Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Serves Up Plenty Of Pro Talent

Tonight’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl might be between two non-BCS schools, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see a handful of players that will hear their names called during the NFL Draft.  The Kansas City Chiefs currently hold 8 draft picks and with the amount of holes they need to fill, there’s a good chance that number will rise on draft day.

Here are a few of the players to keep your eye on as you start thinking about who the Chiefs will pick in April.

TCU

Jerry Hughes – DE/OLB

With the Chiefs having just seen Denver’s Elvis Dumervil twice in the last month or so, there should be no concerns about Hughes’ main knock from scouts: “Lacks prototypical size (6-1, 250)”.  Either you can get to the quarterback or you can’t and this beast most certainly can.  In fact, he has done nothing but get better every year while playing a major part in one of the best defenses in the country.

While I would never compare any player in this year’s draft to Derrick Thomas, Hughes’ burst off the snap is definitely reminiscent of the Hall of Famer.  Going against a Boise State team that has done a great job of protecting QB Kellen Moore (only 5 sacks) it will be quite the accomplishment if Hughes can harass the Broncos signal caller.

Could very well be available to the Chiefs in the second round, though should push his way into the first round with a solid combine workout (sub 4.7 40).

Daryl Washington – ILB

Another candidate to be moved, Washington could end up playing on the outside at the next level.  While Hughes gets all of the attention, it’s the rugged Washington that is currently leading the Horned Frogs in tackles with 99.

Like most prospects from non-BCS schools, Washington will use his pro day to prove a lot to scouts and after watching him play I wouldn’t be surprised if he posts a top five 40 time among all linebackers.  Watch how quickly he goes sideline to sideline throughout the game and you’ll wonder how he hasn’t been given more national attention.

Linebackers that aren’t known for rushing the passer generally fall in the draft.  Add that to the school he comes from and Washington looks like a 4th round pick and with the position being one of great need to the Chiefs, he could be a fit.

Rafael Priest – CB

I’m not sold that he’s a lock to be drafted, but he has Todd Haley-Scott Pioli written all over him.  Just two weeks ago he suffered a serious ankle injury in practice when he accidentally stepped on the back of a receivers foot.  Instead of calling it a career and making sure he is healthy for what will be an important pro day, Priest has vowed to play in tonight’s game.

Priest isn’t all guts.  He’s got solid size (5-10, 175) and if his ankle allows him to run, he should impress with the stop watch.  And not that names matter, but could the Chiefs really go wrong by adding another Priest?

Boise St.

Kyle Wilson – CB

Of all the players on the field tonight, Wilson is the one I’d most like to see line up for the Chiefs.  But he’s also probably the least likely with cornerback not sitting at the top of Scott Pioli’s wish list and Wilson looking more and more like a late second round pick — at worst.

Wilson is a kid that struggled with some off the field issues early in his career but has bounced back to not only be a fantastic corner, but also a solid punt returner having taken three kicks to the house last season.  He used his return skills this season while taking two interceptions back for touchdowns.

He could be hurt by his size if he measures out much shorter than his listed 5-10, but should make up for it with his versatility.  Sure would be a nice fit as a punt returner and nickel corner next season.

Jeron Johnson – S

Here is a guy that is more intriguing to think about than actual 2009 draft prospect.  As a junior, he will most certainly return for his senior year but will find a job in the league if he does decide to enter the draft.

Johnson has picked off four passes while playing center field for Boise St. and should go over 100 tackles during tonight’s game.  I know sometimes a strong safety can pick up a lot of cheap tackles (see: Brown, Mike) but that’s not the case with Johnson.  He plays all over the field and hits like a ton of bricks.

As a junior from a smaller school he would likely be available in the fourth round and could turn out to be a fantastic value.  After spending his senior year at Boise St. as the leader of that defense he could work his way into the second round.

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