There’s a lot to cover in the hangover haze of the 2009 NFL Draft, especially if you rode the pony from Matt Stafford at No. 1 to Ryan Succop at No. 256.
And that’s the biggest bone I have to pick with Scott Pioli. The Chiefs GM held that last choice of the draft, Mr. Irrelevant as he’s become known over the years, and he gives us a kicker? Come on! To wait all that time and end the draft with a foot jockey? Listen, I know kickers are part of the game and who knows, this guy may end up being a top-shelf guy. But give us some thick-necked kid from some small college in the middle of nowhere who will grab this opportunity as the greatest moment of his life.
Now we know for sure, we have hard evidence that Pioli is a personnel maniac.
Who trades into the bottom of the seventh round because he just has to have a tight end-fullback type from Miami of Ohio? That’s what the Chiefs GM did, working a swap with the Dolphins and giving up the Chiefs seventh-round pick next year for No. 237 this year. Pioli drafted Jake O’Connell, who near as anyone could find started just three games during a four-year college career. That’s reaching deep into the draft pot!
So how did the Chiefs do in the ’09 Draft? Folks, I’ve got to tell you the only thing more worthless than a mock draft is grading drafts the day after they are done. You won’t find that here, so if you are looking for a B or C or F, the only grade I’m giving the Chiefs is the same one I’ll give the other 31 teams: incomplete. See me in December 2011, as this draft class wraps up its third season in the league.
But here are some off the cuff thoughts on the Chiefs draft picks.
First, there’s no question it’s not a sexy group and I doubt these picks set fire to the ticket buying lines into Arrowhead. That’s OK, because Pioli’s job is to put a winning team on the field; the organization has a lot of other folks to handle the ticket selling. And I can remember this: there was no stampede on the ticket office 20 years ago when the Chiefs used the fourth choice of the draft to take a linebacker out of Alabama named Derrick Thomas. He was as unknown to the average Chiefs fan at that time as Tyson Jackson is to the Chiefs followers of today.
Everything I can find and hear about Jackson indicates that he has the potential to be the lynch-pin that Pioli wants for the Chiefs on defense. If he can anchor one of those end spots, if he can stand up and stuff the run when it comes right at him, it will be huge in turning around the entire defense. What D.T. meant to the defense in a much flashier way since he rushed the passer, that’s what Jackson will be to the future Chiefs defenses. If he’s not, it will be a major blow to the Pioli/Haley efforts
Getting QB Matt Cassel in the second round was the best use of a draft choice by Pioli this year. Listen, 15 starts does not make the guy a grizzled, proven veteran and he won’t have Randy Moss and Wes Welker to throw to, but draft picks are currency to improve your roster and adding Cassel makes the Chiefs a better team.
Third-rounder Alex Magee sounds OK. It would have been nice if either Jackson or Magee had a history of rushing the passer. But before you worry about sacking the QB, you’ve got to stop the run in the NFL and if Magee helps make that happen, then he will be a very good third rounder.
I’d have to say the selection of CB Donald Washington was a surprise and would not have been the direction I’d have taken the choice. It would be easy to sit back and call it a best available athlete pick, because this guy certainly has physical gifts. Funny, but those gifts did not translate into a lot of big production at Ohio State.
But maybe the pick is an indication of more. Because strategic stuff isn’t something the Chiefs share these days with the local media, this is only a guess, but I bet there’s a belief in the new regime that Brandon Flowers and Maurice Leggett are too small. Flowers is 5-9, 187; Leggett 5-11, 188. Washington is 6-1, 197 pounds. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Washington got into some trouble with the Ohio State coaches and earned a two-game suspension to start the ’08 season. It started his season off on the wrong foot and he never really seemed to recover. He talks like he’s got something to prove. That’s a good thing for the Chiefs.
In the fifth-round Mizzou OT Colin Brown was a choice the draftniks didn’t see coming, because they didn’t have him highly rated. In the end all that is meaningless. These types of picks are where Pioli and the Patriots made hay over the years especially with offensive lineman. Whether Brown can play or not, it’s cool that a kid who grew up a Chiefs fan gets the chance to come down the road from Braymer and try to make the team. Should he be able to play, then all the better because right now the Chiefs have no future right tackle to take over from Damion McIntosh. Brown can become that guy, if he’s capable.
Quinten Lawrence was the sixth round choice. He’s a wide receiver out of McNeese State and he’s fast, big-time fast. Pioli says he’s not just fast, but plays fast. There’s always a need for speed in the NFL.
Then, the three seventh-round picks came through the door. Whether or not RB Javarris Williams, O’Connell and Succop can make a difference on the field is probably 33 percent. One of those three will stick; that’s about the average after two or three years in the league.
Are the Chiefs a better team today, than they were last Friday? No, but then these draft picks haven’t even gotten on the practice field yet. Will the Chiefs be a better team on September 13th with these picks? They had better be if Pioli/Haley are going to re-assure people they know what they are doing.
FOLLOWING THE PATRIOTS FOOTSTEPS
No matter how hard you try, you just can’t stray too far from what the Patriots did when understanding what Pioli and Haley are up to in rebuilding the Chiefs.
That was never more visible than picking Jackson and Magee.
In the first round of the 2001 draft, the Pats selected Richard Seymour out of Georgia with the sixth pick. In 2003, New England grabbed Ty Warren out of Texas A&M with the pick No. 13 and the next year they drafted Miami’s Vince Wilfork with the 21st selection. All three of those guys are still there in Foxboro. They’ve combined to play 280 games, with 252 starting assignments and six trips to the Pro Bowl. And there were those three Super Bowl championships.
Only once in the 2000-08 drafts did the Patriots use an early choice (first through third) on another defensive lineman (that was a second-round choice in ’04 on DE Marquise Hill.) Ironically, Bill Belichick used the 40th pick in the second round on Saturday to take a defensive tackle Ron Brace.
The Pats identified those three as key and they became the foundation of their defense.
Check out the numbers Seymour/Warren/Wilfork brought out of college football and the numbers of Jackson and Magee as a comparison:
Warren came in having played defensive end and nose tackle at A&M. Seymour and Wilfork had been defensive tackles for the Bulldogs and Hurricanes. They were selected because of how they fit into the 3-4 scheme Bill Belichick wanted to run with the Patriots.
Jackson and Magee were drafted because of how they will fit with the defense the Chiefs want to run under Haley. There are a lot of similarities to the guys that helped create the Patriots dynasty.
How does that translate? It doesn’t. Arrowhead is not Foxboro. Belichick is not in the building. The circumstances are in no way the same and it would be a mistake that think that following the blueprint from New England will automatically lead to the same results in Kansas City.
But the idea is sound. It is basic football: establish your defense because defenses win championships. That’s what the Chiefs are trying to do.
THE CASSEL CONTRACT NON-STORY
The strangest story of the weekend was the report that the Chiefs and QB Matt Cassel had reached an agreement on a contract extension with $36 million in guaranteed money.
This was reported on the NFL Network, with the source given as Mike Lombardi, a former NFL executive who does some work for the Network and also writes for the website National Football Post. Years ago, Lombardi worked as part of the Cleveland Browns when Belichick was the head coach and Pioli was a gofer getting pizza and donuts for the coaches and scouts. There was no attribution given for the report by Lombardi/NFL Network.
The story sat out there in cyberspace for about 30 minutes or so until it was shot down by Sports Illustrated/SI.com/ NBC/Sirius NFL Radio’s Peter King. Yes, Peter is a walking media conglomerate these days; it’s great to see somebody in the sports writing world enjoying a wealth of opportunities. I’ve known Peter for years and he is one of the most plugged in people that covers pro football.
On Saturday Peter and I shared a workroom at the Chiefs offices. Once the report popped up on TV, P.K. sent out two text messages. He got replies from both of his targets indicating the story wasn’t true. He posted that fact on SI.com, and later Pioli confirmed that there was no deal.
Who were King’s sources? Well, let’s just say that the people Peter texted would be in a position to know whether the Chiefs and Cassel had a deal. In fact, they would be the first to know.
Later in the day, P.K. got a text from Lombardi who insisted that his information on a new deal was on the mark.
At some point, the Chiefs and Cassel will likely come to an agreement on a contract, rather than spend the year with him playing for the franchise tender offer of $14.65 million. It will be interesting now to see just when that happens.
THE TRADING TREND CONTINUES IN THE DRAFT
A lot of Chiefs fans expected the Chiefs to be wheeling and dealing during the ’09 Draft. They figured that’s what Pioli learned from his time with Belichick in New England, where they trade draft picks seemingly every round.
But when the smoke cleared on Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs were involved with only two draft pick trades. The obvious one was dealing the No. 34 pick to the Patriots for Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel. Then there was that strange jump into the end of the seventh round to pick up the FB-TE type from Miami of Ohio.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t looking to deal.
“We talked about a lot of different trades with a lot of different people,” Pioli said. “We spent a lot of time on the phone. Again, different opportunities, but we didn’t feel good about them. At this point in wanting to trade we felt we would have to give up too much to get to certain spots. There were a couple of players that we talked about that we thought about potentially trading up for but it was getting close enough to our pick and fortunately they fell to us and we were able to save the picks.
“Again, I love to look for trades and consider trades but if they’re not right or the right opportunity isn’t there you don’t consummate the trade.”
The league was dealing picks again. Last year, half of the tradeable picks were dealt at least once. This year, the pace wasn’t quite as frantic. Of the 224 picks that could be traded, 93 were dealt at least one time. That’s 42 percent. The round with the most choices that changed hands was the fifth round. The round with the fewest was the first round, where just nine picks did not stay with their original teams.