Despite an 11-5 record in the 2013 regular season, a playoff appearance, and almost universal praise from its fan base, the Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of roster holes to fill if they want to come close to repeating that success in 2014. Judging by the performance Saturday of the initial group of players at the first day of on-field workouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the team may not have found the answers that they were looking for.
The offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters all took the field for their workouts Saturday morning and the Chiefs were paying close attention to the tight ends, given that one of the biggest off-season needs is to improve their receiver position on offense.
Many draft experts believe that there is only one Tony Gonzalez-like prospect at tight end, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, who will probably be gone by the time the Chiefs make their first round draft pick at #23. However, many mock drafts have KC taking a chance on Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, a 6-5, 260-lb junior who set the NCAA record last year for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end (1,352 yds).
The knock on Amaro and his record-setting year was that he played almost exclusively as a slot receiver in the Red Raiders spread offense and most experts believe he will have to adjust to playing on the line of scrimmage in the NFL.
Unfortunately, given Amaro’s lackluster performance at the Combine Saturday, where he dropped just about every pass thrown to him and followed that up with some of the worst body language imaginable, if the Chiefs were thinking about taking him, they better go back and study his game film more intently. Amaro was singled out by draft expert Mike Mayock of the NFL Network as someone that had a particularly bad Combine.
From your Chiefs Examiner’s point of view, here’s hoping that the Chiefs decide to go in another direction than tight end with their first couple of draft picks. Remember that they spent a high draft pick on Travis Kelce last year (3rd rd, #63 overall) and might have to count on him to return to health after missing his entire rookie season due to injury.
It didn’t help that nearly every tight end had a disappointing day at the Combine and the one player who had a terrific day, A.C. Leonard of Tennessee State, has more red flags than a Nebraska Cornhusker home game concerning his character, maturity and stability.
On the other hand, the offensive linemen looked as good (and deep) as any O-line group the Combine has had in several years. Jake Matthews from Texas A&M did not do anything to hurt his status as the top left tackle in the draft, but Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan catapulted themselves into the top-10 of the draft and Robinson might be the new choice as the #1 overall pick.
The Chiefs are not expected to spend a first-round pick on another offensive lineman, but this class is reportedly one of the deepest in years. KC is expected to let franchise left tackle Branden Albert test free agency instead of signing him to an expensive contract so it is doubtful that the veteran will be back. Last year’s #1 pick, Eric Fisher, would move back to left – the position he played in college that made him worthy of the first overall pick – and Donald Stephenson would step in at right tackle.
Guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah have both started for KC and have played OK at times, but both are free agents. Center Rodney Hudson has been passable at his position, but is in the last year of his contract in 2014 and could leave after that. Look for Head Coach Andy Reid and General Manager John Dorsey to try to add some depth to this unit, if not in the draft then through free agency.
However, the biggest winner on Saturday never stepped on the field and could fill an important need for the Chiefs if he is available in the fourth round. That would be former Mizzou Tiger Michael Sam, the defensive lineman who came out of the closet last month and will become the NFL’s first openly gay player.
Sam met with several hundred members of the media during the player press conferences and answered questions about his life since announcing he was gay. Sam calmly answered every question asked and without doubt came off as someone who just wants to be judged by his football ability and work ethic. To say that he “won over” the jaded sports journalists with his honesty and candor is an understatement.
Even before his announcement, Sam was considered to be worthy of selection anywhere from the third round through the fifth. With the Chiefs' inability to put consistent pressure on the quarterback, if Sam is still available when the Chiefs pick in the fourth round, he would be a good match for KC. Starters Tamba Hali and Justin Houston would give the Chiefs the flexibility to let Sam learn how to play linebacker in the NFL and provide help as a strict pass rushing specialist. He would not have to start from Day One at outside linebacker, he could be a stud on special teams, and his locker room presence could benefit the Chiefs.
Sunday’s Combine workouts will feature quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Though the Chiefs may not need a ton of help at either of those first two positions, their next #1 pick might very well be out on the field with the wide receivers.
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