It's that time of the year again where everyone and their brother has their "can't miss" pick for their favorite NFL franchise. It's the nerd in all of us trying to piece together the NFL draft puzzle that no matter how much research you do or experts you listen to, something crazy always happens that nobody saw coming. (See Atlanta Falcons and Julio Jones last year). While I spend almost all of my time thinking and researching info on the Kansas City Chiefs, I admittedly have no idea what direction they're headed with this next draft.
There seems to be a consensus that offensive line is the way that the Chiefs are going to go with their first round pick. It's an easy choice for a team that only has two starters that can be 100% penciled in right now as starters heading into next season, right guard Jon Asamoah and left tackle Branden Albert. Center Casey Wiegmann is on the verge of retirement and while the Chiefs have Rodney Hudson waiting in the wings to take over, he didn't play center at all last season and isn't a given for the position heading into next season. The Chiefs also have to make decisions on Ryan Lilja and Barry Richardson this off season. Lilja regressed a bit in 2011 while moving to left guard after playing right guard in 2010. Barry Richardson has been at the center of attention in looking for a replacement since he took over a few seasons ago.
Even though offensive line is a priority for the Chiefs heading into this off season, there are still a few obvious reasons that the Chiefs should take Alabama running back Trent Richardson with their first pick in the 2012 NFL draft. While all of this in contingent on Richardson being available at No. 11, there's mixed opinions on whether he'll still be there when the Chiefs are on the clock. But if he is still available when the Chiefs pick, here are five reasons he should wear red and gold next season.
1. Insurance for an injured Jamaal Charles. Based on Scott Pioli's comments that the Chiefs will not be trading up for a quarterback in the draft it would seem that they are heading into next season with Matt Cassel as the quarterback. With that said, the Chiefs will then still be a run-heavy team and while getting a right tackle to help the running game would benefit the offense overall, it still becomes reliant on Charles' health and the second running back position. It seems unlikely that Thomas Jones will be back to be the one to split carries with Charles next season. Therefore with Charles coming back from an injury the Chiefs need to make sure that their bread and butter is still their bread and butter. Pounding the rock.
2. Matt Cassel is the Chiefs quarterback next season. I've officially fallen off the Matt Cassel can win us a Super Bowl wagon. I think we can be a good team with him under center, I am just not convinced we can be a great team with him. That is unless we have the most dominant run game in the history of the NFL. Trent Richardson is being called the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He's able to stay in on third down and help in pass protection as well as catching passes out of the backfield. He would be the best option to help the Chiefs become the greatest running team of all time. Maybe a strong statement, but it's the only way in my opinion that the Chiefs can compete for a Super Bowl next year.
3. Insurance on a Jamaal Charles hold-out. Nobody likes to think of their teams' favorite player as a guy that could potentially hold out on his team before the season. I'm not saying that it will be next season because it couldn't be with his injury, but that's not to say it couldn't happen within the next two years after, if he's proven to come back and be the same player as he was before the injury. The reason it could be open for a hold out is that Charles' contract is much more team-friendly than other players around the league and while it sounds great now, it sets up for a hold-out situation.
Chris Johnson signed a six-year, $55.6 million deal with $30 million guaranteed before last season, and DeAngelo Williams signed a five-year $43 million with $21 million guaranteed. Charles contract was five-years, $27.97 million with $10 million guaranteed. When it comes to running backs it's all about the guaranteed money in the contract, and you can't convince me that Williams is worth twice as much and Johnson is worth three times as much as Charles. Bringing in Richardson protects the Chiefs in this situation as a guy who can still be a featured back and carry the ball for an offense that would be reliant on his production to win games.
4. You need two backs in this league right now. The Chiefs are going to be a run-first team and Jackie Battle, Dexter McCluster or Thomas Jones cannot be the No. 2 back for a team that has Matt Cassel under center and wants to compete for Championships. Plain and simple. Richardson can take short-yardage situations, but can also make big plays with his size/speed combination. He and Charles would complement each other well and the Chiefs will need that in 2012.
5. The value for the team, not just the draft. Many people will argue that the Chiefs shouldn't take Richardson if he's available because running backs just aren't as valuable as they used to be and good ones can be found later in the draft. In any other year or if it was any other player I would completely agree with this logic. The issue that Richardson isn't just any running back, he IS that good and the Chiefs are a run-first team whose only legitimate running back is coming off major knee surgery. I'd love to get a good right tackle, but what happens when we have a great right tackle and our No. 2 running back is Jackie Battle? Or heaven-forbid Charles doesn't come back as the same player or tweaks his knee again? We'd be right back to where we started, only slightly better on the offensive line but still don't have the playmakers to take advantage of an improved OL.
The same argument can be made for finding an offensive tackle in the second round that could come in and compete for a starting position. I'd rather take Trent Richardson and let Barry Richardson, David Mims and a second-round pick battle it out for the right tackle position.
The bottom line is that the Chiefs are going to rely heavily on the run game to win games and they'll need more insurance in the running back position than Jamaal Charles coming off an injury and Jackie Battle or some later-round pick. It's just too important to this offense to not get the best players available at the position. Not to say that offensive line isn't important, but Richardson is the running back equivalent to Matt Kalil in this draft, and the Chiefs don't have a shot at Kalil, they might with Richardson.