Chiefs may turn to offense in NFL draft

Baltimore’s tough and gritty defenders did not simply shut down
Dwayne Bowe.

They shut him out.

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Kansas City’s Pro Bowl wide receiver went into January’s playoff
game with 72 catches, 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns and emerged
with 72 catches, 1,162 yards and 15 TDs.

Bowe was so thoroughly blanketed during the 30-7 blowout loss
that Matt Cassel never even attempted to throw him a pass. He
wanted to. But the Ravens, with no other plausible threat to worry
about, were able to focus on Bowe to the point they effectively
made him a spectator.

Is it any wonder Scott Pioli and his scouts have been looking at
A. J. Green of Georgia, Julio Jones of Alabama and Torrey Smith of
Maryland as they draw up draft plans? A wide receiver with
downfield speed to complement Bowe seems essential for the Chiefs
to take the next step and challenge the best defenses in the
NFL.

Last year’s franchise-record six-game improvement from 4-12 to
10-6 produced an AFC West title and left the Chiefs with the 21st
overall selection after drafting in the top five the previous two
years. It was a season that also exposed many needs.

”We’ve started to put some of the building blocks in place and
understanding the world and the environment we live in,” said
Pioli. ”There are a lot of needs across the board.”

In his first two Kansas City drafts, Pioli went first for
defense, taking defensive end Tyson Jackson with his first pick in
2009 and safety Eric Berry last April. Jackson has been a
disappointment, though Pioli insists there’s still plenty of time
for growth. Berry, an instant starter, enjoyed a terrific rookie
season and appears ready to anchor a topflight secondary for the
next decade.

Pioli’s third Kansas City draft may well focus on offense.
Besides a wide receiver with speed, help is needed for an aging
offensive line. Four-time Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters is nearing
his mid-30s and steady, reliable Casey Wiegmann, who has started
159 consecutive games at center, indicated he may not be back for
another year.

Running back, with Thomas Jones about to turn 33, might also be
a priority.

Coach Todd Haley brilliantly alternated between the physical
Jones and fast-but-fragile Jamaal Charles last year, giving Jones
245 carries and Charles 230. Charles used his carries to rush for
1,467 yards and team up with Bowe as the Chiefs’ first running
back-wide receiver tandem with more than 1,000 yards apiece.

Whether Jones has another 245 carries in his superbly
conditioned physique is a question. If he does not, the Chiefs will
need a replacement because they are not going to risk injury to
Charles, their most dangerous weapon.

Defensively, the Chiefs are badly in need of better play at nose
tackle, so Baylor’s Phil Taylor could be an option. At outside
linebacker, Mike Vrabel has been valuable on the field and in the
locker room but someone to complement Tamba Hali, who had 14.5
sacks, is desperately needed.

As always, Pioli refuses to tip his hand.

”I don’t know if I’ve ever gone through any draft and said,
‘This is the absolutely total No. 1 thing that is our No. 1
need,”’ said Pioli. ”That’s the truth. You can’t be so
shortsighted to not understand what might happen to your roster at
the beginning of 2012. I don’t think there’s a position on this
football team where there isn’t a need.”

As he did in New England, Pioli will make sure not to focus too
much on the short-term.

”There are bad things that can happen to players and your team,
so you better be ready for the next player. So we have a need at
every position,” he said. ”Some are ranked higher than others for
immediacy, but that doesn’t mean you run from another position. It
goes into trying to find the delicate balance between best player
available and need.

”It’s obvious to people what people perceive and what we
perceive the needs are. But you also have to think ahead. You can’t
focus in a one-year or even a two-year frame of thinking because
then you set yourself up for failure when you’re trying to build a
consistent winner.”