NFL Draft: Early Look - QBs and OTs

With the NFL Combine approaching, the time is right to start examining what the Chiefs may do with the third overall pick in this year's draft. Last week in the Kansas City Star, NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock listed 10 prospects he believes are worthy of consideration in the Chiefs' slot.

April isn't far away, but because player evaluations always fluctuate in the final two months, this list may appear different compared to the consensus opinion once the draft rolls around.

In alphabetical order, Mayock's 10 players:

Michael Crabtree (WR - Texas Tech)
Aaron Curry (LB - Wake Forest)
Jeremy Maclin (WR - Missouri)
Eugene Monroe (OT - Virginia)
Knowshon Moreno (RB - Georgia)
Brian Orakpo (DE - Texas)
Mark Sanchez (QB - USC)
Jason Smith (OT - Baylor)
Matt Stafford (QB - Georgia)
Chris "Beanie" Wells (RB - Ohio State)

For our purposes, there are a few names we can eliminate right off the bat. Even if Larry Johnson is expunged from KC's roster before April, it's a safe assumption that the Chiefs won't be drafting a running back with the third overall pick. Cross off Moreno and Wells.

While the Chiefs obviously need serious help in the pass rush department, you'd be hard-pressed to find many people who consider Orakpo worthy of the third selection. Many recent mocks don't list him in the top 10. Mel Kiper, for example, has him at 13. That may change if Orakpo posts impressive numbers at the combine, but you won't be fooled by that, will you? Of course you won't. Cross him off.

Likewise, not only isn't Jeremy Maclin considered a top-three pick, he's not even the top-rated player at his position. Cross him off.

That leaves us with six candidates – two quarterbacks, two offensive tackles, a receiver, and a linebacker. There are talented players who didn't make Mayocks' list, such as Ohio State cornerback Malcom Jenkins and Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji, but we'll save them for future installments, should their stock continue to rise.

Today we'll look at the quarterbacks and offensive tackles.

Quarterbacks: Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez

Some may disagree, but I'm of the firm belief that the Chiefs should take a quarterback with their first pick. That assumes, of course, they haven't already done something to address the position in free agency or via trade.

We don't need to get into a lengthy analysis of Tyler Thigpen, but suffice it to say he doesn't appear to be a long-term answer. I'd be surprised if Scott Pioli felt otherwise. For those who reference Thigpen's stats, or counter certain criticisms by pointing out that Thigpen had almost no experience, let's not forget his accomplishments came in a specifically-crafted gimmick offense that is unlikely to be retained next season.

While we don't know that the spread is the only system in which Thigpen could succeed, we have little to no evidence to suggest he's capable of running a normal NFL offense. When Thigpen was forced into starting duty last year, the fact that KC's coaching staff felt going to the spread gave them their best chance of moving the ball doesn't exactly speak to their confidence in Thigpen's ability under center.

If, as logic would dictate, the Chiefs scrap the spread offense to install Todd Haley's preferred system, Thigpen becomes an unknown factor. In terms of competing for a starting job, he would have no discernable advantage over any other quarterback on the roster. The coaches would enter training camp without truly knowing what to expect. In that sense, he'd almost be like a rookie.

Thigpen, you may recall, was a seventh-round pick. This year, the Chiefs should be in position to add a rookie quarterback who, like Thigpen, would also come in as an unknown factor, only this player would actually possess the talents and intangibles that separate a first-round player from a seventh-round player. It shouldn't be a difficult decision.

Are the Chiefs even interested in Stafford?
Doug Benc - Getty

However, the possibility does exist that the Chiefs won't be particularly enamored with Stafford or Sanchez. Maybe they'll only like one of the two, and he'll be taken by Detroit with the first pick.

Some who are in favor of drafting a quarterback assume it's a foregone conclusion that the Chiefs will have Stafford and Sanchez sitting atop their draft board. The idea that they might not like one (or both) doesn't even enter their minds. If one of those quarterbacks is there at #3, then by God, the Chiefs have to take him or all hope is lost.

Those feelings come across like leftover hostility from the Carl Peterson era. If the new Chiefs' regime passes on a quarterback, we can finally be safe in the knowledge that it won't be because they're scared to take one, as Peterson always was. It won't be because they don't think a franchise quarterback is necessary to winning a championship.

It'll simply be because they weren't sold on the available quarterbacks. Under Pioli and Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots were known to have a specific set of guidelines in what they look for in a quarterback. Perhaps, in their evaluations, the new front office won't see enough of those qualities to warrant drafting either player.

If that's the decision, don't rant about it. It will ultimately delay the process of the Chiefs finding a franchise quarterback they can build around, but if they don't believe that player is available this year, what can you do?

Of course, passing on a quarterback in the first round doesn't mean the position will be ignored entirely. The Chiefs could try to grab another player – Ball State's Nate Davis, for example – in the second round, assuming he meets their criteria.

No matter which direction the Chiefs go in, though, I believe their decision on whether or not to draft a quarterback will revolve entirely around their evaluations of Stafford, Sanchez, and the rest of the prospects. Having Thigpen on the roster will not be a deciding factor.

Offensive Tackles: Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith

There's not much to discuss here, because the value of the Chiefs taking a tackle so high is almost non-existent.

Left tackles are the premium position on the offensive line because they protect the blind side of right-handed quarterbacks. The Chiefs found their left tackle a year ago in Branden Albert, and while there's a lot of "let's draft another left tackle and move Albert to guard" scenarios floating around, there's no reason to even consider moving Albert after his stellar rookie season. He's only going to improve, and why mess with success?

Can the Chiefs afford a right tackle like Jason Smith at #3?
Baylor Athletics

While right tackle certainly remains a position of need, right tackles just aren't taken at the top of the draft. If you see a team with a top draft pick playing right tackle, it usually means one of three things:

1. The player was intended to be a left tackle and he couldn't cut it.
2. He plays on the right because the quarterback is left-handed.
3. The team has a veteran left tackle and the draft pick is in line to replace him.

One key reason for not taking right tackles so high is money. If the Chiefs drafted a right tackle with the third pick, they'd be paying him more than Albert, who plays the more important position. What happens when Albert's contract is up, or if he becomes a Pro Bowler and wants to re-negotiate? He'll desire more money than the tackle on the other side of the line. Suddenly the Chiefs have a large chunk of their salary cap tied up in two offensive tackles.

Eventually, the Chiefs will need to find starting linemen from the middle rounds, something they haven't done with much success during this decade. But this shouldn't be news to Scott Pioli – only one of the Patriots' starting linemen last season was drafted in the first round, and he was the round's final pick.

Thursday: We look at wide receiver Michael Crabtree and linebacker Aaron Curry Top Stories