. Green or Calvin Johnson in this year’s draft. The Chiefs should take a receiver later when there’s better value to be had and consider looking to free agency for a stop-gap solution.

Conversely, the Chiefs defense was great early in the season. Some of that was a product of the caliber of opponents but, in this league it’s not easy to do what the Chiefs did during the first 9 weeks and it wasn’t until week 9 that they finally gave up more than 17 points.

Part of their success may have been due in part to the fact that there wasn’t much film on the Chiefs running this scheme. Moreover, guys like Justin Houston and Dontari Poe took the expected steps forward having put their rookie seasons behind them and learned the ropes a bit.

Then the wheels fell off. After week 9, the Chiefs defense didn’t even resemble the squad we saw earlier in the year. Again, a combination of factors contributed to this, including the league finally catching up with the Chiefs scheme and personnel.

The film from early in the season revealed their tendencies and weaknesses and teams adjusted. Finally, perhaps the most significant impact on the defense was injuries. Most notably, key injuries to Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Mike Devito, and Tyson Jackson. There were also some issues in my view with the play-calling and offensive execution at times that resulted in the defense being put in some bad situations.

In hindsight, what jumped out to me as I reviewed the season was that this team, for all the talent in the starting lineup, really lacks depth and there are a couple of spots in the secondary that were, in my opinion, exposed as the season progressed.

In fact, I may have lost years off my life as a consequence of some of the epically bad secondary play the Chiefs displayed, particularly when facing the likes of Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and Andrew Luck. Against those three alone, the defense yielded as follows…

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Manning: 323yds/1TD
Rivers: 392yds/3 TDs
Manning: 403yds/5 TDs
Luck: 241yds/1TD
Rivers: 229 yds/3 TDs
Luck: 443/4 TDs

In my view, anything the team can do to avoid having Kendrick Lewis and Sean Smith on the field would be a good thing. Your starting Free Safety MUST get more than 1 INT throughout the year and I can’t even count the number of times both Lewis and Smith either blew an assignment or just flat out got beat. I’m still suffering from flashbacks of T.Y. Hilton running free through the Chiefs secondary.

Of course, we all remember poor Marcus Cooper getting owned by Denver’s Eric Decker to the tune of 8 catches for 174 yards and 4 touchdowns. But Cooper is a rookie and as I indicated in a previous column, we typically see the most improvement in a player between his rookie season and his sophomore stint. He’s also not the starter so there’s time to develop him.

Besides, that was not a typical performance for Cooper and I don’t think it will ever happen again. I saw flashes out of Cooper that made me think the kid may actually be a player. He did have 3 INTs last year and he’s shown a nasty streak that I think will distinguish him in the future, particularly now that he’s learned all those valuable rookie lessons.

Fortunately, the solution may very well be available when the Chiefs pick 23rd. Alabama Safety Hasean Clinton-Dix or Louisville safety Calvin Pryor may be available and both are top notch upgrades to the current incumbents. Rob Rang at CBS Sports has already projected the Chiefs will take Clinton-Dix.

Clinton-Dix is a big hitter with good speed and anticipation who comes from a top-notch program while Pryor is another big hitter with good speed and great hands whose game is actually very similar to Clinton-Dix. Some project them both to be gone no later than the 17th pick but others think they may slip a little and both or one could easily still be there at 23.

If neither are available, the Kansas City Chiefs need to be thinking cornerback. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard leaps to mind. He’s a tough kid with the physicality to give opposing receivers real problems. It also doesn’t hurt that many “experts” think he’s the best cover guy in the draft.

If the Chiefs insist upon putting Sean Smith on the field, wouldn’t it be great to see him at safety rather than corner. He’s got the size to be a solid safety and he wouldn’t get continually left on an island in single coverage.

Failing that, taking the best available defender on the board should be the priority. Hali and Johnson are starting to get older, we can always use some depth on the line, and in particular, getting Dontari Poe some help would probably be a very good thing.

Anyway, I know a lot of folks think I’m probably a little “out there” with this column but that’s just how I see it. I look forward to hearing yours.

Tags: Featured Kansas City Chiefs Popular

  • Royals_Fan

    So what do you consider Sammy Watkins?

    Bowe does have any physicality. To many times he has alligator arms because he’s about to get hit and to many times he’s disappeared in games. He had is best game of the year in the playoffs, otherwise he had a mediocre year.

    As for the offense scoring just fine without another WR, that’s because Charles touches the football nearly 50% of the offensive plays! Charles led the team in receiving because no one else could do anything. Why is a RB leading the team in receiving? We don’t have anything on the WR side of the ball. Bowe is at best a #2 guy and that’s all we have. Avery couldn’t stay healthy, we went through 3 TEs and we used McCluster/Hemmingway/Jenkins as a #3 guy….that’s horrible!

    I don’t necessarily want a WR because I’m hoping that Dressler will produce and we sign Maclin. Maclin, Bowe and Dressler is much more eye friendly then the non sense we played all last year with. I want a TE in Ebron. If he’s not there then we have 2 other great TEs we can pick up. But if Justin Gilbert somehow drops that far then I want him.

    If nothing up top happens and we don’t get Maclin or Gilbert drafting defense first is a complete waste of a first rounder. What WR do you think will last till the 3rd round that is an impact player? Dix, Pryor and Dennard aren’t going to fall to 23 because they are, as you said, top notch players. Gilbert more than likely won’t make it that far either, so why waste the 23rd pick on a maybe?

    But in all seriousness, what WRs do you see falling to a late 3rd round that the Chiefs should draft?

    • Darren Carter

      I disagree on Bowe and the alligator arms allegation. What I see is Bowe not putting forth the effort to extend for a ball and open himself up to an unnecessary hit when the pass is CLEARLY UNCATCHABLE. Bowe will make a catch in a crowd, but he won’t extend just to look like he is going all out when the ball is way overthrown.

      I totally agree with this article. DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE. The key is how they view Commings. If they think he can be the starting free safety, then take a CB. If they see him as one the top 3 CBs, then take a safety. Here is a mock draft I did with Fanspeak’s mock draft simulator (really cool tool by the way). I really like this draft for the Chiefs:

      23 CB JUSTIN GILBERT OKLAHOMA STATE
      87 DE MARCUS SMITH LOUISVILLE
      120 WR JOSH HUFF OREGON
      151 OT SEANTREL HENDERSON MIAMI
      177 CB CHRIS DAVIS AUBURN
      184 OT JUSTIN BRITT MISSOURI

      • Tyler_KC_Fan

        I don’t think it’s a matter of uncatchable as much as it is effort. He got payed and what does he do now…put up his worst two years. Almost as if he doesn’t care anymore. Bowe isn’t a threat anymore and I don’t think he really cares, otherwise you’d hear him speaking out more about his lack of production. Bowe said he ran the wrong route and if he extended for the ball he would have broken his ankle, so he just stepped out during the last play of the game in the playoffs. Team player right?

        If Gilbert is there I like the pick but I don’t think either if the top 4 safety’s will be there. Todd Mcshay and Mel Kiper are saying that as well, and I think they hold a lot of credibility. So instead of taking a 3rd round playing with the 23rd pick I think it’s smarter to take a TE first round and safely 3rd, pass rusher 4th, maybe OT 5th and so on.

        • Darren Carter

          We will have to agree to disagree on Bowe. I don’t see a lack of effort from him. Tough to produce early in the season when they didn’t throw to him. Andy Reid said they should have called more plays to Bowe. 150+ yards in they playoff game were not due to lack of effort.

          I don’t think TE is a need at all, let alone in the first round. DB, pass rusher, OL and WR would be my targets in the offseason.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            Bringing in a quality TE gives you the blocking option as well as receiving option. Something the Chiefs didn’t have this year. WR should be covered in FA and we can wait on a pass rusher.

            As I said though, if Gilbert is there then take him, but I highly doubt either Dennard, Pryor, Dix or Gilbert will be there at 23rd. So why draft a player in the first when we can get one in the 3rd of greater or equal value?

            Back to Bowe though, in my opinion he isn’t playing hard or with much drive. If you want the ball, wor for it. From 2011-2013 Bowe has gone from 141 targets to 114 to 105. From the looks of it, he doesn’t mind that either. Since Bowe contract year his numbers are dropping. Obviously their is a reason he’s lost 40 targets the 3 years. He had one 100 yard game and that was the playoff game and we literally had Smith on offense by the end. If Charles was still in the game, Avery was in the game do you really think Bowe gets 150 yards? In two years he’s had three 100 yard games. That doesn’t scream I’m your man, throw me the ball, I’m your #1 WR. Bowe is diminishing, but getting paid. We bring in Maclin and put the #1 WR spot up for grabs then maybe we can get a 2010 year Bowe back. But his job isn’t in any trouble and he’s making great money yet his numbers are terrible.

        • mnelson52

          At the beginning of the season, we all thought our DBs were decent. That was because we were playing weaker teams that we could get a good pass rush on. When we started playing teams with good O-lines, our pass rush became almost non-existent, which lead to our DBs being exposed. We definitely need to improve that area, but I think a good pass rushing DE would help them a lot. When we had good pressure on the QBs, our DBs looked better and we scored enough to win games. It would not only help the DBs, but other teams couldn’t just focus on Hali and Houston. I think that one position would have more impact than any other of our defensive needs. As far as safety, we may already have someone we could move to that position, or get in a later round.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            So who would you take with the 23rd pick if you would go pass rusher? I personally think we could get a pass rusher in the 4 round.

            In my opinion the best case senario:
            23rd pick – Either TE Ebron or Amaro, whoever is there
            3rd round – FS Keith McGill from Utah
            4th round – DE Micheal Sam from Mizzou
            5th-7th round OTs, WRs and whatever else

  • Brent G

    Sammy Watkins is a great college WR but I don’t see him making as big an impact in the league immediately as guys like Megatron and AJ Green…first of all, he’s not big enough physically to overcome the difficulties associated with most rookie WRs in learning the NFL game…Johnson and Green were physical freaks who could make up for mistakes by just pure talent.

    For what it’s worth, I think Mike Evans will have a much bigger impact this year than Watkins.

    And here’s my choice for a 3rd round WR steal if you can get him…Martavis Bryant out of Clemson. He’s an underclassman but has the speed and raw physical size to make an impact this year. While we’re on the topic of late round steals…Jalen Saunders out of Oklahoma…the kid has sick open field skills, makes the tough catches and always finds a way to get open. He’s undersized but let’s ask Welker, Woodhead, and Amendola if that really matters anymore. Chiefs could get him in the 5th or 6th.

    I just don’t see the Chiefs having the payroll flexibility to go get Maclin or Decker…Westin Dressler might have been a nice under-the-radar signing but I see him as a slot guy. As to the value of Bowe, I think we may have to agree to disagree on that one…I’ve seen him short-arm a few but I’ve also seen him make some incredible, highly contested catches. He’s a stud and now that he and Smith seem to have “clicked” to some measure, I expect bigger things ahead for Bowe.

    In the final analysis, I think the Chiefs CAN and WILL turn up some productive WR options this off-season and I think Dressler was the first step. Truth is, they’re are probably about 15 to 20 WRs out there in the draft that would represent an upgrade and we can get some of them in the 3rd round and beyond. I can’t say the same on the defensive side of the ball and if we have to score 35-40 points every week to win games because our secondary continues to get torched, we are in big trouble. As it sits currently, the offense is good enough to score 3 to 5 TDs a week. I’ll take my chances with that and an improved defense.

    • Royals_Fan

      If Watkins goes to Oakland then he will struggle because he won’t have a QB. Also, why isn’t Julio Jones included in your freak of nature category?

      But to say the draft has 15-20 WRs that can make an impact is a false statement in my opinion. Who are the 15-20 WRs because I can think of maybe 5 that would be legitimate game changers, but that’s it.

      Bowe is mediocre. Besides his one year with Cassel when he had 15 TDs, what has he done sense? Bowe is a #2 guy and in most places maybe a #3. Maclin is a guy the Chiefs could get, which if that happens then I think the Chiefs need a TE. We went through 3 this last year with injury, and if you’re going to say Maclin is injury prone, then you have to say Fasono, Kelce and McGrath are injury prone as well. By the way, Maclin missed a full season because of an ACL injury, but besides that he only missed 5 total games in 4 years….that seems pretty reliable to me and not injury prone. Maclin should be the #1 target in FA because we need another WR so we can focus in defense in the draft.

      Smith needs weapons. Relying on Charles and Smiths running isn’t going to last much longer. WR in FA, TE with the first pick and Kieth McGill from Utah in the 3rd round. Only reason you don’t go with TE in the first is if Justin Gilbert is still there. Dix, Dennard and Pryor I highly doubt will be there but Gilbert might slip to 23rd.

  • Jim Harper

    First time I have read one of your posts, Brent, and I really like how you think. Moving Sean Smith to safety sounds like a great idea and then draft a shutdown corner like Dennard. Also if it can be done, Eric Decker would be the perfect compliment to Bowe. Maclin is good, but he has been hurt so many times can we really count on him to stay on the field? Decker has speed and durability and it is widely known the Broncos cannot afford to keep him. The 23rd pick must be absolutely correct because we don’t have another till the end of the 3rd round.

  • Andy

    The title of this article should be ” Kansas City should go Defense Early and Often in Draft”.
    Brent, have you been reading my posts” ?? I could not agree more. We did not lose because of our offense…period. Our whole season is wrapped up in one play…the Hilton TD. I can’t get that picture of him two steps ahead of two of our defenders.
    Will Cummings and Nico help?? Who knows. Yes a WR would help but, One, our offense is receiver dominate, RB, TE, WR, FB, in that order. Two, we can get a WR in a later round , and three scoring 31 points a game and winning 2 of 8 games is not a WR issue.

  • Hawthorne

    I think if Dennard or Gilbert are available we take one of them, if not then Aaron Donald, if not then Pryor or Clinton Dix. If somehow none of those players are available, then I would think about a WR like Odel Beckham Junior or Marque Lee, no Kelvin Benjamin, one Baldwin is more than enough.