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Chiefs head to combine still seeking difference-maker

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at 6:07 p.m.

Sometime down the road, the Chiefs may look at the players they selected in the 2013 draft as the ones who finally put the franchise on the road to success.

It’s just difficult to see that from today’s vantage point. The best players in this year’s draft look like linemen and not playmakers. Help in the form of a quarterback or wide receiver to help an ailing offense appears iffy.

The Chiefs, along with the other 31 NFL teams, continue the process of deciding which players to select starting Thursday, when the NFL’s annual scouting combine begins in Indianapolis. The Chiefs already know this: It’s not the best of years for them to have the overall No. 1 pick.

If there is a certain future superstar available to them, he hasn’t made his presence known yet.

“This draft is a little bit different than previous drafts because of all those junior underclassmen who have declared this year,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “We have better depth than we’ve had in the last 10 years. Now, the top end of the draft, the top 10 picks, I don’t see the difference-makers like we’ve had the last three or four years: a couple of quarterbacks last year, Von Miller, Ndamukong Suh. You could see those players each year where before the draft, you knew who they were.

“The quick snapshot of this draft is more depth, not quite the difference-makers at the top end and a whole lot of holes in the quarterback class.”

The Chiefs, as one of only two teams to win just two games last season, earned the No. 1 pick. So it has to be a sad thought that teams picking well behind them, even those who made the playoffs, may have as good a chance of finding that impact player in the first round.

But that’s what Mayock said he believes.

“I wouldn’t want a top 10 pick in this draft,” he said. “The fifth pick and the 25th pick are very similar.”

Mayock said that if he had to list the top eight or 10 players available for the draft regardless of position, they probably would all be offensive or defensive linemen. He said he believes there are only four players worthy of consideration by the Chiefs as that No. 1 pick, and all are offensive linemen: tackles Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and guards Chance Warmack of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina.

The Chiefs need a quarterback, and to a lot of NFL scouts, the best-looking prospect, Geno Smith of West Virginia, is a stretch in the first round. The Chiefs need a wide receiver even if they re-sign Dwayne Bowe because he was their only productive player at the position last year.

The Chiefs invested a lot in their offensive line in recent years, drafting Jon Asamoah, Rodney Hudson, Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson in the top three rounds. They also signed as free agents Ryan Lilja and Eric Winston, though Lilja said at season’s end he would retire.

Complicating matters is that the contract of left tackle Branden Albert will expire next month. He would be an unrestricted free agent if not re-signed before then.

“Part of it depends on what they’re going to do with free agency and Branden Albert,” Mayock said. “They need a quarterback. There are a lot of people who think Geno Smith is in that ballpark. I don’t. But a lot of people think he should be considered. What are they going to do with Dwayne Bowe? Whoever the quarterback is, you need a wide receiver.

“John Dorsey has to be looking at the big picture here. They’ve got (picks) 1 and (34). What’s the best combination of getting the most value out of that? An offensive lineman at one is the most solid guy they can go with. I don’t care if it’s Warmack or Joeckel. People will tell me I’m crazy, that a guard can’t go No. 1. I think he’s the best player in the draft, so I would argue that. Either way, I think they’ve got to get an offensive lineman and come back (in the second round) and prepare to go with a wide receiver or a quarterback. They’ve got to upgrade that offense. I think the tackle is the most obvious guy for day one.”

Mayock isn’t any more upbeat on this year’s group of available quarterbacks than most others. Dorsey, the Chiefs’ general manager, said in a recent interview that it was difficult to rank the top prospects because they all have shown considerable flaws.

The Chiefs appear more likely to draft a quarterback in a later round than with the first pick. Among the top prospects, in addition to Smith: USC’s Matt Barkley, North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.

“There’s not even one guy you would bang the table for in the first round,” Mayock said. “But then there’s a whole bunch of guys after that where you wonder how they fit and how much you trust them.

“Somebody could buy into Geno Smith up high. There are flashes of everything in there. However, he has to put it together on a more consistent basis. A team that feels comfortable in their ability to evaluate and then develop quarterbacks is going to feel better about Geno Smith and Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon.”

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