The Morning After … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs

From the Truman Sports Complex

If you can’t be enthusiastic about a draft class in the moments after the NFL’s annual selection meeting, then when can you?

The NFL Draft is all about hope and dreams and fixing what’s wrong. When the smoke clears and 250-plus players have been divided up, many things seem possible.

“We became a bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, tougher football team through this draft,” Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said after the three-day, seven-round personnel party was over.

He didn’t add “I think” or “I believe” or “We should be bigger, faster …” He said it as statement of fact. They are bigger-faster-stronger-smarter-tougher now and will be whenever the lawyers allow them to get back on the field of play.

Of course I’m willing to bet he said the same thing at the conclusion of the 2009 Draft, and we all know that didn’t turn out to be true. You see these drafts are funny things. They involve humans and after millions of dollars of evaluations, those darn guys sometimes don’t perform the way they were expected.

For instance – if ’09 third-round draft choice DE Alex Magee had not been a total bust, would it have been necessary for the Chiefs to come back and draft another D-Lineman two years later in the third round – DL Allen Bailey out of Miami?

And with their first choice of five on Saturday’s last day of the ’11 Draft, the Chiefs selected CB Jalil Brown in the fourth round. Would that choice have been necessary if ’09 fourth-rounder CB Donald Washington had not been such a major disappointment? Washington has been moved to safety and seldom gets on the field for defensive plays.

The sad story of the draft is that so many – if not all – of the players selected are chosen to answer failures in the past or the diminishing returns from those who are injured, growing older or found wanting. It’s not something that’s limited to a single team or operation. Every one of the houses of the NFL ends up with a list of personnel mistakes waiting to be eliminated or solved by adding another body that hopefully can get the job done. It’s the teams that minimize those miscalculations that will assemble enough warm and capable bodies to win games, divisions and Super Bowls.

The Draft is the biggest and most visible avenue in the NFL for fixing the mistakes, and right now with the league so tied up with legal matters involving labor, the Draft is the only show in town. Free agency is another way to fix some of the problems, but heaven knows when the locks will be taken off those doors.

So Chiefs fans are left with those nine names on a piece of paper right now. Once the draft ended, the teams are not allowed to talk to the players they drafted, or any others for that matter. They just disappear into the lockout fog with 1,700 veterans.

Always at this time of the year we are subjected to each team’s draft class receiving a grade. Thirty plus years I’ve been doing this and I’ll be damned if I can figure out how that’s done. I don’t know if a year, three years, five years or 10 years is needed to evaluate a group of draft choices. I do know there’s nothing but silliness to do the evaluation in the hours after the class has been formed.

Let’s take Pioli’s class for instance. If you are grading on a scale that rewards a team selecting players to fill needs, then the Chiefs deserve a high grade. But if the evaluation is based on the players themselves and where they fit into the bigger picture of NFL talent, that’s another thing. And again, are these grades given with a total picture of an organization and where the roster has been and where it’s heading? Or, is the draft class graded in a vacuum, where no other factors matter than the quality of those players selected?

This 2011 draft class for the Chiefs has much to prove. The group of nine includes but two players from among the best and brightest in the league – WR Jonathan Baldwin and LB Justin Houston. But both arrive with concerns. Baldwin has had moments in college when he was more concerned about personal goals than the team. Is he a wide receiver diva waiting to happen? The fact that Houston tested positive for marijuana is not as disturbing as the fact he went to the Combine and knew he was going to be tested for drugs, and decided to take a puff anyway. That says one of two things – he either has a major jones for mary jane that overrules his common sense or he’s the dumbest All-America linebacker in the country.

C/G Rodney Houston, DL Allen Bailey and CB Jalil Brown fall into the second level of talent coming into the league through this Draft. By all appearances they are young men without a lot of extra baggage weighing them down from the past. But they must contribute and do it quickly, even without spots open for them. They maybe more reliable than Baldwin and Houston, but they are not as talented.

QB Ricky Stanzi has incredible intangibles, but in a draft where a dozen teams were looking for quarterbacks, he was selected by one that isn’t desperate and where only injury will get him on the field. Seven QBs were taken ahead of him, and at the time he was drafted, there were still six teams that were in the market for help at the position that let him pass by – Seattle, Oakland, Arizona, Miami, Buffalo and Washington.

LB Gabe Miller in the fifth round and FB Shane Bannon in the seventh will go down as points where Pioli and the Chiefs left the paved road and went after a couple off-the-radar players, two guys who weren’t among the 300-plus players invited to the NFL Combine earlier in the year.

And there’s the big man Jerrell Powe, taken in the sixth round. He’s a 330-pound nose tackle who has fought battles with his weight over the last few years and it took him three years after his high school graduation to get enough of his academic life in order to actually be eligible to play. In fact his mother testified from the witness stand in court that her son could not read.

There are different ways one could go with a superficial evaluation and grade for a draft class like the one Scott Pioli has put together. He knows there’s a long way to go, a lot of steps on the highway.

But he was enjoying the fumes of the draft on Saturday night. Why not? Sunday morning came soon enough.

“We thought this was a great combination of us being able to fill needs as well as get really good football players,” Pioli said.

14 Responses to “The Morning After … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • May 1, 2011  - Big Al says:

    I think the Chiefs had a good Scott Pioli “right 53″ kind of draft. All the players fill positions of need. All first round wide receiver picks are gambles. We want Jon Baldwin to follow in the tradition of Otis Taylor and Dwayne Bowe not Anthony Hancock or Sylvester Morris. How long will it take Rodney Houston to learn how to play center? Can Allen Bailey play a 3-4 DE? Will Shane Bannon beat out Mike Cox? Some of these players will flop. Some will be unexpectedly successful. We don’t know anything right now. At this point it’s like asking in April 2003 whether fourth rounder Jarad Allen can replace Kendall Gammon as the long snapper. We know now that he didn’t. This year, if the teams actually get on the field, threatens to be one where the Chiefs will be an improved team with a worse record. Picking a little higher in next year’s draft I’m hoping the Chiefs will be looking at those players who can sustain them at the top, make the right 53 a little bit better like the Patriots do. The worthiness of this years draft will be seen starting in 2012. Hopefully with a 16 game season and not an 18 game fiasco the Chiefs will be ready to play elite football. We might even have that rarity of a 13-3 Chiefs team that wins a few playoff games.

  • May 1, 2011  - well says:

    the experts had a lot of our picks valued 2-3 rounds earlier than we took them. so there IS value in those need picks.

    somehow need fell into place with value

    this could be a draft we talk about for a long long time. Cards sure didnt want to let stanzi go, they offered to move up in the 5th for him.

    Houston’s question marks are around marijuana….how many of these players drink? Ok…so if they can get them off that, they can get them off marijuana

  • May 1, 2011  - el cid says:

    Agreed RW. 8 billion reasons to come together and the children cannot play together. From our point of view, this time would be critical for the Chiefs. They need time for these new players to come together and build on last season. A few free agents would be nice also.

    As for the draft, I diagree with Big Al. This draft was unlike a Pioli draft as possible. A major breakthru. Who was the “safe pick”? Could be none are going to be what we need but at least the Chiefs tried to get kids with reps of talent, not the continuing story of good character, guys who may never be great (who could that be??). I am amazed and think Pioli may have turned the corner as GM, I may have to like him afterall. If we had a CBA in place, I could see the Chiefs being a force to be dealt with this year.

  • May 1, 2011  - Anonymous says:

    The Chiefs have displayed a great deal of confidence in their locker room and in their coaching staff. The overall football character and work ethic of this team has improved dramatically under Pioli/Haley, IMHO. This draft seems to indicate a confidence that the players can begin to police themselves. And, we’ve seen how talented players can reach their potential with this staff.

    The Chiefs may be seen as taking risks— and they are with a few of the draft picks— but they are also leveraging strengths that are real. The culture change Pioli and Haley talked about was difficult, imperfect, necessary and largely a success. That enabled the Chiefs to take some risks.

    Benching Charles was a risk. Limiting Bowe and making him develop his blocking skills was a risk. Limiting D.J.’s playing time was a risk.

    As it turns out, those risks were essential for those players to reach their full potential. And they were necessary for the Chiefs to return to the playoffs.

    Jonathon Baldwin might not have been a good fit for some coaches or teams. After watching film of him and knowing Haley’s past accomplishments with highly talented athletes, Baldwin may have found the perfect team and coach. This pick makes sense on multiple levels. Cassel needs this kind of receiver. Haley got Cassel a great
    QB coach in Zorn and now he brings Cassel Baldwin. The stage has been set for Cassel to take his game to the next level. This helps Bowe and it helps J. Charles. The Chiefs now have too many home run threats to cover. All that helps the defense.

    The potential for an efficient Red Zone offense is there. Short yardage situations remain a weakness, but that’s about it.

    If Haley is the primary play-caller, he just gave himself an early Christmas gift. Assuming he does for Baldwin what he’s done for Bowe, Fitzgerald and several other NFL receivers, this will be one of the more interesting offenses in the NFL. And whether Chiefs fans know it or not, Haley is one of the better play-callers.

    The Houston pick, more than Baldwin, will reveal just how ready the team is to affect a young player. If Baldwin was picked by the Ravens, this pick would have been hailed as pure genius. Jimmy Smith is a far riskier character pick than Houston, but most believe the Ravens locker room will mold this troubled young man (Smith).

    Baldwin and Houston are game-changers. It is vital that the Chiefs have an organizational culture that helps these first round talents reach their full potential.

    Haley isn’t afraid of taking on responsibility. He knows the heat he’ll take for resuming play-calling duties. He knows the critics will blast away at the first sign of trouble with Baldwin or Houston. But he is confident in who he is, what he is capable of and what the team needs to advance to the next level. He built a staff around him that allows him to take on these challenges.

    No one ever said it was going to be easy and Haley knows greatness can’t be purchased on the cheap. All the emphasis on culture change and upgrading the coaching staff had a purpose. It was to cash in on opportunities with names: Baldwin and Houston, to name just two.

  • May 1, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    I didn’t mean to leave my name off the above post. Not looking to avoid criticism of my opinion.

  • May 1, 2011  - Johnfromfairfax says:

    I think we had a good draft that as well says matched need with value. We’ll see how it turns out but it looks good at this early juncture from the sidelines. Hopefully they’ll settle their bickering over the billions before they irreparably damage this season and their fan base. I was pleased to see the level of loud boos greeting the commissioner each time he walked to the podium the first day and chants of “we want football.’ That should be heard by everybody and at least signals that fans patience is not necessarily inexhaustible. Not that they are really paying attention to the fans but the display of displeasure at least sends a message. As far as Pioli, c’mon El Cid. You may not like him but there’s a reason he’s been NFL exec of the year and was so highly sought after. He’s well respected as far as knowing what he’s doing even if you don’t like the way he operates. We’re on the right track here and just need to be able to move forward with the rest of the off season to get to the place we all want to see us. Go Chiefs!

  • May 1, 2011  - Mojo says:

    I think as a whole this draft was a VERY GOOD one for the Chiefs. We filled our needs and we got a lot quality players at value.

    Sure this draft was sprinkled with some question marks on character, but as brought up numerous times it may be the case the Chiefs believe the locker room can police itself. We already have seen first hand that Coach Haley will lay the law down on someone trying to be a diva or not giving the proper level of effort. These kids will find it no different.

    On the surface it was a pretty clear, cut and dry that we got bigger, faster, stronger and better with this draft. We just landed some real physical specimens… athletically and strength wise!

    So again I would say it was a VERY GOOD draft (“A” draft imho) since we did what we set out to do… fill all our dire needs, got good value and improved our ball club with players that have huge upside!

  • May 1, 2011  - John says:

    “C/G Rodney Houston [sic], DL Allen Bailey and CB Jalil Brown fall into the second level of talent coming into the league through this Draft. By all appearances they are young men without a lot of extra baggage weighing them down from the past. But they must contribute and do it quickly, even without spots open for them. They maybe more reliable than Baldwin and Houston, but they are not as talented.”

    Bob I am going to disagree with you about Hudson – from all of the information I have been able to gather he was one of the best (some sources said the best) interior line prospects in the draft, ahead of even Wisnewski and Pouncey. He’s intelligent and reliable (committed, I think, only one penalty in 2010) and has incredible balance for a man his size – in my mind, for a team running a ZBS, he is 1st round talent.

  • May 1, 2011  - Rick says:

    Tenand6, that’s a good post, I enjoyed reading it and I heartily agree.

  • May 1, 2011  - Michael says:

    Who knows how these drafted players will turn out for the Chiefs; we all know some will make it, and some won’t for a lot of different reasons. But, I did like the approach, especially trading down and picking up an extra choice. It’s way too early to compare these rookies to anyone, of course, but that’s exactly what we fans love to do. So, if you want to compare Hudson to someone, think Will Shields. Athletic, mobile, good strength, smart and a supreme technician.

  • May 1, 2011  - ED says:

    Say what you want people I think this draft gets the Chiefs out of the 1st round of the playoffs and break the 19 yr old streak of consecutive yrs without playoff win. I think Baldwin can get us a Arizona wide receiver combo kind of like what Haley had with Fitzgerald and Boldin. I think center from FSU will be a solid starter. The kid from Georgia I think will make an impact. The rest of these guys at some point will contribute to this team. People keep harping on the 2009 draft I think overall that just wasn’t a deep draft as far as talent goes. Either way I think this draft will be as good if not better as last year’s class.

  • May 2, 2011  - Craig says:

    Good or bad i cant say. AS a fan I am happy with it. Maybe the character issues are not as great as others believe. Trading down and getting an extra pick is good value. Ideally, you want guys you dont have to sit down to get their attention.

    I disagree that you have to take risky, talented players, but with questionable character to get over the hump. Talented, high character guys do exist. We took a bunch of them last year. Last year we only graded out a B by most analysis at the end of the draft, but at years end were given an A+, so who knows. Definitely 2009 was a bust, so lets hope this year is more like 2010 than 2009.


Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.


Other News