NFL Draft Preview - Version 2.0

It's been a little over a month since we first took a look at the top prospects in the upcoming NFL draft. And with the draft itself now about a month away, there's no better time to analyze them again and see how things have changed.

Whose stocks have risen and fallen over the past several weeks? Have the Chiefs made any free agent signings that would affect their plans for the fifth overall pick?

We'll examine those questions and much more in Version 2.0 of our NFL draft preview.

Defensive Tackle: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma), Dan Williams (Tennessee)
In regards to Suh and McCoy, things have stayed pretty much the same. As we discussed last time, it's certainly possible that one or both players could succeed as unconventional nose tackles in a 3-4 defense. But the Chiefs – who already have an unconventional defensive end in Glenn Dorsey – just don't seem like the team to take that gamble.

Williams remains the top prospect in the true nose tackle mold. His stock hasn't risen all that much from when we last spoke of him, though, and at the moment most analysts peg him going somewhere between picks 10-20.

He certainly fits a need, but absolutely no one views Williams as one of the five best players in the draft. Taking him with the fifth overall pick would be a definite reach. Again.

Offensive Tackle: Russell Okung (Oklahoma State), Bryan Bulaga (Iowa), Anthony Davis (Rutgers)
Let's go ahead and make the likely assumption that Brian Waters and Ryan Lilja will be Kansas City's starting guards in 2010. With that in mind, the issue of whether the Chiefs will draft an offensive tackle at #5 seems to have boiled down to one simple question: would they actually be dumb enough to move Branden Albert to right tackle?

Given the adversity Albert battled in 2009, only for him to rebound by the end of the season, I never liked the idea of drafting a tackle so that Albert could be moved to his old college position of guard. I still think he'll be a top left tackle in the league, so I don't want to see the team bail on him so quickly.

But even though I didn't like it personally, at least a valid argument could be made for that scenario. Moving Albert to right tackle, on the other hand, is basically indefensible. He's never played right tackle. He'd only have about four months to learn. He doesn't seem to fit the mold of what teams typically look for in a right tackle. The whole idea is total insanity.

Of course, in fairness to the Chiefs, it's only the media that has floated this dubious theory. A month ago, if they weren't assuming Okung for the #5 pick, many in the media had Rutgers' Davis going to Kansas City. But now the overwhelming pick appears to be Bulaga, because of the relationship between Scott Pioli and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.

And when it comes to the NFL Draft, oh, what a relationship it's been.

Ferentz took over the Hawkeyes' program back in 1999. Pioli never had the final say in New England, but we can probably assume he had some influence starting in 2002 when he became the Patriots' Vice President of Player Personnel. Of course, he took over the Chiefs in 2009.

From 2002-2009, here are all of the players from Iowa that were drafted by the Chiefs or Patriots:

Yep, that's the list. Nobody. Not a single person. Pioli has never once participated in the drafting of a player coached by his buddy Ferentz, yet half the media has him reaching on a tackle simply because of that connection.

The unfortunate part about all of these crackpot theories is that because of the Chiefs' first pick last year, we actually have to give credence to them. We can't simply laugh off the idea of the team doing something foolish.

But if common finally sense prevails, we should be able to put the offensive tackle discussion to rest.

MQuarterback: Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame)
A recent article in the Kansas City Star featured Pioli discussing the need to create competition on the roster. It's hard to argue with his assessment. After all, competition will help make everyone better.

So who's going to compete with Matt Cassel?

It's been discussed before that in the latter stages of the season – when the Chiefs' offensive line improved and Jamaal Charles created a running game – Cassel actually regressed and had some of his worst statistical performances of the season. So he's as in need of competition as anyone else on the team.

Brodie Croyle seems like an ideal backup. He's a hard worker, he's capable of taking the reigns in a pinch, and he's got plenty of talent. But his injury history makes him an unlikely candidate to ever be considered as the full-time starter. It's just too risky to count on him, as the Herm Edwards led Chiefs learned back in 2008.

It's no secret that Charlie Weis is a big fan of Clausen. He was also a big fan of his former pupil Brady Quinn, who was recently traded to Denver. Given the terms of that trade – a sixth-round pick in next year's draft, a conditional pick in 2012 that could go as high as the third-round, and running back Peyton Hillis – it's hard to imagine the Chiefs couldn't have landed Quinn if they'd wanted to. The Browns practically gave him away, getting no picks at all in 2010.

Should anything be read into this? Did the Chiefs opt against trading for Quinn because Cassel will go into 2010 with no one but Croyle pushing him for the job? Or did the team decide that they didn't want to give up something for one of Weis' quarterbacks when another might fall right into their lap?

Linebacker: Rolando McClain (Alabama), Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida)
Talk of the Chiefs drafting a linebacker hasn't gained any steam since our last installment. McClain's stock seems to have leveled off a bit, with most analysts agreeing that he's not a top ten pick. He still remains an option if the Chiefs are able to trade back, but taking him at #5 seems unlikely.

As for Pierre-Paul or any of the other potential pass-rushing OLBs in the draft, little has been said to link them to the Chiefs' spot at #5. Given the talent that should be available, outside linebacker should be a spot to watch with one of the Chiefs' second-round picks – although we could easily say that about a few other positions too.

Defensive Back: Eric Berry - Safety (Tennessee), Joe Haden - Corner (Florida) Haden's stock hit a bump with his slow 40-yard dash time at the combine, but reports from his pro day had him in the 4.4 range that most were expecting. Apparently, a strained back was to blame for his combine performance. He should still go in the latter half of the top ten.

Berry's stock remains sky high as one of the three or four best prospects in the draft. Like before, if he's there when the Chiefs pick at #5, it's hard to imagine a better player being available.

A brief analysis by Sports Illustrated's Peter King has recently called into question whether a safety is good value at the top of the draft. Unfortunately, the logic was somewhat marred by one of it's key points, a claim that top safeties are often injured because they take similar abuse as linebackers while having smaller bodies.

King cited the fact that the Colts' Bob Sanders, the Ravens' Ed Reed, and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu have missed a combined 78 games in their careers. That number may technically be accurate, but it's far from a fair split – the injury-prone Sanders accounts for 63% of it by himself.

King's column was most notable for a quote from Atlanta Falcons' GM (and former top Patriots' scout) Thomas Dimitroff, who relayed a specific conversation he had with Pioli about drafting Berry. According to the column, when Dimitroff – at some unidentified point in time – told Pioli "this guy's your pick", Pioli responded "You know how I feel about safeties that early".

Of course, there's a number of ways to interpret that comment. Perhaps Pioli elaborated further, which wasn't shared with King. Perhaps Pioli was simply being coy. Or perhaps he said it before he personally met with Berry, before Romeo Crennel ran Berry's pro day, before Brandon Flowers worked out with Berry, and before any of the other things that should have given Pioli more insight.

Then there's the fact that the entire quote just seems strange. An NFL general manager – and a good friend of Pioli's, at that – basically stooges off to a reporter what Pioli might be planning for the draft? That seems rather hard to imagine.

Regardless, it can't be ignored that the Chiefs have done nothing whatsoever to address the safety position this offseason. It might not have been the biggest need on the roster when last season ended, but after adding a few stop-gaps at other positions, safety is creeping higher and higher up the list.

If Berry is the best available player and fills a major need, what better combination could there be?

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