What Happens Next If This Is It
For DJ, JC, Houston & Hali?
The very thought of entering the 2017 season without Derrick Johnson is enough to turn your stomach. We Kansas City Chiefs fans have had enough time go by while living without the best running back in organizational history to know what that’s like… although we love Spencer Ware we know he’ll never truly replace Jamaal Charles. While we know the Tamba Hali’s career is winding down the possible loss of Justin Houston looms as the Chiefs head into the playoffs and offseason without him.
The big question… no… humongous question… is, what if all of those player’s careers are over this year? What will the Chiefs do next?
THE OLB POSITION
Some may argue that John Dorsey was already preparing for the eventual loss of both Justin Houston and Tamba Hali by selecting Dadi Nicolas late in last year’s draft. However, Nicolas has gotten 28 defensive snaps this year, a clear indication that neither Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton or head coach Andy Reid are comfortable placing him in the 3/4 OLB role. Nicolas shined as a pass rusher during last year’s Senior Bowl week and game… which probably got him drafted by Dorsey… but it hasn’t translated to the NFL game and I seriously doubt the Chiefs are counting on him being anyone’s permanent replacement at this point.
The best case scenario at this point for the OLB position opposite Dee Ford is:
- Tamba Hali is able to give one more season equal in performance to 2016.
- Justin Houston is able to return but has to play in the “half-mast” fashion that Hali has played this year. Expecting more would not be realistic at this point.
Some fans were wondering what the H John Dorsey was doing when he drafted Dee Ford in the 1st round two and a half years ago… especially when he had both Justin Houston and Tamba Hali at full strength. Now, John Dorsey looks like Nostradamus.
During the JARD (John-Andy-Reid-Dorsey) regime, they have yet to spend big on a free agent signing and with the cap being tight, don’t count on that happening this time. However, if both Houston (13.1M) and Hali (3.8M) retire it would free up nearly 17M in cap space for 2017. Perhaps Dorsey would be interested in a mid-tier guy like 6-foot-3, 265, Nick Perry who has 10 sacks this year, who Dorsey helped draft in the 2012 draft for the Packers. Although Perry was a 1st round pick in 2012 he’s only had 12.5 sacks prior to this year, so you have to wonder about his progress. But, his stats for 2016 hold up and he could fit in Bob Sutton’s system quite well.
What seems more likely is that John Dorsey will strike early in the 2017 draft to get his OLB. I’m a fan of Devonte Fields from Louisville (via TCU) who has some off-field issues similar to Tyreek Hill’s. However, here’s what CBSSports.com has to say about Fields,
“Fields started his collegiate career at TCU and made an instant impact with 18.5 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks in 2012 to earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors. He was tabbed as the conference’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year entering 2013, but Fields missed most of his sophomore season because of injuries and off-field issues. Then in the summer of 2014, he was accused of punching his ex-girlfriend and threatening her with a gun, leading to his suspension and eventual dismissal. After a year at Trinity Valley Community College, Fields transferred to Louisville for the 2015 season, where he started to put his name back on the NFL radar, finishing his junior year with 63 tackles, 22.0 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.”
His trial date was canceled and so were the charges for assault causing bodily injury to a family member, a Class A misdemeanor, after allegedly hitting an ex-girlfriend.
The point is, I can see John Dorsey giving this young talented man a chance to grow as a person and develop as a football player. CBS Sports ranks him as the 97th best prospect in 2017 (DraftTek ranks him at #45) but I can see him being drafted as high as the end of the first round. If he’s still on the board at the end of the second round, it would not surprise me at all to see him wearing Red and Gold next season.
THE ILB POSITION
While there appears to be several answers to the possible absence of an OLB, that’s not necessarily the case at ILB if Derrick Johnson is not back in 2017. Nine-to-ten OLBs are projected (by CBSSports) to go in the first 3 rounds while only five-to-six ILBs are expected to be taken in that same span. Consequently, if John Dorsey is going to make a move to get a good ILB in this draft, it will likely have to be early on. Here is a list of the top available ILBs in the upcoming draft:
DraftTek has ranked Kendall Beckwith lower than CBS likely due to his being on the IR List (he had an ACL in November after an LCL last spring). He was previously expected to be one of the top ILBs in the draft. Kendell Beckwith would be my choice. Watch Beckwith’s 14:52 Draft Breakdown tape here.
It will be far more difficult replacing an ILB like DJ in 2017 than an OLB like Justin Houston. I’m sure that statement will cause some ripples in the land of AO followers but it’s not so much about who’s being replaced as it is about who’s available to replace those players. Clearly, there’s no replacing either of these stellar Chiefs players but the only reason we’re having this conversation is that there is a possibility it will need to happen. Also, even if both players come back in 2017, John Dorsey is likely to be looking for their replacements this year anyway.
THE RB POSITION
The loss of Jamaal Charles would bring an end to the era of a legend in Kansas City sports history. Not only have the Chiefs had an excellent run of running backs in the past 16 years but so has Andy Reid while he was coaching in Philly. Whether Jamaal Charles returns to form or not it would be a shocker if John Dorsey didn’t use one of his many draft picks in 2017 on a RB. Also, it’s a good year for running backs which is good news for the Chiefs and CBS Sports expects all of the following 15 RBs to go in the first 150 picks (that’s approximately the first five rounds). Here then, is a list of RBs in this year’s draft:
Dalvin Cook is a special talent. His quick and fast and makes excellent cuts. Christian McCaffrey is that all-round talent teams covet, especially teams with Andy Reid as the coach. McCaffrey can run, catch, pass and return punts. Heck, he can probably punt the ball too. As a runner, he’s intelligent and makes cuts that gain him extra yards. Those kinds of players are rare because they can gain yards with their minds. A sentimental favorite of mine is D’Onta Foreman from Texas, where Jamaal Charles spent his college years. At 6-foot-1 and 249 pounds with breakaway speed, it’s hard to imagine him not having success at the next level. However, he does play with his pads high and after watching a number of his tapes I’ve yet to see him lower his head and take on a linebacker. So, he plays too upright for my liking but I guess Reid could fix that. Marlon Mack out of South Florida is fun to watch but he tries to break his runs outside too often and that won’t work in the NFL. My pick of the litter would be Samaje Perine out of Oklahoma especially if Dorsey could land him in the second round. Perine plays with passion, balance, can and does lower his pads to take on LBs, plus he has very good hands when catching the ball. He plays well between the tackles and reminds me of a cross between Frank Gore and Marshall Faulk. I know that’s high praise for any RB but I think Perine could be special in Andy Reid’s system. Watch Perine’s highlights here.
Losing Jamaal Charles, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali will happen sooner rather than later, whether it happens in 2017 or next year… or the next. However, there is the strongest of possibilities that their time is all done when the 2016 season is done. For Hali, if the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, I think his retirement is a virtual lock. However, since DJ and JC probably won’t be playing in that game even if the Chiefs get there, they’ll probably feel they still have something left to achieve or prove.
The health of Justin Houston is up in the air right now but there also remains the possibility that he will not return to be the player he once was. In any event, losing these players would represent a great part of the core of the Kansas City Chiefs and their absence would be devastating.
I for one am glad I’ve grown to the place in which I trust in the abilities of John Dorsey and his staff to put together a team that will continue to be competitive from one season to the next… with or without these all-time great Chiefs. However, I’m also hoping we don’t have to thimk about this for at least another year.