Was It Too High For A Safety?

It was a truism in the NFL when it came to drafting college players: a team does not use the early slots in the first round on a safety. The thinking was this: why spend a valuable choice on a player who was going to line up 20 yards from the line of scrimmage?

Since 1967 when the AFL-NFL combined their drafts, only six safeties were selected among the first five players in any of the 34 drafts. That’s six of 170 draft slots. That’s four percent of the draftees.

Back in January, Scott Pioli was one of those NFL types that couldn’t imagine using a high first-round choice on a safety. Todd Haley was pretty much the same, especially based on the personnel background of his youth with his father. Those great Steelers teams had at safety an undrafted college free agent (Donnie Shell), an 11th-round choice (Mike Wagner) and an undrafted college free agent (Glen Edwards.)

But the evolution of the pro game changed their minds. They studied the trends, they parsed the statistics, they split the hairs and they came to a conclusion that everyone saw when they grabbed Eric Berry with the fifth choice. That’s SAFETY Eric Berry.

“When the game evolves and there have been a lot of things over time where the game has changed from an offensive perspective and what you have to defend,” Pioli said hours after the Chiefs had grabbed Berry in the first round. “You watch a lot of teams now that are getting very talented tight ends and they come out with regular personnel groupings and you have to try and cover a tight end like (San Diego’s) Antonio Gates or (Indianapolis’) Dallas Clark, these receivers/tight ends.

“There end up being a lot of mismatch issues. You get into teams that run multiple receiver sets and you are running sub packages on and off the field.

“I spent a lot of time and Todd spent a lot of time in separate conversations with a lot of different football people on this. A lot of time was spent on that.”

Haley came at the situation from an offensive perspective and is convinced that things in the game are different.

“You look at some of the numbers around the league, specifically the last two years; you better have some guys to defend the pass,” said Haley. “Though we have needs in a lot of different areas and we need to get better across the board, that’s an area (safety) you better be prepared for. This is a guy that we thought fit-wise was the guy and at the same time could hopefully compete and make us better.”

Here’s an example of some of the numbers that Haley was referencing; take a look at the growth of big-time receivers among the tight ends in the last decade:



TEs with

50+ catches

TEs over

750 yards

TEs over

1,000 yards









































Compare the numbers for the first two seasons of the decade against the final two years. In 2000-01 there were 12 performances by TEs with 50-plus catches, five with over 750 receiving yards and one over 1,000 yards. The tight end numbers for the 2009 season alone topped the ’00-01 combined stats.

The trend is pushing upward and sooner, rather than later, teams must react to the changes in the game. It’s true not only at safety, but other positions as well. Pioli doesn’t think Berry is a trend-setter or a guy who is going to establish a new bar for the safety position.

“I think these are a set of circumstances and the way it was this year,” Pioli said. “These were the players available and these were the circumstances t hat we are in. I also think this is a confluence of a number of dynamics hat are different from year to year.”

Drafting Berry in the fifth spot is also an indication they plan to use him in far more variables than lining him up 20 yards deep to make sure he’s got the backs of the 10 defensive guys ahead of him.

“He has played close to the line of scrimmage, he has played deep, he has done both things,” said Pioli. “I think it is not just a matter of how he is going to be used, it is a matter of what we are going to be matched up against.”

Ultimately, Pioli and Haley were willing to adjust their thinking and go against history.

31 Responses to “Was It Too High For A Safety?”

  • April 26, 2010  - el cid says:

    The best pick of the Pioli era. And a safe one. The Chiefs are basically without a front line safety and Okung might not have been about to help on the OL, horrors, what if he could not have beat out Albert. Therefore, Berry is outstanding and safe, just what Pioli is all about.

  • April 26, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    I think Berry is going to be a great player for many years…and a leader on our Defense. Excellent pick, I thought. (I miss the days when our DB’s were among the best in the business.)

    I see it becoming increasingly difficult for teams to throw on us. If we can ever force them to HAVE to (by stopping the run)…we should be in good shape.

  • April 26, 2010  - SG says:

    Since so many people have praised our draft, anyone’s thoughts on how we plan to upgrade depth on the D-Line? John Henderson a possibility?

    Concrete substantive suggestions only…no “in Pioli I trust” flowery flibber-flabber please. Also, please do better than “what we have on the roster works great” in light of what happened to us when Dorsey got hurt last year.

  • April 26, 2010  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Yea that’s a big IF Mad Chief that the chief didn’t address in this draft…

  • April 26, 2010  - Danny W says:

    Berry was a good pick and I am glad we got him. I disagree with most and think we should have picked up Okung. But thats me, Adalius Thomas was just I wonder if we will pick him up.

  • April 26, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    As I said before the draft…I was curious to see what Crennel and Pioli viewed our needs on Defense as, and if it would be along the same lines as what I thought. It wasn’t. They have evaluated what we have, and apparently think the players we have on the “front 7″ can/will improve enough to get the job done.

    I don’t necessarily agree. But then again…these guys make their living at football. I don’t. So, I’ll give them the benefit of doubt…and wait to see what the team looks like on the field before I pass judgement.

  • April 26, 2010  - SG says:

    “AD” would appear to be an upgrade in the middle.

  • April 26, 2010  - napahobbs says:

    After re-watching the last 8 games I believe our starting LB’s are fine (yes including D. Williams) as long as DJ plays full time and plays up to his abilities.

    That said, I believe our backup LB’s-Mays and Belcher were very poorly coached, high energy-great effort, but often out of position. Studebaker has to overtake Vrabel by years end. Vrabel is smart, tough but losing speed “fast”.

    As for the D-Line, I firmly believe we have two diamonds in the rough in McGee and Gilberry. When the TV camera’s had them in the picture, I would watch their technique (usually in known passing downs) and they are sound.

    My concern, like yours, is the existing run game backups. Maybe McGee/Gilberry have coachable talent to spell Dorsey/Jackson. I will say that the most under appreciated performer last year was Ron Edwards. He is no young buck but he is effective.

    There were so many DL taken in the early rounds that quality guys should be available through cuts as backups as well. At least we are looking for backups on the D-Line, not desperate for starters.

  • April 26, 2010  - oldpete says:

    Napahobbs -To build on your point – Perhaps stating the obvious but Jackson was a rookie and all, including Dorsey, were playing in positions that were new to them. If they have the talent and drive, coaching should get them where they need to be.

    I don’t know if they think he has what it takes but Greenwood has a great motor – I hope he can show some stuff this summer / fall.

    Finally, regarding the overall article, we have Langford and Lewis now also. This D should look very different and more polished come Fall.

  • April 26, 2010  - Gary in IL says:


    You asked the best question in the post draft press conference. They didn’t want to answer the question and it was obvious in their answer. Teams will discover early like last year they do not have to throw the ball to beat us. Down hill all game baby! I look at it this way we won’t get into trouble off the field and will win the relay race.

  • April 26, 2010  - el cid says:

    oldpete, the D better be good by the first game or MNF will show the nation how to beat the Chiefs, run the rock until they can stop it.

  • April 26, 2010  - jimbo says:

    Not much unity concerning our Chiefs players today. I know many of you are upset & perplexed about decisions made during the draft.
    I’m no different on the perplexed issue.
    There has been much discussion concerning the Chiefs most dire needs since January & the general consensus was NT, ILB, WR & OL pretty much in that order. Our leaders at 1 Arrowhead Dr. did a complete 180 on us. We ask ourselves… Why, Why, Why. How could they blindside us?. We have all the answers, any 10 yr. old could see our glaring needs.
    I think we can all agree, the Chiefs are getting better. It may not be my way or your way to get better, but it is getting done.
    Twenty years of Carl Peterson has tainted our view of the Chiefs. We could predict what he was going to do almost before he did. The 90′s were great. or at least alot of fun. The early 2000′s were great, but no playoff wins. Somehow, the great King Carl lost his magic, the Chiefs best players were getting old. Year by year we were sliding into mediocrity and then, worse yet… embarrassing.
    We get rid of the King & his court… & find a new King. All the people were rejoicing… Our new King is asking us to believe in him & give him time, especially since we can’t figure him out yet anyway & I for one… don’t really want to.
    Our new King and his band of Merry Men are simply trying to make our Kingdom the most successful & joyous kingdom in all the land.
    Rome was’nt built in a day & we sure as hell can’t build a Championship team in a day either.
    Go Chiefs.

  • April 26, 2010  - el cid says:

    jimbo, just how long should we be expected to wait? You are correct but what is your time factor. It seems to me that Pioli is giving himself years, as in 5-6 to put this team together. That ok with you? Let’s say 2015? Will Cassel be apart of it? or Vrabel? or Edwards? Jackson? whoever. The average career is 4 years, how many of Pioli’s building blocks will be gone by then, heck, Williams, Lawrence, Brown all from the 09 draft may be gone by JUL10. How about two drafted TEs? My point is have all the faith you want, love the Chiefs but will they reach the promised land, that is up for debate.

  • April 26, 2010  - jimbo says:

    el cid,

    I believe we are going in the right direction. Yes the Chiefs will be World Champions again.
    When will they be Champions?. Not this year. My only suggestion for you is. To believe in your team, support your team & deal with all the madness that comes with it. Look at is this way… each year we have a 1 in 32 shot of winning it all.
    Your only other option is to be a transparent fan of whatever team wins the Superbowl.

  • April 26, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    el cid says:
    “just how long should we be expected to wait?”

    I’m going to wait as long as it takes. You just never know. Strange things happen in professional sports. We may be in the Super Bowl this upcoming year. I highly doubt it. But, stranger things have happened. It may be next year. Or the year after. It could be 5 years. 10 years. It could be never.

    But, I’m not going to put a tombstone on the Chiefs 2010 season here in April, just because we didn’t draft a NT and some LB’s.

    I refuse to believe that Pioli isn’t doing everything he thinks best to win games…and win right now. His job depends on winning. So the idea that he’s willing to take years and years to build a winning team is crazy. To me it is, anyway. We may not agree with some (or any) of his decisions, but he’s trying to turn us into a winner ASAP. I have no doubt about that. But, only time will tell if he’s sucessful.

  • April 26, 2010  - Jim Lloyd + says:

    Guy’s , take it easy – it’s just football ! I’ve seen Ref’s change the out come – This team has talent and has the ability to gain a lot more ,plus people in place to judge all this better .
    I think the outcome this year is going to be that on any gameday we are going to see some damn good football ….

  • April 26, 2010  - Anonymous says:

    How noble. What is a reasonable time before we are allowed to suggest there is an extended time period that might not be acceptable? Just wondering, you see so willing to accept anything.

  • April 26, 2010  - jimbo says:

    You young guys who are pissing & moaning need to get a life. Watch basketball or join the Peace Corps.
    The Chiefs are not a video game. Instant gratification for winning does not come from a Playstation.
    Go cry in somebodys elses soup.

  • April 26, 2010  - el cid says:

    Just heard Len Dawson on radio. He expects “vast” improvement on the 2010 Chiefs. But it has nothing to do with the draft, he wants to get them playing before annointing them special (my words). The improvement will be growth by Haley, no more carrying on on the sidelines, maturing as a HC, and addition of two Coordinators, professional guys who know what they are about.

    I guess Pendergast/Krumrie must have been the bottom of the barrel as far as coaching goes, looking forward to the changes.

  • April 26, 2010  - gorillafan says:

    Ill give ya my 2 cents,

    Its like I said last year, IF Carl and IF Herm were still here, Id have my “panties” in a bunch more than they are now.

    To me you CANT complain one bit the way this franchise has tried to change in the last 2 years. Hell, we atleast have to give our 2 new GREAT coordinators 2 years to implement their system dont we?? NO NO, this isnt a BYE year by anymeans, but I am WILLING to give the NEW KING and Todd 3-4 years without crying too much if we dont reach the playoffs. But I think we will anyway, but Im a fan hardcore and im all-in on where this franchise is going!!

    We are getting better every year, thats all I can ask!! But a Superbowl would be awesome!! ha

  • April 26, 2010  - gorillafan says:

    And as I stated before, I dont get all worried about out draft becasue we really dont know how the players will turn out. Would I have picked different, YES, but if what people say is true and these “playmakers” contribute to the team, help us win, help make explosive games and help get fans in the stands, than I dont care.

    We know what we think our needs are, but if pioli and todd think these guys fit, and contribute, than im for it. Its not we dont have any too many PLAYMAKERS on our team anyway

  • April 26, 2010  - Jim Lloyd + says:

    With all the changes and improvments , has anyone stopped to look at the 2010 schedule as compared to last couple years .
    The div. is in reach , they now have a running game in KC , no more slow pokes ! Return game , kickers decent D. & QB with better protection TE’s and WR’s in better shape , what the Chief’s have is a lot more than a lot of other teams have . If they all start playing together (I think they are)unstopable .

  • April 26, 2010  - rexHouser says:

    Everybody worries about the NT position and rushing the passer. The fact is, with a strong (very good) secondary, the quarterback has to hold on to the ball if the receivers are “covered”. Thus, a Berry, Arenas, and Flowers, plus hopefully (they’d better) much improved Carr and Page, the front line guys will have better opportunities to get to (sack?) to the QB this year.

  • April 26, 2010  - pharmer says:

    I think that it was a great draft. I think that a change in coaching will make more difference than an upgrade at NT and ILB would make. People like to act like the poor run defense only had to do with the front 7, which is obviously not true. We have to have DBs that will tackle.

    We also have to be able to to make first downs on offense to keep our defense off the field. We need to improve starting field position, and not play from behind all the time. That’s a great way to get the other team to run time after time.

    What I’m saying is that the addition of an explosive 3rd down option, and a return man (or two)will help the field position and time of possession battles. Which indirectly will help the defense.

  • April 26, 2010  - tx_CHIEFan says:

    Would I or any of use have drafted differently…probably yes!
    But…there is where the genius lies w/ the new regime. How, you ask? If this draft was so deep, and every team drafts towards its perceived needs, and we thought WE (the all knowing fans) glaringly could see our needs…then by going out on a limb and getting talented athletes that fill the other voids that are sometimes forgotten we have suddenly thought outside the box and headhunted the players that the other 31 teams weren’t thinking about so intently. I know…a very long sentence and I hope I made a point. Anyhow, after the deep draft we pick up the free agents who weren’t ranked as high as their fellow counterparts.(though if it was as deep as some say…any other year could this F/A possibly have been drafted?) Then we wait for the other 31 to cut ties with their overstock.
    To me this was brilliantly thinking “outside the box”.
    New coaching…
    Hungry players that were already in place…
    Young talented rookies…
    Free agents and un-drafted signings…
    We should be ready for an exiting year of football.

  • April 27, 2010  - True Red & Gold says:

    I think our draft boils down to this. The boys in charge simply wanted to inject some pure talent into the roster. We lack mind boggling talent and they felt we needed it and needed it now no matter the position. That is the only thing that makes sense of this draft. The new talent can develop over this year and they can add some brutes next draft.

  • April 27, 2010  - ChiefMojo says:

    I think tx_CHIEFan is on to something!

    We drafted to upgrade this teams play making ability, which was overall sorely lacking. We did not have a game changing slot receiver, we did not have any suitable return men outside of using Charles, we didn’t have a pass catching weapon at TE, we lacked speed in the secondary, and we lacked sure tacklers in the secondary.

    We hopefully fixed all of that with this draft. Now we have that play making slot receiver in Dexter McCluster. We added the best return man in the NCAA in Javier Arenas. On top of that he is the best blitzing CB in the draft and is a tough SOB at nickel back. Moeaki gives us a pass catching TE that is a good blocker (closes thing to Tony G. we will have on roster). Berry, Arenas, and Lewis are suppose to be good tacklers and have good athletic ability. These three can not only cover, but are very good in the box players.

    On top of that we added yet another talented interior OL to the mix in Asamoah (#2 rated OG in the draft).

    I think we will be fixing our front seven by players being released by other teams. We are already seeing that with the likes of John Henderson.

    Pioli and company have a plan, we just have to be patient and let them go to work on it. This team on paper is already drastically better than last years team. Having a much easier schedule will help things out even more.

  • April 27, 2010  - SG says:

    One thing I want to point out as a fan who wasn’t “fully satisfied” with our draft in bold letters for everyone to see and remember:

    After all the rounds of the draft and the first month of the offseason…the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (on paper) are a MUCH-IMPROVED FOOTBALL TEAM.

  • April 27, 2010  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Well on paper the chiefs won the superbowl!! I can’t wait for the season to start so we can see what the chiefs really got in the draft, arenas will be a great return man, dont know so much about the great nickleback, haven’t seen anyone of these new draftees tackle an NFL player yet, so really can’t say they are better tacklers and yes the defensive backs do play a part in the run defense, but normally only to force the runner back inside. The chiefs have been gouged right up the gut, nothing that a Safety or CB is going to be able to help, hopefully the LB’s step it up this year and make plays… By the way Moeki might not be fast enough to get open. I wonder what the other two draft choices would have been had they not traded them away.

  • April 27, 2010  - tx_CHIEFan says:

    One thing I know for certain. Last year we where all bitching about our secondary. i.e. Brown, McGraw, Morgan… albeit they had heart, but they where somewhat slow, missed tackles and got burnt often. Now we have attempted to upgrade the secondary(they haven’t played a down yet…but). So can we really blame our run D on the front lines if we needed help in both places? Was Speed something you can coach? Was talent that wasn’t being used effectively something we can coach? (WE=Romeo)

  • April 27, 2010  - tx_CHIEFan says:

    sorry…”were all bitching”
    ChiefMojo says: “we lacked speed in the secondary, and we lacked sure tacklers in the secondary”—you got it!

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