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How the Chiefs Can Evolve from Joke to Juggernaut in Just 1 Draft

Sitting atop the NFL draft as the whole world anxiously awaits who the No. 1 overall pick will be is a position of twofold sentiment. While the Kansas City Chiefs have first crack at all the talent the collegiate game has to offer, their 2-14 record last season firmly brands them as the league’s worst team.

As the pinnacle of the offseason, the draft is the premier tool for organizations to put the proverbial icing on the cake in advance of next season. Whether you are the Chiefs or the Baltimore Ravens—who navigated the entire 2012 campaign to be crowned Super Bowl XLVII champs—the slate was wiped clean once that final clock hit all zeroes.

While some rosters will require less tweaking than others in trying to get on the Ravens’ level, teams will stop at nothing to ensure they have the opportunity to win immediately—regardless of the previous season’s results.

The Chiefs are in the midst of a complete overhaul and will only become more dissimilar to last year’s version when the draft kicks off tonight.

Unlike most teams in a similar position, however, Kansas City has a solid foundation moving forward. The draft will be utilized to fill very specific roles as opposed to restocking the entire cupboard.

This Chiefs sent six players to the Pro Bowl, return one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in football (Jamaal Charles) and was one of the more active teams in free agency.

The foremost changes this offseason came within the coaching staff and front office, as the Chiefs replaced Romeo Crennel with Andy Reid at head coach and swapped out general manager Scott Pioli for John Dorsey. Both brought with them to Kansas City some familiar faces to work with as well.

As much as the Chiefs needed a new direction from the top, most of the on-field failures can be attributed to poor play from their quarterbacks.

Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn split time under center for Kansas City in 2012, but they combined to complete fewer than 58 percent of their passes for just 2,937 yards and only eight touchdowns. It was their 28 collective turnovers, however, that crippled this team.

Enter former San Francisco 49ers starter Alex Smith, who the Chiefs acquired by shipping off their second-round pick.

Over his last two seasons, Smith completed over 64 percent of his passes while throwing 30 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. San Francisco was 19-5-1 in games he started.

Expending such premium draft picks here (No. 34 overall this year and a conditional high-round pick in 2014, via the Mercury News) will force Reid and Dorsey to deliver with the rest of their selections, though Smith’s acquisition must be viewed as one in cohesion with the Chiefs’ draft plans this year.

The most pressing issue right now for Kansas City is the future of Branden Albert with the team. The Chiefs used their franchise tag on the left tackle, which he signed almost immediately, and have been actively shopping him on the trade market—possibly to jump back in to the second round (via Pro Football Talk).

With Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher as the draft’s top prospects at left tackle, it appears the Chiefs would lean this way with the No. 1 overall pick.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller gives the nod to Joeckel, with everything Kansas City has done this offseason pointing to the move. If it happens to pan out, he could join some pretty exclusive company of other left tackles taken at the top of the draft.

If Joeckel follows suit here, Kansas City’s offensive line gamble will have paid off—piggybacking the other moves this team has made to alleviate the inherent pressures of the draft.

Draft boards based on team needs certainly do not exude the flair of those that preach the best-player-available mantra. But the Chiefs are in position to make a quick turnaround in 2013, distancing themselves from last year’s nightmarish season.

Though other teams might make the bigger splashes during the draft, it will be a pointed approach that shortens the Chiefs’ rise back up the NFL’s standings.

Finishing in the league’s basement in 2012, Kansas City naturally has the most to gain here. Should all the moves fulfill their purpose—culminating in this weekend’s draft—the Chiefs will have made last season a distant memory.

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