KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City Chiefs selected Auburn defensive end Dee Ford with the No. 23 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, landing a potential replacement for Tamba Hali or Justin Houston.
With only one selection in the first two rounds, Kansas City was thought to be trying to trade out of its pick. But general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid wound up with Ford, eschewing a wide receiver or defensive back that could have filled bigger holes.
Hali turns 31 in November while Houston is due to become a free agent after the upcoming season. Ford will likely move to outside linebacker and be groomed as a replacement.
"I think it's more mixing him in with that group," Reid said. "You need as many of those guys as you can possibly get out there. It just gives you flexibility to do different things."
The Chiefs nearly had a chance to land Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who went one pick earlier to the Cleveland Browns. Manziel could have given the Chiefs some leverage in their ongoing negotiations with Alex Smith, who also will become a free agent after next season.
The Chiefs and Smith's representatives have been talking about a long-term contract, but the two sides still appear far apart. There is no heir apparent already on the roster.
"When you're sitting at the 23rd pick you're looking at everybody. Absolutely, we checked the quarterbacks out," Reid said. "But by no means did it have anything to do with Alex's play or contract or anything else. That had nothing to do with it."
The Chiefs traded their second-round pick to San Francisco last year in the deal that landed Smith, which means Kansas City won't pick again until the third round. And with the draft as deep as it's been in years, the Chiefs were open to trading down to acquire more selections.
"I would tell you the phone was ringing, probably for the kid that went before us," Reid said. "They don't tell you exactly who they want, but the phones were ringing."
Ford will be moving from defensive end to outside linebacker in the Chiefs' defensive scheme, and he'll be asked to drop into pass coverage for the first time. But it is the same kind of switch that Hali made when he was drafted by Kansas City, and one that Reid is confident Ford will be able to make given his athleticism and his performance during the scouting process.
"Relentless football player," Reid said. "He's going to give you an honest snap every snap. Tremendous motor, great attitude, all those intangibles are a real positive there, and I've said this before, your offensive line, defensive line, make everybody around them better. If they're playing at a high level, it works out pretty well for you."
Ford led the SEC with 10Â½ sacks last season, despite a nagging knee injury. He also had a back injury earlier in this career, though Reid said the Chiefs gave him a clean bill of health.
"We identified him a while back and liked him, and (Dorsey) felt very strong about him and we went with him," Reid said. "There were three or four players there that were fairly close."