NFL Draft: Early Look - Version 2

Last month we took an early look at six of the draft's top prospects and attempted to figure out how they might fit with the Chiefs. With the draft a little over a month away, it's time to revisit the issue and see how the landscape has changed after a month.

Quarterback: Matt Stafford & Matt Sanchez

Last time I endorsed drafting a quarterback with the third overall pick. Of course, after the Chiefs traded for Matt Cassel, this option now appears to be off the table.

But the Chiefs have yet to sign Cassel to a new contract. They haven't even introduced him to the public yet, as his only public statement came through a conference call shortly after the trade. If the Chiefs still haven't extended Cassel's deal before the draft, we have to at least acknowledge the remote possibility that a quarterback may still be in their sights.

Until the team locks up their new signal caller on a long-term basis, they're basically renting him for an audition that could extend through the 2010 season. Suppose they drafted an inexperienced starter like Sanchez, groomed him behind Cassel, and then waited to see if the veteran was the real deal before extending his contract.

If Cassel doesn't prove himself, the team can make the move to Sanchez. If Cassel proves to be the player the Chiefs hope he is, they'll have a decision to make and a quarterback they can trade.

Again, this scenario is highly unlikely. The lack of a new contract for Cassel may simply be a way for the team to have more money counting against this year's salary cap, since they aren't likely to reach the minimum spending limit otherwise.

But until Cassel actually gets that new deal, it's a possibility worth mentioning. But it would be unexpected.


Offensive Tackles: Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith

Both players continue to be considered among the best prospects in the draft. In fact, with Detroit rumored to have an interest in Smith and St. Louis sure to be in the market for a left tackle after the release of Orlando Pace, it's possible that both linemen may be gone when the Chiefs pick at #3.

That would be just fine with me.

I am confused and astounded by the fact that drafting an offensive tackle in the first round continues to be a topic of such frequent conversation. It's common knowledge that guards and right tackles aren't taken high in the draft, so we can safely conclude that no one seriously expects the Chiefs to use the #3 pick and guarantee around $30 million to a right tackle.

The only logical conclusion is that people believe Branden Albert may be moved to a different position.

Why anyone would want to move Albert, I honestly don't know. It's been said that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley didn't draft Albert, so they aren't as committed to the idea of him playing left tackle as the previous regime was. That may be true.


Does Eugene Monroe have a place in KC?
Virginia Athletics

But when Pioli and Haley watch the footage of the 2008 Chiefs, what do they see? They see a left tackle that played guard in college, that missed most of training camp and the entire preseason, and they see him playing remarkably well. They see a player with an enormous upside, someone who in two or three years may be one of the premier left tackles in the league.

"Hey, nobody disagrees that Albert is great," people will say, "but why can't he be great at right tackle or guard? Then we can have two great, young players on the line instead of just one."

That certainly sounds nice in theory, but the problem with that logic is two-fold.

First, there is absolutely no guarantee that either rookie would play as well at left tackle as Albert did. Moving Albert to another position so a rookie can replace him is like having a winning lottery ticket and ripping it in half because you think the next ticket you scratch will be worth even more.

Second, I already mentioned that teams don't take guards or right tackles with high picks. This is because the value at those positions just isn't found that early in the draft. But if the Chiefs draft a left tackle, what need are they actually filling with the #3 pick? They aren't filling a hole at left tackle because that's not a position they need help at.

Drafting a left tackle so that Albert can be moved is the equivalent of using the #3 pick on a guard or right tackle. Why? Because that is the need that would be filled. The Chiefs would be using the third overall pick to address a position that most successful teams can fill with players taken in the middle rounds. It'd be horrible value.

Because of those two reasons, of all the players the Chiefs can take with their pick, these two might make the least amount of sense.


Receiver: Michael Crabtree

Speaking of players who don't make sense for the Chiefs, Crabtree still falls directly into that category. This is based on his playing style, as without elite speed and the ability to stretch a defense, Crabtree's skill set doesn't appear to compliment an offense with talented possession receivers like Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez.

Unfortunately for Crabtree's supporters, the last four weeks haven't done a lot to raise the odds of the Texas Tech receiver becoming a Chief.

For one thing, the team has added yet another possession receiver in Bobby Engram, who is expected – particularly in third down situations – to play in the slot. A passing attack featuring Bowe, Gonzalez, and Engram is just begging for a downfield speedster as the #2 receiver, which Crabtree simply doesn't appear to be.

Worse yet, the previous month saw the NFL Combine take place in Indianapolis, an event that certainly didn't aid Crabtree's cause. Not only did the combine's medical testing reveal a stress fracture in his foot – an injury that will prevent him from running both the 40-yard dash and NFL-style route trees before the draft – he was officially measured at a mark nearly two inches shorter than his billed height of 6-foot-3.


Michael Crabtree - still unappealing?
Jamie Squire - Getty

Perhaps more than any other factor, it was his mistakenly-reported height that brought upon the constant stream of comparisons likening Crabtree to Cardinals' receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The combine seems to have finally stomped out most of those comparisons, and not a moment too soon.

The drop in height aside, Crabtree's speed has been the biggest question surrounding the receiver for several months. But due to the foot surgery he recently underwent, it looks like that issue will remain unanswered.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Crabtree just doesn't seem to be in that top-flight category that receivers like Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were when they came out of college. His height isn't as advertised, there are serious questions about his speed, and there are questions about his route running since he didn't play in a pro-style offense in college.

There were no such concerns about Johnson, who was widely considered to be one of the best receiver prospects of all time. The only knock on Fitzgerald was his speed, an issue offset to some degree by the fact that he had excellent college production in an offense that wasn't designed to throw the ball all over the yard like Crabtree's system at Texas Tech.

Unless Todd Haley believes Crabtree is a perfect fit for the style of offense he wants to run, or believes he can coach Crabtree to become an elite route-runner to make up for his lack of speed, it seems incredibly difficult to imagine the Chiefs taking him with the draft's third pick.

Of course, if Haley does think either of those things, he's not likely to let us know anytime soon.


Linebacker: Aaron Curry

Since the Chiefs traded for Cassel, thus removing the issue of drafting a quarterback from all but a handful of discussions, Curry has arguably become the consensus favorite on what the Chiefs should do with the #3 pick.

Unfortunately, none of the facts we ran down a month ago – that linebackers are rarely taken that high, or that Curry isn't an elite pass-rusher who might justify such an early selection – have changed over the last month. And they aren't going to change by the time the draft rolls around.

But the Chiefs have to draft someone. If they're unable to move out of the third spot – and it's entirely possible they won't be able to -- Curry makes more sense than anyone else we've covered so far.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but of this group, consider Curry my favorite option.


Summary:

What's hopefully clear from this analysis is the fact that there just doesn't seem to be a lot of value available to the Chiefs with the #3 pick this year. They no longer need a quarterback, they've never needed a left tackle, the receiver doesn't make much sense, and it may only be due to an overall weak class for top prospects that a linebacker is being discussed as such an early pick.

That's why trading down looks more and more like the team's best option, especially if they can recoup a second-round pick to replace the one they lost in the Cassel trade. But there's no guarantee anything like that will actually occur, so it can hardly be counted on.

In the coming weeks we'll continue to keep an eye on these prospects, and we'll also add some new names – defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker/defensive end Everette Brown – into the mix as we try to determine the best possible selection for the Chiefs.

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