Over at Arrowhead Addict, there is increasing doubt that the Chiefs pull the trigger on former Demon Deacon Aaron Curry at No. 3. As AA writer Jeremy Hanson points out, Kansas City is up to its eyeballs in linebackers, the most recent acquisition being Zach Thomas, and moreover, Curry isn’t well-suited to the Chiefs’ new 3-4 defense. Instead, KC fans are increasingly talking about wide receiver, offensive tackle or pass-rusher with the third overall pick.
Next up is Seattle, for whom linebacker wasn’t even on the radar at the beginning of free agency, though they did subsequently trade LB Julian Peterson to Detroit. Still, offensive line, wide receiver and possibly quarterback probably represent both bigger areas of need and positions at which players worth the No. 4 overall will be available.
Added: Just after I wrote this, Shaun over at 12thmanrising.com, fansided’s Seahawks blog, examined Curry from Seattle’s perspective. He sees Curry as a definite possibility, but the ‘Hawks are already spending a lot of money on the LB spot.
"Even though he is a great athlete and will probably be successful in the NFL, the Seahawks may pass because they’ve already got a lot of money tied up in the linebackers. Adding the salary of a top five pick will only add to the financial dilemma. Seattle has to focus on signing Leroy Hill to a long-term deal, and already has Tatupu locked in with a huge contract. There are more cost effective alternatives to a third starting linebacker, and Seattle has needs elsewhere that can be met with their initial pick."
Hill currently wears the franchise tag, while Lofa Tatupu signed a six-year, $42 million deal ($18 million guaranteed) in March of last year.
If Curry doesn’t fit the 3-4 in Kansas City, then Cleveland becomes an unlikely destination as well. Added 2: And if today’s report that Braylon Edwards is headed to the Giants is true, they have no one to catch the ball, making wideout a huge need up north.
Imagine a draft that goes something like this:
- Detroit Lions: Matt Stafford
- St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith
- Kansas City Chiefs: Brian Orakpo
- Seattle Seahawks: Mark Sanchez
- Cleveland Browns: Michael Crabtree
Now, the Bengals face a situation not dissimilar to the one sketched yesterday by Rick Gosselin, in which OT Eugene Monroe is still on the board, but so is Curry.
While I pass on Jeremy Maclin in favor of Monroe without a second thought, Wake Forest’s finest is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.
If the team goes offense at six, OT is the only choice. “Games are won in the trenches” is the oldest cliche in the football book, and Cincinnati’s offensive line is a mess. Drafting a wide receiver or running back before fixing the line is like building a roof before you’ve dug a foundation or put up walls.
That said, I can be persuaded to hold off on that rebuilding project IF the alternative is to finish the job of building a top-tier defense.
Over the last five drafts, the Bengals have showered the defense with premium picks: four firsts, three seconds and five thirds. Overall, Cincinnati had 18 selections in the top three rounds, and spent two-thirds of them on defense.
This contrasts with the five drafts prior to 2004, in which the Bengals exercised 15 picks in the first three rounds and used 10 (again, two-thirds) on offense. That effort reached its peak in 2003 with the selections of QB Carson Palmer, G Eric Steinbach and WR Kelly Washington in the first three rounds.
But while the five-year plan to build an offense worked, the corresponding effort on defense was dashed on the rocks of 2004 and 2005. Of the six defenders taken with one first, three second and two third-round picks in those drafts, three — David Pollack, Odell Thurman and Caleb Miller — are out of football. Two more, Landon Johnson and Keiwan Ratliff, now play elsewhere strictly as backups and special teamers. Only one, Madieu Williams, is an NFL starter.
Still, the Bengals forged ahead and, combined with the timely arrival of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer last year, their perseverance finally began to pay dividends in 2008. Yes, the defense’s No. 19 (points) ranking is more indicative that its No. 12 (yards) ranking, but even so there’s no question that the Bengals defense is a lot closer to being good than the Bengals offense.
That’s why I’ve pimped not just Curry, but also B.J. Raji and Brian Orakpo, at various points over the last 12 or so weeks. My belief is that the defense needs just one or two playmakers in the front seven to be, well, maybe not great but pretty damned good. Cincinnati has plenty of solid defenders, but lacks that one Scary Dude who demands double-teams and special schemes. That guy who has to be accounted for every snap. The guys who Pollack and Thurman were supposed to be.
If I have a chance to get that in the first, I take it. But do the Bengals? I dunno. The vibe I get is that they are locked into offense for the draft, and it would not surprise me in the least if they spent all four of their picks in the first three rounds on O. In fact, I’m almost expecting it: offensive tackle, running back, tight end (or, perhaps, wideout) and center. Meanwhile, Zimmer will be expected to work miracles (again) with Tank Johnson and some second-day (ahem) “gems.”
If that’s the way it does end up going down, I fear the Bengals will reap the worst of both worlds in 2009: an inconsistent, rebuilding offense combined with a defense that’s still a playmaker or two away. But we’ll see.