Just in case all this talk about injunctions, appeals and other things that have nothing to do with the actual game that we all love has made you forget, the NFL Draft is just hours away.
With that in mind, we figured there was no better way to get into the swing of the draft than taking, well, a swing at who Scott Pioli and the Kansas City Chiefs might target with the eight selections they currently own.
1. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
From the beginning of the draft process I though that Carimi was the best fit for the Chiefs and barring an unexpected player falling or a trade down, he still seems like the best bet. He stepped in for All-Pro Joe Thomas and never missed a beat, starting four years at Wisconsin while getting better every year. Carimi capped an impressive career by taking home the Outland Trophy while also sitting on the Academic All-Big Ten team.
A monster on the ground, Carimi immediately improves what was already the NFL’s best rushing attack. He still has to improve in pass protection, but is already better there than Barry Richardson or Ryan O’Callaghan.
By selecting Carimi, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley will have a lunch pail player that just wants to get out on the field and be the best. A lot of guys scream about being the best, but with the big man from Wisconsin there won’t be any doubt about him putting in the work to make it happen.
2. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
After an easy first pick, here is one that is much more of a stretch. It’s never a good thing when the first thing — other than his massive 6’5″ frame — that jumps out at you is an arrest for assault, harassment and disorderly conduct (the chargers were eventually dropped). Dig deeper and there are whispers about inconsistent effort, though it isn’t glaring on tape.
The way I figure, when you can get a player with one of the higher ceilings at his position this late, it should be too much to pass up. Even if you discount the work Haley did with that other WR from Pitt — because Baldwin is certainly no Larry Fitzgerald — there’s no denying what he has been able to get out of Dwayne Bowe. There is no better position for the Chiefs to gamble, especially now that Haley has an offensive coordinator he feels more comfortable with, allowing the head coach to spend more time with a pet project.
Baldwin catches everything near him, including going across the middle with no fear, something the Chiefs have been sorely lacking. Add in above average run blocking and the Chiefs will have a stud if Haley can push the right buttons.
3. Sam Acho, OLB, Texas
If Carimi represents the “Right 53″, then Acho is part of the “Perfect 53″. When listing what you want in a player, you would pretty much end up describing the former Longhorn. A team captain, Acho has won awards for, but not limited to, strength and conditioning, community service and academic excellence. He has also taken time to take medical missions to Nigeria. Oh, and he isn’t too shabby in between the lines either.
The only reason he may be available this late is due to concerns about his ability to convert from a defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, concerns that I do not share. You don’t need to look at his pre-draft workouts to know that he has the physical tools to eventually be a very solid linebacker in the NFL. Instead you should just watch him on tape to see that when he has had to run in space, he has more than held his own.
4. K.J. Wright, OLB, Mississippi State
Overkill at outside linebacker? Truth be told, it wouldn’t hurt to give the unit a lot of help on the outside opposite Tamba Hali, but I see Wright bumping inside to play next to Derrick Johnson. In my mind, Wright has second round talent but will slip due to a less-than-stellar combine.
A picture of consistency, Wright played in every game for Mississippi over the last three years as he gradually took over leadership of the defense. Would represent an immediate upgrade over Jovan Belcher.
5. Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU
Thomas Jones is only likely to be in Kansas City for one more season and after the way he finished the season, the Chiefs could need help at running back as early as this season. Ridley may not bring a ton of experience — 2010 was his only one as a starter — but he is immensely talented.
During a season in which he picked up 1,147 yards on 249 carries, the team captain showed he has all the tools you look for in a reliable back. He runs with a purpose, holds his own when it comes to blitz pickups and though he didn’t get much chance to show it (11 catches), Ridley has the hands to get the job done in the passing game.
5. Jeron Johnson, S, Boise State
It seems there are few veterans that Haley has enjoyed having around his team more than Jon McGraw, but it’s time to move on. Kendrick Lewis looks the part of the long-term starter next to Eric Berry, though there isn’t much behind either player and that was never more clear than when McGraw was on the field lst season.
His last three years, Johnson led the Boise defense in tackles while playing through injuries to help the Broncos continually play the role of Cinderella in the BCS system. He should be able to fill in where needed at both safety positions.
6. Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame
Waiting this long to get some muscle in the defensive line won’t deliver the potential of Phil Taylor, but Williams wouldn’t be a bad alternative. He lacked the stamina to play for long stretches at Notre Dame, but with the amount of rotating the Chiefs do on defense, Williams should be able ease his way into the NFL.
Haley likely was impressive not only by Williams’ consistency from play-to-play but also seeing him come back from what was initially diagnosed as a season-ending injury to play in Notre Dame’s bowl game.
Toughness and non-stop effort? Sounds like a late-round fit to me.
7. Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama
There’s no way to know where arguably the smartest player in the draft will go, but if he is still available in the final round, it would be hard for Haley and Pioli not to bring him to Kansas City.
Think of him as a younger, more athletic version of another former Alabama QB, current Chiefs backup Brodie Croyle. No one will ever confuse McElroy’s arm with the cannon that Croyle owns, but lack of arm strength isn’t exactly a necessity to play in Haley’s offense.
McElroy is a proven leader and winner that played through multiple injuries during his career at Alabama. The only thing that kept him out of action was a monster hit in the final minutes against Auburn when he was slammed the ground following a whiff by his right tackle.