There are question marks all across the Chiefs depth chart, including quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and defensive line. Some of these will be upgraded in free agency and the draft, but others will look the same as they did last season.
One position that is sure to see change is at running back. With RBs Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle free agents and Jamaal Charles coming off ACL surgery, there is a clear need for a runner. Many believe the team will draft a back at some point to complement Charles. Meanwhile, others expect a free agent — specifically BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Patriots — to go to Kansas City. The team also could opt bring back Battle, along with FB Le'Ron McClain to aide the rushing attack.
"I think it's another solid class," GM Scott Pioli said of the running backs available in the draft. "There are a number of underclassmen making it another solid class of running backs. I think overall, the entire draft, it's a really solid class all along."
The Chiefs led the NFL in rushing in 2010, gaining 164.2 yards per game. Much of that came from Charles, who had a record-setting season in leading the team to first place in the AFC West. However, last season, when Charles went down with an ACL tear in Week Two and Jones struggled to get much going, the running game as a whole underperformed. Kansas City finished 15th in the league at 118.3 yards per game, an issue the team wants to fix this coming season.
Pioli told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine he believes that Charles will return to health next season, but that depth at the position is still vitally important.
"I'm a firm believer that even when you have good starters — I think Jamaal is a very good starter and hopefully coming back healthy from the injury — you can never have enough good players or depth," he said. "Whether we address it in this draft or in free agency, I think it will be, 'where does opportunity meet our needs?' "
Battle, who has tremendous value on special teams, is expected to re-sign. We hear Jones, who turns 34 in August, won't return and might retire. Head coach Romeo Crennel said the Chiefs would like to bring back McClain, who did well as a lead blocker during his first season with the team.
"He did help us last year. He's versatile. He can do several things," Crennel said of McClain. "He can block. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He's good in (blitz) pickup. So he's a guy we'd like to have back."