Now more than ever, draft is vital to Chiefs' future

Jared Allen is the type of player around whom NFL franchises are built.

He is a defensive end, a position teams crave. He is 26. He led the league with 15½ sacks last season. He is a fiery leader who never takes a play off. Allen is a perfect building block for a team that is trying to rebuild.

The Chiefs are in a rebuilding mode, so the trade of Allen to Minnesota appears to be a step backward for a franchise in need of franchise-type players. Because of Allen's desire for a new deal and the Chiefs' desire not to give it to him, the two sides have parted ways.

Jared Allen


Defensive End
Kansas City Chiefs


Losing Allen will hurt the Chiefs. But there is a way out for Kansas City. There is a way to survive the loss of a special player like Allen.

The Chiefs have to find three studs in this weekend's draft. After getting three picks -- a first-rounder and two third-rounders from Minnesota in exchange for Allen -- the Chiefs have the ability to get these players. Kansas City now has an NFL-high 13 picks in the seven-round draft. Six of the picks are in the first 82 choices. The Chiefs will have made six choices in the time AFC West foes Oakland and San Diego have made only one pick each.

Kansas City has an opportunity to rebuild and soften the punch of losing Allen by parlaying its load of picks into three great players. These are the players the Chiefs should target -- Chris Long, Ryan Clady and Joe Flacco.

It may require some on-the-clock maneuvering, but the Chiefs have the ammo. If the Chiefs can tuck themselves into bed Saturday night with this threesome secured, then the Allen trade would have been worth it.

With the fifth overall pick, the Chiefs need to find their replacement for Allen. The top choice here is Long, son of Hall of Famer Howie. Long is similar to Allen. His motor never stops and he's a quarterback magnet. There is no guarantee Long will be there at No. 5, however. St. Louis at No. 2, or Oakland at No. 4 could nab him. If Long is gone, Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston should be on the board at No. 5 and he'll do just fine for the Chiefs in their need to replace Allen, but Long is the preference.

There are rumblings around the league the Chiefs stockpiled picks in the Allen trade in an attempt to trade up to No. 2 to steal Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan from the Falcons, who have the No. 3 pick. Although Ryan is a fine player, the Chiefs need to get their stud defensive lineman early instead. They can get their quarterback later while also grabbing other top defensive and offensive linemen.

The Chiefs must work on fixing their O-line problems at No. 17. The word around the league is the Chiefs covet Clady, the gigantic left tackle from Boise State. Kansas City may have to move up four to six spots to secure Clady, who would be the first block in reconstructing what used to be a great offensive line.

Kansas City then needs to work its way back into the first round and take a quarterback. The team needs to create competition for Brodie Croyle. The third-round pick in 2006 has yet to show he can be a franchise quarterback. With a load of draft picks, this is the time to find Croyle's competition.

Although Louisville's Brian Brohm and Michigan's Chad Henne are options, Kansas City should look at Delaware's Flacco, who many teams think is a shade below Ryan as a can't-miss prospect. Depending on what the Chiefs have to give up to get Clady, they could perhaps offer their second-round pick, No. 35, and one or two of their three third-rounders to trade into the back end of the first round to grab Flacco.

The rebuilding process in Kansas City will be off the ground and the trade of Allen will be validated if the Chiefs can pull off all of this.

Bill Williamson covers the NFL for ESPN.com.