KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs sent outside linebackers and pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to the Pro Bowl last season, but one sentence from coach Andy Reid explained why they drafted Auburn’s Dee Ford in the first round Thursday night.
“You can’t have enough good pass-rushers,’’ Reid said, “and Dee falls into that category.’’
If Ford, who had 10½ sacks as a hand-on-the-ground defensive end at Auburn last season, can eventually become the equal of Hali or Houston, the pick is a great one even if linebacker wasn’t an immediate need for the Chiefs.
He will have to learn to play outside linebacker. But with Hali and Houston, the Chiefs can afford to let Ford develop.
In fact, the selection of Ford may be aimed more at the future than 2014. Hali will turn 31 in November and his big contract could become too much of a burden for the Chiefs by 2015. Houston is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next year.
In the meantime, the Chiefs now have another pass-rusher they intend to use along with Hali and Houston on passing downs.
“You need as many of those guys as you can possibly get out there,’’ Reid said. “It just gives you a ton of flexibility to do some different things. He’s rushed from the inside, he’s rushed from the outside. He’s very quick and very fast. If he wasn’t the quickest defensive lineman off the ball in this draft, he surely was close to it. He’s got great explosion off the football. At the same time, he’s strong and he does a pretty good job against the run.
“He can edge [rush] like crazy. He’s going to present [opposing] tackles an aggressive target.’’
The Chiefs had more urgent needs at wide receiver, where they could have had USC’s Marqise Lee. They could have used another capable body at cornerback, where they passed on Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard.
That they passed on other key needs is indicative of what the Chiefs thought of Ford.
“We clearly thought he was the second best pass-rusher in this draft,’’ general manager John Dorsey said.
Ford will have to learn his new position. But time is a luxury the Chiefs have with him because they have Hali and Houston. They combined for 22 sacks last season, even though they combined to miss six games because of injuries.
“We’re going to teach him to play outside linebacker,’’ Reid said. “He doesn’t have the snaps at outside linebacker. He’s a little bit like Tamba when Tamba came out. That’s not where he’s had the majority of his snaps. He’s been a rush defensive end. But he’s somebody that you can work in there immediately in third-down, nickel situations.
“I think he can make that conversion.’’