Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have fixed the offensive tackle position via free agency with the signing of Eric Winston, general manager Scott Pioli has increased flexibility in the coming NFL draft. I had previously advocated the selection of Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin with the 11th pick in the draft, as the idea combination of talent and need. With the need factor gone, here are a few options that Pioli now has at his disposal….
*The only glaring positional deficiency in the starting lineup is at center, and the top-rated center by ESPN’s Scouts Inc, is Wisconsin’s Peter Konz, ranked #31 overall. Need for not, you can’t pick him as high as #11. If the opportunity exists, and Pioli is sold on Konz, he can trade down, get an extra middle round pick or two out of it and still grab his center of the future.
*In an ideal world, Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw would fall to #11. He grades roughly in the Chiefs’ drafting neighborhood. Although I have my doubts that really does fall that far, he’d be a nice asset to put on the opposite side of Tamba Hali.
*Boston College inside linebacker Luke Kuechly is also expected to go in this area, and while he doesn’t have the flash of Upshaw, he can be a solid contributor against the run. Though it’s no guarantee, I’d expect him to still be on the board when Kansas City’s number is up.
The other top prospects that might be around are Alabama defensive end Melvin Ingram and North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples. Both are great football players, but using a first-round pick on a defensive end in a 3-4 system makes zero sense.
What’s most important to take note of is that every single one of these options is a good one. Some are better than others, and my ideal would be to see Pioli either draft Upshaw or trade down and pick Konz. But if the general manager settles for Kuechly or even takes a talented defensive end, it’s hard to deny he’s upgraded what’s already shaping up to be a pretty good team set to fly under the radar as the Peyton Manning Media Frenzy overshadows the AFC West.