Our review of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster continues today with an evaluation of the offensive tackle positions on both sides of the line. Just as we did yesterday with the center spot, the evaluation will focus not just on the Chiefs’ personnel, but what AFC West rivals have available.
Kansas City’s tackles are a mixed back. Branden Albert has the left side anchored down, and while he’s not in the league’s elite, he’s a solid presence in protecting the quarterback’s blind side. ESPN’s Scouts Inc, praises Albert’s techniques, which helps offset the fact his foot agility is not lightning-fast. The other side of the line is a serious problem. 25-year old Barry Richardson is on top of the depth chart, but his intensity has been criticized, and he’s overmatched in one-on-one battles outside, requiring offensive gameplans to give help in the form of a tight end or fullback—which necessarily limits offensive creativity.
One reason Denver won the division and gets good production in the running game is the capable work of left tackle Ryan Clady, who gets the highest Scouts Inc. grade of any tackle in the AFC West. Clady wins praise for his quickness on the edge and his ability to adjust as a play develops. He could use additional strength to become an even better run blocker, but even here, he’s still an asset. The right tackle job is filled by 24-year old Orlando Franklin who is still a work in progress.
San Diego suffered offensive line injuries this season and one of those areas was at left tackle, where Jared Gaither only started five games. He grades out second to Clady among offensive tackles in this division and at 6’9” 340 and great agility, he’s the purest physical specimen the AFC West has to offer. Gaither wins praise for intensity, which gives reason to think the 24-year old can smooth out inconsistencies in technique that hold him back. Jeromey Clary is competent on the other side, with good footwork, although the scouts feel like he can be beaten on countermoves, which puts added pressure on receivers to get open quickly.
Oakland has some serious work to do on both sides of their offensive line. Jared Valdheer isn’t far from being a good left tackle, but he’s seen as having additional work to do in reacting to a pass rusher’s secondary move and to improve his strength for run-blocking. Khalif Barnes grades out poorly, with the problem being inconsistent technique rather than lack of talent. But 29 years old is getting up there for a tackle and I would not see any reason to think Barnes will improve.
The Chiefs have improvement to do in this area, with elite players being at both San Diego and Denver. The positive is that the presence of Albert gives some consistency and it’s very realistic to think the void on the other side can be filled via free agency. Kansas City won’t win games because of their tackles, but some modest upgrades can at least ensure they don’t lose them.