This week we’ll review a handful of first-round prospects in the 2012 NFL draft each day, with an eye toward seeing how they might in with the Kansas City Chiefs. Today’s focus is the Crimson Five, a quintet of players coming from national champion Alabama…
Mark Barron (S): Barron can play either strong or free safety, although his skill set looks better suited to strong safety. He does almost everything on a football field well, but just lacks really elite speed. ESPN’s Scouts Inc, loves his recognition skills—indeed his ability to read routes allows him to play effective man coverage even without top-end speed. The downside is that there’s no ability to recover if he’s beaten. But he plays the run well and it’s easy to see him becoming a solid NFL strong safety. Kansas City can use Eric Berry at either strong or free safety, so there is some flexibility here. Kendrick Lewis is a solid player at free safety, but not so good that you can’t think about replacing him. A Barron pick would be justifiable and in a division with teams like Oakland and Denver building around the run, a strong safety who can hit and wrap is a valued addition.
Trent Richardson (RB): A lot of projections have the ‘Bama back going in the top five, but it’s still not unthinkable that he might slide. The scouts absolutely love his instincts for the game and his ability to run between the tackles make him someone who’s probably a better NFL prospect than he was a college back, where he was often overrated. But he’s strong, breaks tackles and has good footwork to make the interior runs necessary for an NFL back. From Kansas City’s standpoint, an insurance policy for Jamaal Charles would help a lot, but a first-round pick is an expensive policy.
Dre’ Kirkpatrick (CB): He stands a little taller than 6’2”, so matching up with taller receivers can be done, especially with his long arms. Scouts want to see him diagnose routes a little better and he will have problems matching up with short, quick receivers, but he does provide good run support. With Kansas City having signed Stanford Routt there’s no logical place for Kirkpatrick in the lineup.
Dont’a Hightower (ILB): The scouts love his ability to read standard plays quickly and to take correct angles to the ball. Hightower’s weakness is that he can maneuvered out of position on counters and misdirections. That’s easy enough to correct with coaching, but there’s no getting around his lack of speed. If Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli wants Hightower he can trade down within the first round and get him, and Hightower could be an improvement on Jovan Belcher.
Courtney Upshaw (OLB): With his great instincts for the ball and ability to wreak havoc on an offense in a 3-4 scheme, Upshaw would be a perfect fit in Kansas City opposite Tamba Hali. The question Pioli has to ask is whether the improvement over Justin Houston is substantial enough to use a high draft pick. It’s likely to be irrelevant, because Upshaw is currently seen as a Top 10 prospect and the presence of Houston means Pioli won’t feel the need urgently enough to trade up.