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2012 NFL Draft Class Weak In Pass Rushers, Could Shift Chiefs Away From David DeCastro, Luke Kuechly

For those of you hip to Football Outsider’s various equations that measure NFL statistics left-of-center, you know that the writers there often unmask many important points for the average reader. One of the site’s best measurement is their SackSEER formula which, well, it’s better if they explain it.

One important note, however, is that the generally held thought that there’s no dynamic pass rusher or two in this class but rather a few guys who could fare well seems to hold up when applying the metric. Nathan Forster writes:

On balance, SackSEER believes that 2012 will be a fairly poor year for edge rushers, with only one strong prospect and a slew of likely-to-disappoint high-round picks. Last year, SackSEER 2.0 projected eight edge rushers to hit 20.0 sacks or more, led by Von Miller, who had the seventh highest SackSEER projection of all-time. SackSEER 2.0 only projects four of this year’s prospects to reach 20.0 sacks in their first five years in the league -— and they’re not necessarily the four whom you would expect.

In short, this class is half as good as last year for guys who can rush the passer. That should significantly affect the draft strategies of several teams who might bypass a great player at a deep position for the ability to grab one of a few real pass rushers.

The top four for Football Outsiders are interesting: Nick Perry of USC, Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, Shea McClellin of Boise State and Chandler Jones of Syracuse. Andre Branch of Clemson is also projected just at the bottom line of those predicted for at least 20 sacks in their first few years in the league.

In short, consider that the Kansas City Chiefs were among the three worst teams in the NFL last season at rushing the passer — yet they were credited for having a great defense. If the Chiefs are going to succeed this year, the pass rush has to get better. The maturation of Justin Houston will help as will the return of Eric Berry to allow everyone else to do what they do. But they also don’t have enough pass rushers in general.

Romeo Crennel admitted as much in a press conference, saying the can’t have enough pass rushers (along with speed receivers). Given the shortage here, the Chiefs could be in a real position to grab one at No. 11.

This could affect the draft board position of players commonly linked to the Chiefs in mock drafts. Why would the Chiefs take David DeCastro, a great guard certainly, when the draft is particularly deep in interior linemen? In short, it’s the one position in the draft where getting a starter in the fourth or even fifth round is not a stretch. Do the Chiefs change their strategy accordingly?

What about Luke Kuechly? Does the upgrade from Brandon Siler and Jovan Belcher as a tandem to move up to Kuechly’s "safe pick" level worth skipping over the best pass rushers available in the draft?

These are questions that are impossible for those of us outside of the Chiefs war room to answer. The Chiefs continue to surprise in many drafts since Scott Pioli arrived. No one saw the Tyson Jackson pick coming. Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas both provided perplexing moments at first. Pioli knows what his team needs and they will stick to it. But if that need is pass rusher, it shouldn’t surprise if the Chiefs stomp on every mock to make the pick they need.

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