As a result of their 10-6 record and AFC West division championship, the Chiefs will have the 21st pick in the first round, the latest they've drafted since taking Dwayne Bowe four years ago.
But despite their 2010 resurgence, the Chiefs' roster isn't without some rather glaring needs. Significant upgrades are (still) needed at wide receiver, nose tackle, and in the pass rushing department. The offensive line can be added to the mix as well, specifically at center.
Over the next two months, we'll take a look at many of the players who could end up as the Chiefs' top draft pick. But before we start diving into this year's crop of prospects, we should first cover some of the potential draft-related disruptions that could be caused by the ongoing NFL labor dispute.
If no new collective bargaining agreement is reached by the draft, then for the first time in league history, the draft will take place before the free agency signing period. That could put several teams, perhaps even the Chiefs, in the uncomfortable position of having to draft to fill a specific roster need.
Let's take a look at the center position, for instance. Incumbent starter Casey Wiegmann and backup Rudy Niswanger both played on one-year contracts in 2010, meaning that neither player is guaranteed to be in Kansas City for the upcoming season. And according to a report from ESPN, Wiegmann is mulling over retirement and will inform the Chiefs of his decision before the draft.
The 37 year-old Wiegmann wasn't signed to be a long-term solution, so the Chiefs need to find a new center no matter what he decides. If he opts to retire, though, the need for a new center will be critical. The Chiefs' only immediate option would be to re-sign Niswanger, which would at least give them a warm body at the position. But would they really want to go into the season with Rudy in the starting lineup, just a year after they replaced him?
It appears that free agency will offer a few decent options at center. But if the signing period is delayed until after the draft, the Chiefs can't operate under the assumption that they'll be able to sign someone at a later date.
So what happens if the Chiefs go into the draft with a glaring hole in the middle of their offensive line? Granted, it's a worst-case scenario, but depending on how worried they are about the position, could we see a situation where they're forced to use their first-round pick to make sure they have a starting center for the upcoming season?
Another key area that will differ from previous years involves player trades – or the lack thereof, to be specific. While teams will still be able to package picks together to move up in the draft, the lack of a CBA will mean that teams can't make trades involving players.
In other words, the Chiefs won't be trading their first-round pick for Larry Fitzgerald or anyone else. It also means the Chiefs won't be trading any players away – Brian Waters' name always seems to come up this time of year – in order to receive draft picks in return.
With the NFL and the player's union ending their week-long mediation on Thursday afternoon, we could soon have an idea of whether or not these pitfalls can be avoided when talks resume on March 1st.
If they're able to work out a deal before the March 3rd deadline, then events should proceed as normal. But if a lockout occurs, then the topics we've covered here will loom large as the draft approaches.
Stay tuned to Warpaint Illustrated for much more draft coverage in the coming weeks.