Dropping hints and stirring the pot: Why the Chiefs will NOT draft Aaron Curry
So a few things happened over the weekend that made me, at least for this moment, change my mind that Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry is the obvious, slam-dunk choice for the Chiefs to draft Saturday if they hold onto their No. 3 overall pick.
Yes, it's still possible, and Kansas City doesn't need linebackers less after the weekend and Mike Vrabel's absence from the team's voluntary minicamp. But anyway, back on topic: The Chiefs, at least to me, are a lot more likely to take an offensive tackle in that spot than they were five days ago.
In fairness, I get the feeling that the Chiefs' draft board was completed weeks ago. Things are always subject to change, but the way it works is that general manager Scott Pioli and his staff of merry men would generate a list of players, all of them ranked by how much the Chiefs want them. It was under a different regime, of course, but as it happened last year, the top overall player on the Chiefs' board was Glenn Dorsey. He fell to No. 5, and Kansas City got him, but the point was that if the Chiefs had the No. 1 overall pick, they'd determined that Dorsey was the best player out there, and they'd have taken him regardless of draft position.
The top player is generated by a combination of talent, scouting reports, value and, I'd suspect, need. So who's at the top of the Chiefs' draft board this year? For months, I've written here that it must be Curry. HAS to be Curry. NEEDS to be Curry. And maybe it still is Curry.
But here are the things I saw this weekend that makes me think that, well, it might not be Curry holding up a Chiefs jersey come mid-afternoon Saturday.
- Brian Waters was a no-show. The Pro Bowl guard's absence underscored how far the Chiefs' offensive line still has to go. It's unclear yet whether Waters will be on this team when it lines up in the fall, and at the risk of speculating here, Waters' decision to skip Todd Haley's first minicamp was a bad sign for a team whose first priority is to get everyone on the same page. Without Waters, the Chiefs have exactly one offensive lineman they can realistically count on beyond this year and possibly next: Branden Albert. Factor Waters out of the equation, and here's the team's starting offensive line:
LG Wade Smith (who replaced Waters in first-team drills over the weekend)
C Rudy Niswanger
RG Mike Goff
RT Damion McIntosh
- Curry's agent was in Detroit this weekend. This is almost definitely a negotiating ploy from the Lions to quarterback Matthew Stafford's agent. It's designed to give the Lions a little more negotiating power as they try to seal a contract with whomever they'll make the No. 1 pick. They want that player signed before Saturday's draft, and sometimes teams have to play dirty. But it wouldn't be a shock if Detroit did take Curry at No. 1 overall. He's the safest pick in the draft, according to some experts, and as we learned three years ago when Houston took defensive end Mario Williams at No. 1 overall, sometimes it's a smart play to take a defender in that spot. To that end, the Chiefs might not even get the chance to draft Curry.
- Pioli's close eye on the offensive line. I just don't think that, more than 20 years after his final snap as a college lineman, Pioli is still so interested in watching an NFL line that he hovers around it for at least three practices. Pioli was measuring everything during the three practices reporters were allowed to attend this weekend, but no unit got his attention quite like the offensive line. He stood uncomfortably close at times, not talking to anyone or smiling, and carrying with him a notepad and pen. It's possible that Pioli was sizing up exactly what the Chiefs have -- and likely finding out it's not as much as most NFL teams would like.
- Matt Cassel's potential. It's clear that Cassel will be the Chiefs' starting quarterback, barring a catastrophe, if for no other reason than his $14 million guaranteed salary. But there's more to Cassel than that, including one of the most accurate arms the Chiefs have had on their roster in years. I saw Cassel make one bad throw the entire weekend, when he overthrew Bobby Engram on a corner post route Sunday. The trajectory on his passes is low and tight, and his passes generally arrive near receivers' numbers. It's something the Chiefs just haven't had in a long time, and I get the feeling they don't want anything to interfere with that.
So with those four observations in mind, perhaps the Chiefs' greatest need really is offensive tackle. If they draft Eugene Monroe or Jason Smith at No. 3, yes, that's a high price for a right tackle -- even if Albert is shifted to somewhere other than left tackle -- but it also would almost definitely lock in a pair of oustanding bookend linemen for the next five to seven years. There's an incredible market for that in the NFL, and the value of two marquee tackles is as high as anything these days.
The Chiefs need a linebacker and a pass rusher and a lot of other things. But after watching those guys this weekend, some things changed in my mind. We'll see Saturday how Pioli's mind processes it.