KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If things work out as they plan, the Chiefs will make the first overall pick in the NFL Draft for the only time Thursday night.
The Chiefs are ultimately trying to win AFC West titles, playoff games and Super Bowls, so bigger prizes are at stake. But if this is indeed the only time they’re going to pick first, the Chiefs want to get it right.
Whether their choice is one of the favorites, offensive tackles Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, or another player, the pressure is on to select an eventual Pro Bowler or even a Hall of Famer instead of a bust.
Only the whole football-loving world is watching.
“It’s magnified,’’ general manager John Dorsey said. “It magnifies the whole process. It’s the first pick in the draft. I look at it as a positive because what it is is you get a shot at the best player in the draft.’’
Fisher and Joeckel are not only two of the top prospects available in the draft, they would fill a need at an important position. The Chiefs may trade starting left tackle Branden Albert to the Miami Dolphins and the deal would leave them with only Donald Stephenson, a third-round draft pick last year, to protect the blind side of new quarterback Alex Smith.
When the story of Dorsey’s career is eventually written, Chapter 1 might deal with the success or failure of this pick. Dorsey was a long-time college scout for the Green Bay Packers but he’s a rookie general manager, having joined the Chiefs in January.
This is his first draft pick and, whether it’s fair or not, it will be Dorsey’s signature pick because the Chiefs have their choice of any available player.
“But whoever we pick, I’ll feel good about it,’’ Dorsey said. “The whole organization is going to feel good about it.
“The process stays the same regardless of whether you’re picking first or 32nd. I’ve used this model for 20 years and it’s as good a model as there is in the National Football League in terms of selecting players in the proper round.’’
The Chiefs will break a string of four straight years in which a quarterback was selected with the first overall pick. The last time a tackle was drafted No. 1 overall was in 2008, when Miami picked Jake Long.
Long recently left the Dolphins as a free agent, creating their need for Albert.
Not only are Fisher and Joeckel generally considered to be among the top players in the draft but tackles are usually, but not always, safer picks.
Still, either player could be a bust, and that’s what makes the job of selecting the top pick a lonely one.
“You try not to feel any pressure at all,’’ said former Houston general manager Charley Casserly, who twice made the No. 1 overall pick for the Texans. “You do your job, you do your analysis and you obviously hope it’s a year where there’s a player there that you’re excited about having. You don’t control the players there. You have to choose from what’s there.
“I didn’t let it become stressful at all. In a sense there’s actually a simplicity to it. It actually helps with the rest of your draft because you don’t have to spend so much time on the player you’re going to take with the first pick. There’s only so many guys you have to look at there and once you get that figured out, you can move on to the second round. That’s what I thought was an advantage.’’
Dorsey, coach Andy Reid and his staff and Chiefs scouts have spent countless hours over the past 3½ months into making the pick.
“It’s important,’’ Reid said. “We’ve got the whole field to choose from. You want to make the right decision. You want the best player and you don’t really care about the position. Then you work your tail off to make sure you do that.’’
The first round will be held Thursday night. The draft continues Friday with the second and third rounds. The final four rounds are on Saturday.
The Chiefs have seven picks after the draft’s initial selection. They have no choice in the second round, having sent it to San Francisco as part of the trade for Smith. The Chiefs have two picks in the third round (63rd and 96th overall), one in the fourth (99), one in the fifth (134), two in the sixth (170, 204) and one in the seventh (207).
The Chiefs filled many of their more obvious lineup holes, with the notable exception of tackle, through free agency. But they could use more depth at a number of spots, including most of the positions on defense.
They may also draft a quarterback despite trading for Smith, their new starter, and signing Chase Daniel, the backup.