Young Men Of Smashmouth

With the arrival of head coach Herm Edwards a year ago, Chiefs fans witnessed the beginning of the implementation of the Cover 2 defensive scheme. Players such as Tamba Hali, Bernard Pollard, Jarrad Page and Marcus Maxey were targeted in the draft, rookies possessive of skills that fit perfectly into the future of KC's defense.

With an aging cast on the other side of the ball, Edwards and company must now turn their attention to mining the 2007 draft for talent that fits their offensive philosophy – smashmouth. The Chiefs are transitioning from an offense that focused on smaller, quicker wide receivers and mobile linemen that could reach the edge for perimeter runs. They must be replaced with massive road graders on the offensive line and bigger wideouts who can get downfield and block.

You've probably heard of some of the bigger-name rookies that fit this style of offense – guys like Texas' Justin Blalock and Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson. But most likely, the Chiefs won't have the luxury of selecting those elite talents. As they did a year ago, they must find talent in the middle rounds they can hopefully develop into starters along the offensive line, in the backfield, at tight end and wide receiver. Here are five such players.

1. OG Nathan Bennett, Clemson. 6-foot-4, 316

The Chiefs obviously need to find Will Shields' successor. Some draft experts have them selecting Auburn's Ben Grubbs in the first round, but I've never been a big fan of drafting guards that early. Shields himself was a third-round pick.

Bennett is projected as a fifth-round selection, and the Chiefs are in prime position this year with two choices in the round. He certainly fits the "smashmouth" mold. In fact, it might be the only mold he fits, as he's not very athletic.'s draft guide describes Bennett as someone who "annihilates the opposition in confined quarters." That sounds like just what the doctor ordered for a power-running game featuring Larry Johnson. At Clemson, Bennett helped the Tigers' running game rank fifth in the nation in 2006, racking up almost 3,000 yards rushing as a team with 31 rushing touchdowns.

2. FB Roshon Vercher, Fresno State. 5-foot-10, 252

Ronnie Cruz washed out as the Chiefs' fullback of the future. Kris Wilson is more of a threat in the passing game and who knows what will become of Boomer Grigsby. A linebacker-destroying force like Vercher is just what the Chiefs need.

Besides being built like a tank, the Chiefs will probably be able to sign Vercher after the draft as a rookie free agent. What's not to like?

At Fresno State, Vercher cleared the way for four 1,000-yard rushers. He also flashed pass-protection skills, something the Chiefs have needed out of a back in a long time. Johnson behind Vercher behind Bennett. Touchdown. Sounds good to me.

3. TE Rudy Sylvan, Ohio. 6-foot-4, 275

Jason Dunn is entering his 12th season. The Chiefs don't have any other legitimate blocking tight end candidates on the roster. Enter Sylvan (I'll skip the Rudy jokes). lists Sylvan as the largest tight end in their draft guide. He's described as "strong at the point of attack" and is apparently a high effort player. Mix those three attributes together and I'd say you've got yourself a pretty good force in the run game.

He also appears to have some receiving skills as he caught 23 passes in eight games for the Bobcats last season, including two touchdowns. He won't be replacing Tony Gonzalez anytime soon, but as another potential un-drafted free agent, the Chiefs can take a flyer on him and see what he's got in training camp and preseason.

4. HB Deshawn Wynn, Florida. 5-foot-10, 232

This is about as high-profile as this sawed-off draft preview is going to get. At Florida, Wynn put together solid junior and senior campaigns, combining for over 1,300 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns.

Reading his breakdown in Scout's draft guide, I couldn't help but be reminded of Larry Johnson. "Strong runner who flashes the ability to take over games. Powerful, picks up a lot of yardage off initial contact and falls forward when tackled. Shows the ability to cut back in a small area and keep runs alive." Throw in his surprising 40 time of 4.47, and Wynn might be the perfect back to keep Johnson fresh in Kansas City.

He's rated in the fifth round, so maybe the Chiefs can snag Wynn and Bennett on the second day. Michael Bush is the ideal power runner, but his injury may prevent him from contributing immediately.

5. HB Nate Ilaoa, Hawaii. 5-foot-9, 245.

How can you ignore this bowling ball of a halfback if you're trying to build depth on a smashmouth offense? I'm including him in this incredibly in-depth breakdown simply because he's the only player I actually did film study on (it's amazing what you can find on youtube).

Watching Ilaoa, I was immediately reminded of San Diego Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal, who entered the NFL as a halfback before moving to a blocking role due to a broken ankle. Ilaoa's low center of gravity and stout frame give him tremendous power (it's almost like someone took Jacksonville's Maurice-Jones Drew and put him on a high-fat crash diet), and combined with his quick acceleration and surprising array of moves in the open field, he's one of the most unique runners I've ever seen.

Ilaoa averaged better than seven yards per carry in each of his seasons at Hawaii and – here's the really amazing part - was an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. Last season he caught 67 passes for 837 yards and five touchdowns. It's hard to picture it, but he actually started his college career as a slot receiver.

The Chiefs can easily pick this Hawaiian Horse from the masses of un-drafted free agents. LJ's days are numbered. I'm serious. Top Stories