On the Radar: Offensive Line

With the 2011 NFL Draft days away, many are starting to concede that the Kansas City Chiefs will shore up their offensive line with a stud Offensive Tackle or Center. But which position is more critical for the short and long term?

Despite leading the league in rushing and having Jamaal Charles have the best back-to-back seasons in NFL history, many draft gurus still believe that Kansas City is in need of some help on their offensive line. Not only can I not argue with this statement but in fact I agree with it 100%.

I just don't think the Chiefs need any help in the offensive tackle department.

In my quarterback's edition of "On the Radar", I talked at length about Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli needing to be of the mindset that good is simply not good enough when it comes to Chiefs QB Matt Cassel. In order for this team to fulfill their ultimate goal (Super Bowl) they need to be great. Neither Brandon Albert nor Barry Richardson has been great to this point although both have been very serviceable. So by all accounts, the Chiefs should look at left and right tackle.

Wrong.

In the case of Cassel, the Chiefs don't have a reliable backup. If Cassel has another solid season, even if they take a quarterback in the first round, the Chiefs have at the very least added some essential depth. But the Chiefs have some options on each side of the line with Ryan O'Callaghan being a solid backup for both sides and Bobby Greenwood continuing to make strides.

I am not saying that I would like to hang my hat on Greenwood or O'Callaghan on opening day but they do add legit depth. If the Chiefs can take a flyer on a "project" tackle however to add some depth I see it happening after round 1.

Who could be some possible qualified applicants?

Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), and Nate Solder all would be considered a steal in the second round but I suspect no more than one will fall that far. The Chiefs could move up into the top of the second round but the asking price will be high. Thus Iif Kansas City lands an anchor on the offensive line of the future, it may be worth it.

But with other needs on this football team, especially on defense, it seems a bit early to reach for a top offensive lineman until late Friday evening when the third round begins.

Two guys that fit the mold are Joseph Barksdale of LSU and Jah Reid of Central Florida. Reid is a bit of a project player (and yes this organization had a plethora of offensive line projects under Carl Peterson) but Barksdale has all the skills needed to make it at the next level. That is if the Chiefs give him, like they did with Right Tackle Barry Richardson, time to develop.

In the case of Barksdale, some NFL experts don't think he's NFL ready. The same was said about former Chiefs Guard Dave Szott. So for the moment, he's flying solo under the radar of many NFL teams. The Chiefs may have to stretch to get this kid but given his detailed attention to technique and his mental approach to the game of football, it may be worth the leap. Considering Pioli's affection for LSU alum, seeing Barksdale land in KC would not surprise me a bit.

But if you really want to know my heart's desire you have to look at the thick crop of centers in this draft class. Of all the years to be looking for a new young center the football gods have really blessed the Chiefs with a good one.

Penn State Center Stefan Wisniewski fits the Scott Pioli mode.
Getty Images

What's even better is that it looks as if the Chiefs can get some really good value. Although there will be plenty of talented centers for KC to chose from in round one, very few believe any will be drafted so early.

The problem for Scott Pioli and staff is that they pick at 21. Even if Penn State Center Stefen Wisniewski (great football name btw) is the apple of the Chiefs eye, they simply can't take him at 21; it's just too much of a reach. Wisniewski could be available when the Chiefs pick again with the 23rd pick in round two, but they could risk losing him if they sleep on the talented center.

If an offensive lineman's name is indeed called when the Chiefs announce their first overall pick that player could very likely be from Florida. Whether it is former Gator Mike Pouncey or Seminole Rodney Hudson, both have the potential to play multiple positions on the Chiefs offensive front line.

Although the Chiefs appear solid at the Guard position, there are still some impending tough decisions to be made about veteran Brian Waters. Despite being the heart and soul of the Chiefs offense, Waters turned 34 last February and is beginning to show signs of breaking down. Jon Asamoah is on deck to replace Waters but if Right Guard Ryan Lilja were to go down with an injury the Chiefs would have very few options to fill his position.

With Pouncey or Hudson, the Chiefs would have multiple options to fill out their lineup cards. Both players could man either guard position or center at a high level. If Asamoah continues to progress at guard then Pouncey/Hudson could play center. If Lilja falls to injury, either player could slide out to right guard. Scott Pioli has shown a likening to this kind of versatility and this extra dimension to their game would add more value to their first round stock.

The Chiefs drew the short straw when it comes to their draft positioning but all in all they are in a very good position as they approach next week's draft. Kansas City has a tremendous amount of options, in multiple positions, including ones they desperately need help in. If an offensive lineman is the player the Chiefs select in the first round you won't hear me complaining on Monday morning. If, however, Pioli and staff are patient in landing their lineman, I think they will be rewarded with a solid anchor in the future.

Up Next: Linebackers

WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Should the Chiefs draft a center or tackle in rounds one or two?


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