Warpaint Roundtable – Offseason Edition XIII

This week we discuss the 3-4 hybrid defense, potential mid-round picks, trading down in the draft, and Larry Johnson.

Exactly how is a hybrid 3-4 played? Is it just a traditional 3-4 with players who don't really fit the scheme, or is there some additional wrinkle? Specifically, what did the Arizona Cardinals do last year?

Nick Athan: The Cardinals used a plethora of bodies and rotated them in and out of the lineup based on the situation. Though I've not studied them too much, from what I can gather watching their Super Bowl run, they had specialists at certain positions who were either better at attacking the pass or run. Based on the match-ups and alignments of the offenses they were facing, they used players whose strength applied to a particular sitation.

If that's true, this year's Chiefs' 3-4 scheme isn't going to be much different. With the addition of linebacker Zach Thomas Saturday, the Chiefs are now committed to the 3-4. But based on the current pre-draft personnel, they really don't have but three starters to play it. Derrick Johnson and Mike Vrabel, plus a fourth linebacker, will join Thomas, but the front three isn't set. My guess is that some high-priced players, like Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali and the Chiefs' next first-round pick, whomever that turns our to be, will play in groupings, but may not be starters from one given Sunday to the next.

Michael Ash: A hybrid defense lines up in both a 4-3 and a 3-4. The defense uses whatever formation they think will work best to stop what the offense is doing on a given play. Ideally, it also forces the offense to prepare for everything and to keep adjusting throughout the game.

I'm not sure what the ratio of 3-4 to 4-3 was in Arizona, but they ran a hybrid mainly because they began transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 when Ken Whisenhunt arrived from Pittsburgh. This year the Cardinals are reportedly going towards the 3-4 on more of a full-time basis.

That's probably the same thing that will happen with the Chiefs. They'll be able to use the hybrid for a season or two as they work on bringing in 3-4 players and shipping out any 4-3 players who don't fit. Once they have the right roster for the 3-4, that's what they'll run.

C.E. Wendler: In the Chiefs' case, yes, it will be a 3-4 with players who don't really fit the scheme. Right now I don't see a single defensive lineman in Kansas City who fits the 3-4, except possibly Ron Edwards at nose tackle, and in that role he wouldn't exactly excel (he's an average player in any role, really). Tamba Hali and Glenn Dorsey are spare parts in this scheme, too.

Hali might have a role similar to what Bertrand Berry had with the Cardinals last year. Berry has enjoyed a solid career as a 4-3 defensive end, with 59.5 sacks to his name, but he's far too small to play end in a 3-4. The Cardinals frequently used him at right outside linebacker in the 3-4 formations, but primarily only to rush the passer. That's because any defensive coordinator would see Berry on the field and instantly try to exploit him in pass coverage if at all possible.

Because of his limitations within the scheme, Berry only started four games for the Cardinals last year (he played in 14 games). But a guy like Chike Okeafor, who's a little more versatile, started all 16 games, despite the fact that he's started as a 4-3 defensive end in the past.

What prospects, in the upcoming draft, could be a 3rd or 4th round pick for the Chiefs?

Nick Athan: The Chiefs have to find a pass rusher and some offensive line help. They appear to be locked in on defensive end Jarron Gilbert from San Jose State, who they held a private work out for. He could be the pick in the third round. He needs to add some upper body bulk but has pass rushing skills have made him a draft riser.

In the fourth round Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt might be available. At 6-foot-7 and 343 pounds, the massive offensive lineman would be a solid right tackle for the Chiefs. There wasn't any question that OU's offensive line was as good as it gets in the college world and Loadholt has skills, a great attitude and he's a finisher. The only reason he might fall is that his footwork is bad and he doesn't always use his massive frame to leverage pass rushers. But if that can be overcome, he'd be a great bookend for Branden Albert.

Could Loadholt play right tackle in KC?
Ronald Martinez - Getty

Michael Ash: There's a ton of players in that range who could be potential Chiefs. This is a deep year for offensive linemen, so around the third round we could be talking about Antoine Caldwell, the center from Alabama, or Herman Johnson, the enormous guard from LSU. There's some potential right tackles that could be available there, too. Defensively, end Paul Kruger is someone the Chiefs have looked at.

There should still be some solid offensive linemen available in the fourth round, unless there's a run on them at some point, like we saw last year. Sammie Lee Hill is a potential nose tackle who might be picked at that point, and I believe the Chiefs have been looking at him. There are lots of potential good picks in that 3rd-4th round range.

C.E. Wendler: Instead of lying to you, and pretending I have meaningful draft knowledge beyond the first round, let's look at the Chiefs' needs. As we've discussed this week, good general managers fill positions in the late rounds, such as right tackle.

What other complementary positions are needs in Kansas City? There's running back, linebacker, safety and guard, just for starters. The signing of Mike Goff might prevent the Chiefs from grabbing a guard in the middle rounds, but not if Brian Waters is traded. There isn't an Adrian Peterson in this year's rookie class, but in the third and fourth rounds there could be value at the position. Kansas City could use another big back to complement Jamaal Charles, unless Kolby Smith can rebound from a disastrous 2008.

Everyone is talking about these big trades for two first-round picks, but what about us sliding to the fifth or seventh spot and still landing Curry?

Nick Athan: The Browns are hoping Aaron Curry lands in the fifth slot, so I can't see them trading out of that spot. Now that could change because the latest scuttlebutt out of Cleveland is that they are trying to move quarterback Brady Quinn. If that's the case, it could change their first round plans. The goal for them is to acquire another first-round pick.

They are also believed to be high on USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, but at the fifth slot they have no chance to get him. Batting seventh is the Oakland Raiders, and that's the one team in the division that isn't going to deal with Scott Pioli and company. The other wild card might be the 49ers with the 10th pick but that won't get the Chiefs Aaron Curry. He'll be long gone by then.

Michael Ash: That might not work out. For one thing, if anyone in that range (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Oakland) was going to trade with the Chiefs, Curry seems the most likely player to move up for. On the other hand, if Cincinnati decided they needed a receiver and wanted to jump ahead of Seattle and Cleveland for Michael Crabtree, it could lead to one of those two teams settling for Curry without Crabtree on the board.

If the Chiefs truly want Curry, they aren't going to move from #3. It would be too big of a gamble to hope he'd still be there three or four picks later. What if someone in the 8-10 range traded up in front of the Chiefs to get him?

C.E. Wendler: One issue with moving back from the third pick, even to the seventh slot, is the draft value chart. The seventh pick is worth 1,500 points, meaning the Chiefs would need a pick worth another 700 points to get value for the third pick overall. No pick in the second round is worth 700 points.

The Chiefs might take less value in return, as Michael Ash discussed last week, or perhaps a player. But if a potential trade partner is attempting to get Mark Sanchez, isn't he worth more than a swap of firsts and a second-round pick? Jay Cutler certainly was in 2006 for the Denver Broncos.

Larry Johnson lost his grievance but is still on the roster. Does this mean he won't be cut?

Nick Athan: There is no question in my mind that the Chiefs, who are open to trading both tight end Tony Gonzalez and left guard Brian Waters, are not going to keep Johnson. The fact he lost his hearing means the Chiefs can cut him and save some guaranteed coin. That's all they wanted out of the deal. But despite his new agent and new attitude, the Chiefs won't keep him.

There are two teams that we've learned have an interest in LJ - the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If either team offers a third-round pick or if there becomes a bidding war, the Chiefs might snag a second-round pick for Johnson. Remember he has fresh legs thanks to the time he's spent on the pine, and he's 100 percent healthy heading into OTAs next week.

Will Larry ride again in KC?
Brian Bahr - Getty

Michael Ash: If the Chiefs planned on cutting him, they could have done it the day the grievance issue was settled. It's possible they're trying to exhaust all trade options before releasing Johnson, but you would think they would have done that by now. I've never been able to picture another team giving up anything of value to get LJ in a trade, so at this point it appears he'll still be here in 2009.

C.E. Wendler: With my apologies to Nick, I'm taking the kid gloves off. I've lost count of the number of times he's told us Larry Johnson won't be a Chief this year. In fact, unless I'm mistaken, he was holding to the same opinion at this time last year. Yet here we sit, and Johnson has not been cut, and no imminent trade has been leaked.

I admit I'm biased for Larry Johnson. He's been my favorite player since late in 2004. But I believe Nick is biased against him. I've spent the last three offseasons a nervous wreck with all the rumors flying that he might be traded. At this point I can't take it anymore. Since he hasn't been cut, and the Chiefs don't have any other legitimate options to start at running back, it makes no sense to trade him.

Even if it doesn't, I'll be a nervous wreck on draft day again. But if Larry Johnson is a Chief in 2009, that means he's good enough for Scott Pioli. In that case, he ought to be good enough for the rest of us, including you, Nick.

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