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Third-rounders will bring top impact for Chiefs

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Recent posts by Eli Kaberon

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Posted April 29, 2011 @ 11:57 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

For a team that made the playoffs last season, there were several questions surrounding the Chiefs this offseason. Their offense ran the ball better than anybody and the defense made enough stops to win 10 games, but nobody was ready to put Kansas City among the league's elite teams.

Without free agency and trades due to the labor dispute, the best chance for the team to improve was through the draft. In Rounds One and Two, the Chiefs bolstered the offense. WR Jonathan Baldwin was taken with their first pick, adding a needed vertical element to the attack, and C-OG Rodney Hudson was selected with their second choice, providing some youth to an aging front five. Both should be valuable contributors from the moment the season begins.

However it could be argued that the team's most important selections came with its next two picks — OLB Justin Houston at No. 70 overall and DE Allen Bailey 16 picks later. The team's defense needs playmakers, and while both players have concerns, they also could transform the Chiefs from the middle-of-the-road unit into an elite group.

Simply put, Houston will be asked to rush the quarterback. Last season OLB Tamba Hali registered an AFC-best 14½ sacks but no other Chief had more than seven. As an edge rusher at Georgia, Houston showed speed and strength while earning All-SEC honors in 2010, gaining 10 sacks during his junior year. Teaming with Hali, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel finally has a pair of outside 'backers who can frighten opposing quarterbacks due to their ability to blow past offensive linemen in a variety of ways.

Bailey will be asked to assist Houston by taking on blockers and being a physical run stopper. The Chiefs invested top-five picks in defensive linemen in both '08 and '09, yet the team still had a middle-of-the-road defense against the run last season. Both Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson have struggled to live up their billing, and their starting spot will be in danger from the former Miami Hurricane. Bailey is ridiculously strong — PFW's Nolan Nawrocki wrote he is "chiseled like a Greek god" — and is a high-character player who gives max effort on every down.

Of course there's a reason both slipped to the third round. Houston failed a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine, leading many to wonder about his maturity and commitment to football. Bailey had a subpar Senior Bowl, with scouts saying he lacked the instincts to be a dominant force on a defense. There's a chance both could fall flat and leave the Chiefs in a worse position than they were before the draft started.

Don't count on that though. The Chiefs have done their homework on both of these players and have drafted well in revamping their defense. Houston and Bailey weren't the first two players picked by the team, but if Kansas City returns to the playoffs this season, expect them to have the two greatest impacts among the team's rookies.

 

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