NFL Draft: Early Look - WR and LB

We wrap up our view of the top draft prospects with a look at two players Chiefs fans are buzzing over – Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Wake Forest's Aaron Curry.

Receiver: Michael Crabtree

Since Todd Haley joined the Chiefs there's been excitement over Crabtree based on the Boldin/Fitzgerald theory. Haley had two great receivers to work with in Arizona, the theory goes, so why wouldn't he want someone like Crabtree to pair up with Dwayne Bowe?

I would suggest that if Haley's offense requires two elite wide receivers in order for it to be successful, the Chiefs will be in trouble at some point.

While Crabtree would'nt necessarily be a bad pick – assuming the Chiefs aren't sold on the quarterbacks, of course - he doesn't make much sense. Kansas City needs a player like Maclin – a deep threat with blazing speed. The offense needs the kind of receiver who would stretch the defense and open things up for Bowe and Tony Gonzalez.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, Maclin isn't a viable candidate for the #3 pick, and he probably won't be considered so unless he absolutely blows people away with his 40 time at the combine.

One person who won't impress anyone with his 40 time this week is Crabtree, who has decided not to run. That's troubling on two levels. First, there's the obvious fact that he's worried enough about his speed to delay his 40 until his pro day.


Is Crabtree just another possession receiver?
Jamie Squire - Getty

In the interest of preserving their draft stock, a lot of players over the years have spent months working on nothing but their track speed so they can post a decent 40 time on their friendly Pro Day race track. It's like an artificial means of increasing one's speed for a brief period of time, meaning it translates to the NFL field. This appears to be the approach Crabtree has taken.

It's also concerning that, with questions circulating about his speed, he's decided to shy away from the challenge. Many prospects are questioned about their speed each year, and many work hard to show up at the combine and answer those questions. Regardless of how fast they run, they've shown character in confronting the issue. Crabtree, on the other hand, is backing away from it.

While people often throw out Jerry Rice's name, and now Fitzgerald's, as examples of NFL receivers who played much faster than their 40 times, there's an infinitely longer list of players who weren't that fast and showed their lack of speed when they played.

Crabtree may turn out to be another Fitzgerald, but he may just as easily be another Anquan Boldin, a talented possession receiver. There's nothing wrong with that, but the Chiefs don't need another possession receiver. They're already well-stocked in that area.

Ultimately, while Crabtree is certainly talented, you'll find few scouting reports that believe he's on the level of other recent top-flight receiver prospects like Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson. While he makes sense for teams with a pressing need at receiver, he doesn't appear to be the kind of rare talent the Chiefs require.

Linebacker: Aaron Curry

In the Star article referenced in part one, Mayock picked Curry as the Chiefs' choice at #3, referring to the talented linebacker as the "safest" pick in the draft.

Curry is a definitely a playmaker and the Chiefs certainly need help at the position. But the problem is two-fold: it's incredibly rare for teams to take linebackers as high as third in the draft, and Curry isn't the type of fearsome pass-rusher who might justify such an early selection.

In college, he had nearly as many interceptions (six) as sacks (9.5), putting him more in the mold of Derrick Brooks than Derrick Thomas. Brooks has had an outstanding career, of course, but in order to take such a player as high as #3, a team needs to be sure that a Brooks clone is exactly what they're getting. Because if he's not a pass rusher, and he can't fly around making plays, what exactly does he bring to the table?

There's been speculation that perhaps Curry could blossom as a pass rusher if the Chiefs switched to the 3-4. The theory is that he would have more opportunity to rush the quarterback than he did in college, which might be true if he lined up on the outside, but many believe the best fit for Curry in the pros would be as an inside 3-4 linebacker. Simply putting him in a 3-4 is not going to make him Shawne Merriman.


Aaron Curry - is he THAT good?
Chuck Burton - AP

Additionally, a player like Curry is arguably the last necessary component to the 3-4. A nose tackle and a pass-rushing outside linebacker are more important.

Similar to the right tackle situation we discussed earlier, one also has to factor in salary considerations, as picking Curry that high in the draft would mean investing a huge contract in a cover linebacker. Just as left tackles make the big money on the offensive line, it's the pass rushers who receive the big contracts on defense.

A team putting that much money into a linebacker who doesn't get to the quarterback would be comparable to giving a huge contract to a right tackle. It's an important position, sure, but it seems as though teams generally like to have their money invested in premium positions. Assuming the Chiefs ever find someone capable of generating sacks, they'll ultimately have to pay him more than Curry's because he'll be the one playing the more valuable position. As we discussed before, that's not a good situation.

It's been nine years since a linebacker has been drafted in the first three picks, and only three linebackers have gone that high in the last 20 years. To draft Curry at #3, the Chiefs would have to be confident enough in his ability to buck that trend, and they'd need to be so utterly convinced of his future success that they'd be willing to invest a huge salary in someone who won't be sacking the quarterback.

If they feel that strongly about him, maybe they should draft him. But it would be surprising.

Summary:

As things stand today, I firmly believe either Stafford or Sanchez would be the best possible pick for the Chiefs. While Crabtree or Curry wouldn't be terrible picks, neither player makes sense for the reasons

I don't plan on wavering on the opinion that a quarterback is best for the Chiefs, but I'm willing to become more open to other candidates as events continue to unfold. We'll take another look at things again in a month or so, perhaps with more prospects factored into the equation, and we'll obviously be focusing heavily on these issues when April rolls around.

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