Quarterback: Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen
Bradford's name is included here just to be thorough. But if the Chiefs give any thought to drafting a quarterback with the fifth pick, the likely candidate is Clausen, the former Notre Dame starter who was coached the last three years by Charlie Weis.
Last year, even after the Chiefs traded for Matt Cassel, I thoroughly endorsed the idea of the team taking a quarterback with the #3 pick. That stance wasn't a knock on Cassel – at least not at the time. It was simply a reflection of the fact that a quarterback is absolutely critical to a team's success. Knowing that, shouldn't a team do everything possible to find a great player at that position?
I'll refrain from elaborating further since we'll undoubtedly spend more time on this topic as the draft grows closer. For the time being, the biggest knock on Clausen seems to be that his attitude, personality, leadership, maturity – or whichever other term you'd prefer to use – aren't what teams look for in a franchise quarterback.
Clearly, though, the Chiefs will have better insight into Clausen than any other team in the league, given that the man who recruited him and coached him throughout his college career is now on staff. As we discussed in a recent WPI Roundtable, if Weis pounds his fist on the table and insists that Clausen will be a great NFL quarterback, don't the Chiefs have to at least consider the idea of drafting him?
Is anyone pounding their fist and saying that about Cassel?
Receiver: Dez Bryant
It should come as news to absolutely no one that the Chiefs could use another threat in the passing game. The question is whether Bryant, a junior who was suspended for 10 of his team's 13 games during the 2009 season, will really go as high as #5 after missing all that time.
However, once it's all said and done, it's possible the Chiefs may not actually have the draft's fifth pick. To this point in our draft preview, we haven't discussed the possibility of the Chiefs trading down. Many don't actually expect a trade to be possible, since it's rare for teams at the top of the draft to move back.
While that's obviously true, over the last two years the #5 spot has been an exception. Last year, the New York Jets moved up to the fifth pick to take Mark Sanchez. The year before that, the Chiefs held the #5 pick and had a publicized trade offer from the New Orleans Saints which they passed on to take Glenn Dorsey.
So the notion of the Chiefs moving back is at least possible. At the least, it seems a little more likely than it did a year ago.
As for Bryant, had he posted a strong showing at the combine, he surely would have cemented his status as a top 10 pick. Unfortunately, he pulled out of workouts due to a hamstring injury, which will keep the questions unanswered until he recovers and runs at his pro day. Bryant hasn't played since the middle of September, so it's only natural that he needs to be checked out before his value is determined.
Ultimately, though, there are factors beyond Bryant to keep in mind here. While Bryant is a talented prospect, the 2011 draft class is loaded with top receivers, with as many as three – Michael Floyd, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones – already being projected in the top 10 to 15 picks. Then there's another receiver or two who may go in the latter half of the first round.
If the Chiefs truly think Bryant will become an elite NFL wideout, it would be foolish to pass on him no matter who's coming out in 2011. But if their interest is less about Bryant himself and more about wanting to add some punch to the offense by drafting a receiver, it won't kill them to wait a year.
Running back: C.J. Spiller
Running back is far from being the Chiefs' biggest need, but that doesn't mean we should completely overlook Spiller. Like Bryant, he represents a player who may not go as high as #5, but could be in the mix if the Chiefs move back a bit.
On the topic of running backs, recent reports suggest that former Kansas State star Darren Sproles will be allowed to test free agency, and many Chiefs fans are growing excited about the prospect of bringing him back to his home area. Sproles would immediately solve the Chiefs' problem at returner and he'd handle some of the load at running back, keeping Jamaal Charles fresh.
Beyond that, Sproles could be worked in as a regular offensive feature. Cassel hasn't proven to be terribly effective when throwing downfield, so we can probably expect plenty of screens and quick passes as Weis atttempts to make his quarterback more efficient.
Imagine formations with Sproles lined up in the slot and Charles in the backfield – or vice versa. The defense won't know whether to expect a run or a pass, and the Chiefs would have two gamebreakers on the field at the same time. A run by Charles followed by a short pass to get the ball to Sproles in open space would be an explosive combination.
If you're excited by the elements Sproles could bring to the Chiefs, just think of what a younger, faster Spiller could be capable of.
Of course, with all the needs the Chiefs have, the odds of them selecting a running back in the first round are slim. But it's fun to imagine the possibilities.
Cornerback: Joe Haden
Cornerback is another position that's obviously not a huge need. But in today's NFL with multiple wide-receiver sets, it's a simple fact that you can never have too many good defensive backs.
Haden is easily one of the top five or six players in the draft, and pairing him with Brandon Flowers would give the Chiefs one of the best corner tandems in the entire league. Not only that, the overall depth at the position would improve with Brandon Carr moving down a notch on the chart. If new defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas can get Donald Washington to harness some of the potential he showed in college, the Chiefs would have an incredible lineup at cornerback.
Again, there's no arguing that the corner position is not a pressing need when compared to the numerous holes on KC's roster. But if you believe in the strategy of taking the best player available, when the Chiefs go on the clock at pick #5 that player could be Haden.
WPI NFL Draft Preview - QB, WR, RB, CB
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