Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 4/26/12
Why settle for one Eric Berry when you can have two? If it's me, it's the best defensive back available, assuming that back is Alabama's Mark Barron. Someone who's going to make Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers lie awake at night, waiting for the sheep to arrive. Because let's face it: Vince Lombardi got his name on the trophy, but Sid Gillman won the war. The NFL, more than ever, is an elite passer's game, a chuck-and-duck paradise. Since 2009, the top seven teams in the league in passing yardage that particular season have reached the postseason 61.9 percent of the time. The top seven in rushing teams? Less than half 47.6 percent got their tickets punched. In fact, over the last half-decade, defensive numbers are a better predictor of playoff contention. Of the clubs that finished among the top seven in rushing defense in a season since 2009, 61.9 percent reached the promised land; if you go back to 2007, the percentage bumps to 62.8. And there's this: Since 2009, of the top seven teams each season in terms of interceptions, 16 of the 21 squads 76.2 percent wound up making the playoffs. Since 2007, it's 25 of 35, or 71.4 percent. So, yeah, if it's a choice between a run-stuffing nose tackle and a stud safety, I'll roll with the secondary, thanks all the same. You build your roster to win a division first. The AFC West, that means knowing you've got six tussles, health permitting, with Denver's Manning (34.7 career pass attempts per game), San Diego's Rivers (30.4) and Oakland's Carson Palmer (33.1). In today's game, defensive backs are like smoke detectors: You can never have too many reliable ones within reach. Look what happened to the Chiefs' defense when Berry showed up. And then look what happened when they lost him. NFL Network analyst Mike Maycock, one of the sharpest knives in a drawer full of spatulas, raised some eyebrows Wednesday when he projected the Chiefs using the No. 11 pick on Barron. (He also tabbed popular linebacker Luke Kuechly going to Buffalo with the 10th pick, and flavor-of-the-month quarterback Ryan Tannehill heading to Miami at No. 8.) Assuming the Chiefs stay put and they may not; general manager Scott Pioli is a wild card on draft day who can play the smokescreen game with the best of them padding the secondary, especially with Berry coming off major knee surgery, makes perfect sense. Granted, there are other holes that weren't resolved through free agency, especially at nose tackle, the anchor of coach Romeo Crennel's preferred 3-4 scheme, Trouble is, the most likely top-flight candidates all come with caveats attached. Dontari Poe of Memphis was a combine freak, although those numbers don't exactly translate when you pop in the tape of his college games. Michael Brockers of LSU is just a baby, albeit a big baby at 6-6, 322 pounds. Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State can absolutely fly for a big man, but at 298 pounds, does he take up the real estate that Crennel wants? Stanford guard David DeCastro is a can't-miss, by all accounts, yet recent history says you can find a value pick to buffer the interior line in Rounds 2 or 3. The last college guard to be taken in the top 12 was Leonard Davis in 2001, who was tapped by Arizona as the No. 2 selection overall. Pioli isn't afraid to gamble to get the guy he wants, or throw the dice for more picks, and if you can trade down from the 11th hole, names such as Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower are probably still going to be on the board late in the first round. In that sense, the Chiefs have all kinds of options; it'll be fascinating to see which card the brass decides to play. Regardless, you want someone who can contribute immediately, which is why Tannehill, on paper, might be a reach. The front office is on the clock in more ways than one. In the NFL, there are no five-year plans; you're expected to win in two. Three, tops. With a few tweaks, a savvy draft, the right free agents and a more forgiving schedule, one autumn's 6-10 ugly duckling can become the next fall's 10-6 swan. The future is now. Palmer is now. Rivers is now. Feeling rejected by Peyton Manning? Fine. Living well is the best revenge. But a killer secondary runs a pretty close second. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com
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