From the Truman Sports Complex
Why was the Chiefs first-round selection defensive end Tyson Jackson out of Louisiana State?
Because of all the reasons that Scott Pioli has been talking about since the day he walked into the Chiefs facility back in the middle of January. As he said then and has repeated many times, he’s trying to create a team with the 53 players that fit, not the 53 best players.
And with his first selection as the man in charge of the Chiefs draft room, that’s exactly what he got done.
No doubt there are many Chiefs fans who wrinkled up their noses because their team was drafting another defensive lineman; the fifth time in the last eight years that the team’s first choice played on the line of scrimmage. Visions of Ryan Sims, Junior Siavii, Tamba Hali and Glenn Dorsey danced in their heads and the front half of those visions was nightmares.
And there are some Chiefs fans that are not going to like this, but there are great similarities to the basic fundamentals that Pioli brings to the table with the foundation blocks that Carl Peterson thought important. Maybe the biggest factor they share is the belief that football teams are built on the line of scrimmage.
That wasn’t exactly what Pioli was looking for when he walked into the draft room Saturday morning. But after QB Matt Stafford went to Detroit and OT Jason Smith was selected by St. Louis, the radar screen had several possibilities for the Chiefs. Ultimately, there was only one choice.
There may have been players ranked higher by all the pundits, draftniks and even NFL teams. Guys like LB Aaron Curry and WRs Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin were still there. So were OT Eugene Monroe and QB Mark Sanchez.
Pioli passed on all those players, although he considered some of them (he wouldn’t say who.) He was ready to talk trade, but nobody was calling and the Chiefs did not call anybody about a deal.
Put in position to make the selection, Pioli grabbed a player that fits the mold of what he’s looking for in rebuilding this Chiefs roster. Yes, there’s athletic ability, size and strength and all those things so very necessary to play on the line of scrimmage in the NFL. Hey, it’s not like Jackson wasn’t rated as a high first-round pick.
But there had to be something more in Jackson to be the name Pioli picked. There had to be those intangibles that Pioli believes are very tangible, those factors that make for the 53 right guys, rather than the 53 most talented players.
Jackson has some of those qualities. When asked the most important, Pioli didn’t hesitate.
“He loves football, loves to play football,” Pioli said.
Pioli discovered that in his conversations with Jackson. He got that from talking to others about what was important to this young man from Edgard, Louisiana. Jackson spoke in glowing terms to someone about former LSU head coach Nick Saban, who recruited him to Baton Rouge and was the Tigers head coach in his red-shirt freshman season. That conversation was relayed to Pioli, who worked with Saban in Cleveland and they still talk frequently about players and football. Good words about Saban mean something to Pioli. Good words from Saban mean more, because the coach understands the tangibles that the personnel man seeks in players.
Whether or not Tyson Jackson becomes the cornerstone of the Chiefs re-birth is something only the future knows for sure. But he’s cut from the cloth that Pioli seeks.
And that’s why he was the third player drafted.