The long wait for the 2014 NFL Draft will finally be over in four days, including the speculation over what the Kansas City Chiefs have planned with the 23rd pick overall.
Dec 31, 2013; El Paso, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (56) before the game against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2013 Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
While popular opinion has the Chiefs taking a wide receiver in the first round, the brain trust at One Arrowhead Drive may not see it that way.
The underlying message last week from general manager John Dorsey’s pre-draft press conference surrounded the best player available, meaning there are options to consider.
[Related: Dorsey discusses the 2014 draft]
Now, so be it if mock draft favorites Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee are indeed the best available. But it wouldn’t surprise if the Chiefs waited until the middle rounds to address wide receiver given the depth of the position in this year’s draft.
Barring a trade to move up or down, Dorsey indicated during his pre-draft presser the team’s first-round decision could come down to four players, all of whom he didn’t name.
Nevertheless, here are four options at No. 23 and why each makes sense for the Chiefs:
1. Offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA: Last week’s signing of guard Otis Hudson gives the Chiefs 13 offensive linemen currently on the roster before the draft. And the Chiefs need the depth given the free-agent losses of left tackle Branden Albert and guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asomoah.
Selecting Su’a-Filo, who measures 6-foot-4, 307 pounds, allows coveted versatility on the offensive line. He started 40 games at UCLA and can play inside or outside.
“I’ve been told I’m a guard,” Su’a-Filo told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked where he projects in the NFL. “But I feel like I could play tackle as well and be good at it.”
The Chiefs signed Jeff Linkenbach, who can also play inside and outside, but are thin behind starting tackles Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson.
Su’a-Filo can start immediately at right guard and provide depth at the tackle position.
2. Free safety Calvin Pryor, Louisville: He’ll have to make it to No. 23, but Pryor must be considered if he slides to this spot. Despite returning Sanders Commings and the re-signing of Husain Abdullah, the Chiefs would be wise to bolster competition at free safety in light of last year’s second-half decline on the back end of pass coverage.
Pryor has the reputation of a big hitter, but his versatility ensures the Chiefs can play him anywhere deemed necessary.
“My first two years at Louisville, I played mostly in the middle of the field,” Pryor told reporters at the Combine. “But after becoming a playmaker, causing fumbles, getting interceptions, coaches started moving me around having the ability to play all over the place.”
Other considerations at the free safety position could be Alabama’s HaSean “Ha-Ha” Clinton-Dix or Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward.
3. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: While there’s no doubt a wide receiver is important, the tight end is essential to Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense and can’t be overlooked. The tight end woes of 2013 are documented, but Travis Kelce returning from microfracture knee surgery should provide a boost.
[Related: Understanding microfracture helps with recovery timeline]
Still, adding a player like Seferian-Jenkins, last year’s John Mackey Award recipient as college football’s top tight end, instantly upgrades the passing game. At 6-foot-5, 252 pounds, the athletic former basketball player recently boosted his draft stock by running a reported 4.56 40-yard dash and wouldn’t mind playing in the offensive system the Chiefs deploy.
“It would be great for everyone if I was able to play in a West Coast offense because obviously it’s tight-end friendly with short, intermediate passes and I think I really excel at that,” Seferian-Jenkins previously told ChiefsSpin.com. “I think you have to block and I think I add a dimension to the game as well to stretch the field.”
4. Defensive end/outside linebacker Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State: Perhaps a reach this early when considering he’s projected as a late first-round pick or second-round pick, but the Chiefs currently don’t have the luxury of the latter.
The pick makes sense because the Chiefs aren’t far from having issues at the outside linebacker position with Tamba Hali turning 31 in November and Justin Houston entering the final year of his contract.
Lawrence, who dealt with three one-game suspensions in college, comes with character concerns. But the talent is difficult to ignore, especially if background checks turn out OK.
Measured at 6-foot-3, 251 pounds at the Combine, he notched 72 tackles (39 solo) and 10.5 sacks in 2013, totaling 20 sacks in two years of starting at Boise State.
While he played defensive end in college, Lawrence fits Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme as an outside puss rasher in the mold of Houston or Hali, and has the right mentality.
“If you punish the quarterback,” Lawrence told reporters at the Combine, “you change the game.”
Quarterback Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: He’ll obviously need to have one of those annual agonizing draft-day slides, but the Chiefs shouldn’t blink twice if this dynamic playmaker is somehow sitting in the green room at 23.
With the draft drawing closer, here are prospect-related articles previously published on this website for those needing a fix:
• Versatility enhances North Dakota State offensive lineman Billy Turner’s draft value.
• Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desire offers NFL teams more than size.
• Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins ready for NFL spotlight.
• Kansas State’s Cornelius Lucas and Ty Zimmerman primed for the draft.
• Contributor Desmond Bailey on William & Mary safety Jerome Couplin and Delaware defensive lineman Zach Kerr.