WPI NFL Draft Preview - Safety, Linebacker

Our draft preview continues with a look at the safeties and linebackers currently in the mix for the #5 pick.

Safety: Eric Berry

Widely considered to be one of the two or three best players in the draft, if Berry is still on the board when the Chiefs go on the clock, it's difficult to find a reason not to take him.

Berry is an elite prospect and considered a potential game-changer at the next level. Safety is by no means the Chiefs' biggest area of need, but it's definitely a need nonetheless. And while every draft has top offensive tackles and linebackers, it's not terribly often that such a highly regarded safety comes along.

From what I've seen, the only real argument against the Chiefs drafting Berry is the notion that the front seven has to be improved before he'd be able to make a noticeable impact. Berry has drawn many comparisons to Baltimore's Ed Reed, and it's probably not a coincidence that the league's best safeties – Reed and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu – play behind some strong defensive fronts.

Thus, say most supporters of the theory, the Chiefs would be better off taking a linebacker or a nose tackle to bolster the front seven.

The overall logic behind that theory might be true – Berry may not look like Reed or Polamalu until more talent surrounds him. Ultimately, though, that theory calls for the Chiefs to pass on Berry in order to take a less talented player who fills a bigger need.

That's never a winning strategy.

If Berry is there at #5, he'll almost surely be the best available player in the draft. It would be extremely hard for the Chiefs to justify passing on him.


Inside Linebacker: Rolando McClain

Do a minor amount of reading on McClain and it's easy to see why his name has been bandied about as a possible selection at #5.

From his status as the emotional leader of a national championship team, to the way he's constantly been referred to as a "coach on the field," to Nick Saban declaring him one of the smartest players he's ever coached, McClain appears to have Scott Pioli's "Right 53" written all over him.

The only question is whether he's actually worthy of being drafted as high as #5. A month ago McClain seemed a fairly safe bet to go somewhere in the top 10, but stories have begun to circulate that some teams don't have him ranked as one of the 10 best players in the draft. Of course, as we saw with Tyson Jackson, Pioli won't hesitate to reach if he feels a player fits his system, so that entire aspect may be moot.

However, many of the arguments raised last year about drafting Aaron Curry so high – such as the fact that inside linebackers aren't typically given such large contracts – can again be applied to McClain. Despite being a key part of the New England Patriots' dynasty, Tedy Bruschi was signed to modest contracts over the years, which could be a reflection of the financial premium Pioli puts on the position.

Will he be willing to give top-five money to an inside linebacker? He wasn't a year ago.


Outside Linebacker: Jason Pierre-Paul

The former defensive end from South Florida may not be as widely known as the other prospects we've covered, but Pierre-Paul has been rising up draft boards as more and more evaluators study him. In fact, Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. and ESPN currently has him going third overall to Tampa Bay.

As a potentially elite pass rusher, there are no financial arguments against him. But as a JUCO transfer who only played one season of major college football, the lofty projections of Pierre-Paul are based primarily on his potential and measurables as opposed to an existing track record he's put together on the field.

That doesn't necessarily make him a bad choice for the #5 pick, just an unlikely one. Throughout the various interviews he's granted over the past year, Pioli has been clear about preferring a player's game tape to their workout numbers – a philosophy he supported last year by taking Jackson, who didn't impress with his 40-yard dash time or his bench press reps.

Unless he's blown away by what he sees on tape, drafting Pierre-Paul just doesn't seem like a move we'd expect from Pioli.

Next time: quarterback, receiver, running back, corner

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