There has been a lot of unwarranted criticism of Scott Pioli’s pick of Tyson Jackson. Many have called him a reach and a bust.
First, I want to address this idea of a draft pick being a reach. I think it is baloney. Of course, you can reach, as the Raiders did by taking DHB over Michael Crabtree, but let us forget about draft position for a moment. You know as well as I do, that players can be busts or gems no matter where they are taken. For instance, if the Chiefs had taken Jared Allen in the first round, the pundits would have raked them over the coals. Today, they would be calling them brilliant.
The whole idea of getting to draft early is that you get the pick from everyone in the draft. You get the opportunity to take the player you really want. Obviously, there is strategy involved. Obviously, Pioli shouldn’t take a guy with his first pick that he has a decent shot of getting with his third. There is risk involved and Pioli has to weigh that risk, but to call Tyson Jackson a reach is absurd. He very well may have been the best player at his position. Who cares if Mel Kiper doesn’t think he was worthy of his draft slot? Are we really going to split hairs over two or three draft positions?
Tyson Jackson was the player the Chiefs wanted and they had the opportunity to draft him. That was their luxury by having a pick as early as they did. It is easy to sit here, after the fact, after we have seen what holes THIS Chiefs team has and point fingers. The reality is, if Tyson Jackson is going to be a bust, he was going to be a bust no matter where he was drafted. The Chiefs either got it right or they got it wrong. That should be the focus of our evaluation.
Contrary to what you may be hearing, it appears that Tyson Jackson is steadily improving. I know a lot of people would have liked to see more gaudy stats from such a high draft pick but those people have been deluding themselves. It is rare for a rookie, at any position, to come in and light up the stat board. Sure, you can pull examples of guys who have but I can pull examples of hundreds who haven’t.
General wisdom is that it takes three years for a defensive lineman to develop. Jared Allen, who eventually reached a Pro Bowl level as we all (painfully) know, had a very healthy 27.5 sacks his first three years in the NFL. Certainly not bad but also, not his potential. In the last three years Allen has 43.5 sacks and counting. He has nearly doubled his production and is a perennial Pro Bowler. He also had a big second year of 11.5 sacks then, as defenses adjusted to him, he dropped to 7.5 sacks the following year. It took Allen that year to adjust to the defenses and he came back in his 4th year to record 15.5 sacks.
The point is, there is a back and forth to things in the NFL. College players, who dominate, especially on the defensive line, often do so because they are going up against opponents that simply aren’t as physically gifted as themselves. Payers are able to easily rely on their physical talents in college and they often are not as adept at technique. Then suddenly, they are thrust into the NFL and the competition jumps up to such a high level they quickly learn that they cannot simply rely on being strong and fast. Learning takes time.
Tyson Jackson is learning and he is improving. He has a big job to do and he has shown resiliency all season. Let’s take a look at his stats.
First 7 games:
5 Tackles. (Ouch, right?)
Last 7 games:
24 Tackles. Factor that over as season you get 54.8 tackles.
In his last 3 games:
15 Tackles. Factor THAT over a season and you get 80 Tackles.
The proof is there. T.J. went from being non existent in the first 7 games to a threat on his side in the last 7.
Don’t be surprised if, in the next game, Jackson only records a tackle or two or maybe even lays an egg. Steps forward are usually followed by some sort of step back. The point is, Jackson is moving in the right direction.
I am not a big fan of cliche but Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Chiefs have a lot of problems and big problems are not usually fixed easily or quickly. Be patient Chiefs fans, individual progress is being made and eventually, it will lead to team progress.