Since general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid arrived in 2013, the Chiefs have routinely drafted a year ahead of need in the first round.
For example, in 2013 they selected left tackle Eric Fisher to eventually replace Branden Albert, who departed via free agency the following year. And in 2014 they selected Dee Ford to presumably replace Tamba Hali, who took a pay cut in 2015 to stay and re-signed in March. And in 2015 they selected cornerback Marcus Peters to replace Sean Smith, who left via free agency to Oakland in March.
So outside of Hali — who re-signed after questions surfaced about Justin Houston’s availability in 2016 — the Chiefs’ first-round picks represent a pattern of sorts, one that means the Chiefs could be looking at two positions, in particular, in the first round this year if that trend holds to form: defensive line and offensive tackle.
Why? Star nose tackle Dontari Poe is set to enter the final year of his rookie deal, while the Chiefs have until May 2 to exercise an expensive fifth-year option on Fisher which should approach $12 million for 2017. The option is guaranteed for injury, which means he’d get it automatically if he were to be seriously hurt in 2016.
If they exercise the option, and Fisher doesn’t get hurt this season but fails to live up to the team’s expectations this fall, the Chiefs could cut him at any time before the first day of the new league year in March 2017 and eliminate his cap charge completely.
But Dorsey said the Chiefs have not made a decision on that yet, though other teams around the league have already exercised the options on their 2013 first rounders.
“I know a lot of guys have been exercising these options on players right now. I do things a little bit different,” Dorsey said. “I think what I do is, I’m at times compartmentalizing a little bit too much. So really, the task at hand for me is to make sure we nail this draft. And I think when we get to Monday, we’ll deal with Monday.”
But with Fisher’s option still up in the air, at least on paper — he appeared to have made enough strides over the past year to where if he didn’t get the option exercised, it would be an eye-opener — the Chiefs might be wise to select a tackle with one of their seven picks in this year’s draft, even though there’s some intriguing young developmental players on the roster, including tackle/guard Jarrod Pughsley and tackle Laurence Gibson.
One thing is for probably sure, however: The top two tackles in the draft — Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley and Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil — will likely be long off the board by the time the Chiefs’ pick, No. 28 in the first round, rolls around.
And NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said at a recent conference that he could see the widely accepted No. 3 tackle in the draft, Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, come off the board to Tennessee at No. 15, if not before.
“From the Tennessee perspective, they already have their guy at quarterback,” Mayock said, referring to Marcus Mariota. “I think that’s the important distinction. Now you’ve got to build around him.”
That leaves another widely accepted first-round tackle — Ohio State’s Taylor Decker — potentially on the board for the Chiefs, along with other projected second-round tackles who might sneak into the first round, such as Indiana’s Jason Spriggs or Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi.
However, it seems much more likely the Chiefs decide they can find the swing tackle they still need — remember, they signed a top-notch right tackle in Mitchell Schwartz but left last year’s swing tackle, Donald Stephenson, leave via free agency — later on in the draft or on the current roster (Jah Reid, a projected starter at guard, started several games at right tackle in 2015).
That would allow them to use their first-rounder on real positions of need like defensive line or outside linebacker (where you can never have enough pass rushers) or even cornerback, where they could use another premium young player to compete for Sean Smith’s old job.
Receiver remains a need as well, and Dorsey didn’t rule out a trade down, either.
“Every draft is different, and we prepare for every scenario, whether it be round one, two, three, all the way down to seven,” Dorsey said. “You try to create the best options for the organization in every specific round. Who’s to say right now that I would go up or who’s to say right now I wouldn’t go down?”
Whatever they end up doing, Dorsey said, it will be a move made to improve the competitive depth of a team looking to build on an 11-5 record and their first playoff win in 22 years.
“We’re in our fourth year as far as in the draft, and I think we have begun to build that foundation we talked about. Now you want to add that depth, that competitive depth,” Dorsey said. “There’s nothing better than going into training camp having everybody competing for roles on this team. To me, that’s what good teams do.”
Inside the 2016 NFL Draft: offensive tackles
From April 10 until the draft begins on Thursday, The Star will take a daily look at each position:
Chiefs’ needs: The starting tackles are set as left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will man the positions in 2016, but there’s not much depth behind them. Jah Reid started multiple games at right tackle in 2015 and could kick back outside if necessary, but the best options behind him are talented, developmental guys with little experience. The Chiefs might be tempted to draft a developmental swing guy who can compete at guard as well.
Sleeper: LSU’s Jerald Hawkins needs to get stronger, but he has nice size (6-6, 305), feet and experience playing left tackle and right tackle in the nation’s toughest conference.
▪ Matthew Kleinsorge, Kansas State, 6-5, 306: Former walk-on who played in 33 career games with 26 starts.
▪ Amadou Konte’, Benedictine, 6-7, 301: The native of Dakar, Senegal, was named first-team all-Heart of America Athletic Conference in 2015.
▪ Larry Mazyck, Kansas, 6-8, 335: Super-sized tackle who played in 12 games in 2015, starting four at right tackle.
▪ Keaton Stewart, Avila, 6-3, 280: Carson, Calif., native who transferred to Avila from Los Angeles Southwest College.