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NFL Draft: Chiefs focus on pressing needs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs drafted someone from Hog Hammock and someone from Yale.

They took a guy who used to make his living frying chicken and a guy who worked in a jail.

Most of all, said Scott Pioli, they went a long way in the 2011 draft toward improving their team, both near-term and long.

“We believe we accomplished something that we’ve talked about consistently when we first started here,” said the Chiefs’ third-year general manager. “We became a bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, tougher football team through this draft.”

With their first three picks over the first two days, the Chiefs focused laser-like on their three most pressing needs — offensive line, wide receiver and outside linebacker.

With five selections in the final rounds Saturday, depth and long-term projection seemed the dominant themes.

Jalil Brown, a 6-2, 204-pound cornerback and three-year starter at Colorado, was chosen in round four. Starters Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are both young, ascending players and Flowers is considered one of the top young defensive backs in the league. But the Chiefs’ depth at that crucial position is suspect.

A quarterback, always a popular choice among fans, was the decision with the first of two fifth-round selections. Ricky Stanzi of Iowa could replace Brodie Croyle as Matt Cassel’s backup. He threw for 3,004 yards and 25 touchdowns last year and had only six interceptions.

“We know Matt’s our starting quarterback but behind that, we don’t know what the situation is going to be,” Pioli said. “Philosophically, I like the idea of trying to get a quarterback every year. In my previous stops we’ve had some success with mid- and late-round quarterbacks that have developed. Ricky has a lot of things that we like as a staff and want to try to develop.”

Gabe Miller, a 257-pound linebacker from Oregon State, went to the Chiefs with their second pick in the fifth round. With their sixth-round choice, the Chiefs took Jerrell Powe, a huge defensive tackle whose weight fluctuates from about 320 pounds to around 345. He will be a prime candidate at noseguard, a position many fans hoped would be addressed earlier in the draft.

The third player from Mississippi the Chiefs have drafted in three years, Powe supported himself in 2005 by working in a local jail.

“He’s a big guy who’s slimmed down to 328 pounds here recently,” said Pioli. “We’ll play him at the nose and he’ll be competing.”

Finally, with their choice in round seven, the Chiefs took a true “sleeper” in Yale fullback Shane Bannon. The 6-2, 245-pounder did not have any carries last season and did not show up on anybody’s radar until just a few weeks ago.

He did catch 13 passes for 122 yards and sees himself as a blocking back in the NFL. He will also graduate in May with a degree in political science.

“No one knew about him because he didn’t have an agent,” said Pioli. “Once he had an agent, we did some research on him. Everyone on our offensive coaching staff took a look at him. Where people are picked doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how they’re going to perform in the National Football League.”

Big, physical pass catcher Jonathan Baldwin from Pittsburgh was the choice in the first round, a down-the-field threat to take attention away from the talented-but-inconsistent Dwayne Bowe.

In round two, it was Rodney Hudson, a much-decorated guard-center from Florida State. Bringing needed youth to the offensive line, Hudson, 6-2, 285 pounds, played most of the time at center even though his most familiar place is at left guard. Neither Casey Wiegmann nor his backup, Rudy Niswanger, is under contract and Wiegmann will soon be 38 years old.

“There’s a good chance we’ll try to start him right off at the center position,” said Pioli. “Not the starting center position, but start him off performing and practicing at the center position.”

In high school, Hudson worked as a cook at a KFC restaurant to help support his single mother.

“I just felt like I wanted to do whatever I could to help,” he said.

Pioli said he hadn’t talked with Wiegmann recently.

“Please don’t ever read into us drafting players or us signing other players as it being the swan song, or the certain end of any other player. I think it would be really unfair to the player, and certainly inaccurate from our standpoint,” he said.

The first pick in the third round went for linebacker Justin Houston from Georgia. The 6-3, 258-pounder was once projected as a first-rounder but dropped because of reports he had problems with a drug test at the NFL combine.

“Because of some of the poor decisions I made, it caused me to be put in this position,” he said. “I just wanted a chance to play in the NFL and I’m ready to take this opportunity.”

Houston had 67 tackles, 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a senior after the Bulldogs switched to the 3-4, the same alignment as the Chiefs. As an outside linebacker, he might be a replacement for Mike Vrabel, who will soon turn 36.

Having experience in the 3-4 helped, Pioli said.

“We’ve seen him do some of the things that we hope he can do here. He’s an outside player that does have some experience. There’s a lot of room for him to grow as well.”

With their second pick in the third round, the Chiefs again addressed their defensive needs and selected Allen Bailey, 6-3, 288, who could become a situational pass rusher from the inside and may be the only man in the NFL who grew up in Hog Hammock, a community of about 60 people on Georgia’s Sapelo Island.

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