Let's start with the behemoths in the middle: Nose Tackles.
Chiefs defensive lineman Ron Edwards has been a reliable warrior in the middle of the Chiefs defensive line for several seasons now but the Chiefs have no other options at the nose tackle position and adding some depth, if not an upgrade, is right at the top the GM Scott Pioli's "to-do" list.
As NFL coaches continue to push the envelope and build upon new defensive schemes such as 3-4 defenses, the stock of 340 lb space eaters will continue to rise, thus, putting teams like the Kansas City Chiefs in a precarious position.
Rating the value of a rookie 3-4 nose tackle and determining the appropriate time to strike is something every team looking for an anchor in the middle of the defensive line will be feeling out.
Much like the scenario in 2009 when the Chiefs surprised nearly everyone when they performed a Bikram yoga type stretch in selecting Tyson Jackson with the 3rd overall pick, Kansas City is again in a position that may necessitate some rubber arms.
The Chiefs hold the 21st overall pick in next April's draft which will put them in a position to nab the best 3-4 nose tackle in the draft. At this point that player appears to be former Baylor Bear Phil Taylor.
The 6-3, 337lb Taylor is a dominant presence in the middle and exactly what the Chief's defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel needs to solidify his front seven. Despite having some off the field issues—resulting in his transfer from Penn State to Baylor---Taylor has made the best of a seemingly bad situation and turned his football career around.
Taylor has steadily been climbing the draft boards and is not likely to be available when the Chiefs make the 23rd selection in the second round. With weight struggles and a reputation of being lazy hanging over Taylor's head like a rain cloud, I just can't see the Chiefs taking this kind of a risk that high.
A pick with more of a safety net would be Oregon State DT Stephen Paea. You could write a 500 page novel on the New Zealand born kid who grew up on the island of Tonga with aspirations of becoming a rugby star, whose path to the NFL briefly crossed through Lawrence KS. But what makes Paea such an intriguing prospect for the Chiefs however is his versatility and ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line. With the jury still being out on Tyson Jackson, a player like Paea could give the Chiefs a fall back plan.
At first glance Paea's 6-1, 300lb frame appears significantly too light to play the anchor position in a 3-4 defensive scheme but what Paea lacks in size he more than makes up for in strength. The story of Paea's bench press clinic he put on display at last month's NFL combines has grown now to a nearly mythological status but his strength may be deserving of all the hype.
This kid is a true freak in every sense on the word and is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife. Knowing how much the Chiefs value versatility---if he last that long---Paea could be the apple of the Chiefs eye on day one.
With the slew of player releases over the past several weeks, which includes multiple NT's such as Shaun Rogers, Tommy Harris, and Kris Jenkins, the Chiefs may opt to take a project NT in the later rounds of the draft and sign a free agent that could fill the gap for a season or two.
At the defensive tackle position, Jerrell Powe ranks high on our wish list.
If this is indeed the Chiefs mindset, Kansas City will have multiple NT options at their disposal on day two and three.
At the top of my list is Jerrell Powe.
Powe is deceptively fast for his 6-3 320lb frame (5.2 sec 40) and, at times, was dominant in the collegiate ranks while being voted by his teammates as defensive captain. At last month's NFL combines, Powe stated that he had already met with the Chiefs and considering Scott Pioli's affections for Ole Miss team captains (i.e. Dexter McCluster and Kendrick Lewis) seeing Powe taken by the Chiefs in rounds 2-3 seem like good odds.
Jarvis Jenkins is another possible day two pick up that could hold a lot of value. Jenkins anchored Clemson's defensive line for four seasons and has the experience to step in immediately and contribute. Jenkins quietly accumulated 23 ½ tackles for loss during his collegiate career---9 ½ during his sophomore season.
Inconsistency is keeping Jenkins from leaping up the draft charts and taking Jenkins higher than the second round seems too risky but if the Chiefs could land the NT in rounds 3 or later it would be considered a pick of very high value.
Another high value pick-up could be Kenrick Ellis out of Division 1AA Hampton University. The Jamaican born Ellis has had multiple drug related infractions on his record which has scared off many NFL GM's and coaches but there is no mulling over his impact as a player. Standing at a monstrous 6-5 and 340lbs, Ellis had a dominating senior season accumulating 94 tackles, 15 for a loss, and 2 sacks in just 10 games. Ellis is a major risk but the payoff could be well worth the 3rd round pick it will take to get him.
The Chiefs have multiple positions of dire need and some possibly even more pressing than NT. But the need for a strong anchor on the defensive front is glaringly evident and regardless of where/when/how they address the need, the good news is that they have options.
Be sure to check back often at Warpaint Illustrated in the coming weeks as I will continue to break down the players and positions the Chiefs will be looking at come late April's NFL Draft.
Next Up: Wide Receivers
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Will KC Draft a Nose Tackle with their first pick?
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