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2017 NFL Draft: The Case for an Outside Linebacker

Posted Apr 18, 2017

Breaking down the Chiefs' edge rushers and looking at some prospects

One of the biggest storylines from the Kansas City Chiefs last year was the breakout season for former first-round pick Dee Ford, who finished the year with 10 sacks and helped give the defense a pass-rushing presence with veteran Justin Houston missing all but five games as he worked his way back from offseason knee surgery.

Overall, Ford led all Chiefs outside linebackers with 797 snaps played, while veteran Tamba Hali, who averaged 918 snaps played between 2012-15 and ranks second in franchise history with 89.5 sacks, played just 591 snaps for the defense last year.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Hali’s snaps decline last year—that was the plan, and the hope was Ford could take the next step to being a factor for the defense, which is exactly what he did.

The Chiefs also saw considerable production from veteran Frank Zombo, who played 488 snaps for the defense and had 28 tackles, a sack and four quarterback hits.

Last year’s sixth-round pick, Dadi Nicolas, also saw limited action on the field before suffering a knee injury in the regular season finale in San Diego. He has spent his offseason rehabbing in Kansas City.

Now, looking towards the 2017 NFL Draft, the opportunity to add another pass rusher could be there for the Chiefs.

According to many of the draft experts, the crop of pass rushers this year is deep and talented.

It’s a position that general manager John Dorsey has only addressed twice in four years of drafting for the Chiefs.

Chiefs Draft History Under John Dorsey - Edge Rushers

Year

Round

Pick

Player

Games

College

2016

6

203

Dadi Nicolas

9

Virginia Tech

2014

1

23

Dee Ford

45

Auburn

In their history, the Chiefs have shown a pretty good track record of selecting pass rushers in the draft, highlighted by two Pro Football Hall of Famers:

Notable Outside Linebackers Drafted by the Chiefs

Year

Rnd

Pick

Player

Pro Bowls

College

1989

1

4

Derrick Thomas HOF

9

Alabama

1963

7

56

Bobby Bell HOF

9

Minnesota

2011

3

70

Justin Houston

4

Georgia

2006

1

20

Tamba Hali

5

Penn St.

Here’s a look at the current edge rushers for the Chiefs:

Kansas City Chiefs - Current Outside Linebackers

NAME

AGE

EXP

COLLEGE

Ford, Dee

26

3

Auburn

Greene, Khaseem

28

3

Rutgers

Hali, Tamba

33

11

Penn State

Houston, Justin

28

6

Georgia

Nicolas, Dadi

24

R

Virginia Tech

Okine, Earl

27

1

Florida

Zombo, Frank

30

7

Central Michigan

Who are the top guys in this draft?

NFL Draft Experts Rank Their Top 5 Edge Rushers in 2017 NFL Draft

Rank

Mike Mayock

Bucky Brooks

Matt Miller

Todd McShay

Mel Kiper

1

Myles Garrett - Texas A&M

Myles Garrett - Texas A&M

Myles Garrett - Texas A&M

Myles Garrett - Texas A&M

Myles Garrett - Texas A&M

2

Soloman Thomas - Stanford

Soloman Thomas - Stanford

Soloman Thomas - Stanford

Soloman Thomas - Stanford

Soloman Thomas - Stanford

3

Derek Barnett - Tennessee

Derek Barnett - Tennessee

Taco Charlton - Michigan

Taco Charlton - Michigan

Taco Charlton - Michigan

4

Takkarist McKinley - UCLA

Takkarist McKinley - UCLA

Charles Harris - Missouri

Derek Barnett - Tennessee

Takkarist McKinley - UCLA

5

Tim Williams - Alabama

Taco Charlton - Michigan

Derek Barnett - Tennessee

Takkarist McKinley - UCLA

Haason Reddick - Temple

Several of these players will already be gone by the time the Chiefs get around to picking at No. 27 overall—particularly in the case of Garrett and Thomas, who are considered the elite prospects at the outside linebacker position in this draft and will most likely be gone within the first 10 picks.

With that said, there are still a lot of players who will be available after the first round who can make an impact early in their careers for an NFL team.

Five More Intriguing Players to Know

(Includes excerpt from NFL.com scouting report)

Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt (6’4”, 252 pounds)

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“A long-limbed effort rusher who posted impressive numbers against the run and pass in just one year as a starter. He is a tireless worker who pursues from snap to whistle and his brother, J.J., will be a tremendous resource for technique and pass-rush plan. While he is unlikely to win a race to the edge, he's a plus run defender who can get to the quarterback with plus hand work and relentless effort.”

Ohio’s Tarell Basham (6’4”, 269 pounds)


“Basham has the strength and length to play as a 4-3 base end or as a 3-4 rush linebacker, but his pass rush approach will need to be sharpened as he lacks the flexibility to bend the edge and attack the pocket with athleticism alone. Basham may never produce a high sack total, but his alpha playing style will appeal to teams looking to groom a solid backup with starter's potential.”

Houston’s Tyus Bowser (6’3”, 247 pounds)


“Ascending pass-rush prospect who is still learning the fundamentals of his position thanks to a late commitment to the sport. Bowser's movement ability in space creates interesting possibilities for teams looking for a twitched-up toy to play with. Bowser lacks production, but his explosive characteristics off the edge will push him up the draft board and give him a chance to play well above where some scouts might project him.”

Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers (6’4”, 248 pounds)


“Motor-based edge rusher with some tightness in his hips who used efficient hands and consistent effort to whip the competition in front of him. Rivers may lack the length and agility to be a consistent, stand-up rusher on the next level, but he has the talent to find a spot as a backup who could work his way into a more prominent role with time.”

Auburn’s Carl Lawson (6’2”, 261 pounds)

“Linear player with natural power and aggressiveness, but a lack of flexibility could hamper his potential as an NFL rusher. Lawson's twitch shows up in short, controlled bursts, but he struggles to finish if the play isn't right in front of him. Lawson's ruffneck demeanor will appeal to teams looking for an aggressive edge-setter along a physical front, but his draft grade could vary quite a bit from team to team.”

Why adding another edge rusher makes sense for the Chiefs:

For the same reason fans should be excited about the potential development of young players like Nicolas and others in that room with veteran leaders like Hali and Houston, the same can be said for any young player(s) they decide to add to that room.

It’s a great situation for a young player to come in and learn from two of the best in the game.

While Hali has spent much of the offseason letting people know on social media that he embraces the doubt people are throwing his way as to what he’s got left in the tank at 33 years old, the truth is a motivated Hali, however it’s happening, is a good thing for the Chiefs.

It still wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw another young guy in the mix to be around Hali towards the end of his career because he’s exactly the kind of person and player you want rubbing off on the next generation of pass rushers in your organization.

Furthermore, it’s too important of a position to not keep putting tools in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s toolbox, and another dynamic pass rusher would do just that.

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