Joe Haden: Dark Horse

While we’ve had ample discussion across the Chiefs blogosphere about whether the Chiefs should consider offensive tackle at #5 overall, considered McClain and jousted over my favorite outliers in Jimmy Clausen, CJ Spiller, and Taylor Mays, but we’ve had very little conversation about one of the best players in this upcoming Draft, Florida cornerback Joe Haden. It’s been mentioned by dubldug a few times in comments, and but the only love Haden’s received on the Chiefs blogosphere has been by the fine people at KC Chiefs Blog, who actually drafted him in a network-wide mock draft.

Make no mistake, not only is cornerback a prime position in the Pioli/Crennel 3-4 defense that makes it worth of the #5 overall selection, Joe Haden is of such a high caliber that easily justifies the pick. I think it’s unfair to compare him to the Jets’ Darrelle Revis because I think they’re two different kinds of corners, but it’s not a stretch to compare Haden to our own Brandon Flowers–if he was a little bigger and a little faster.

That’s right, that’s how good Haden is. As much as Haley loves sending secondary blitzes, Haden would be a phenomenal fit. Crennel also loves pressure corners, guys who can play up tight and allow his safeties to roam a little more freely and bracket players a little more effectively. And you can’t not-love a shutdown corner. Haden has put up insane statistics against elite competition for a couple years now at Florida, and when it comes to laying licks on receivers, he would desperately fill a hole our secondary’s had since Bernard Pollard departed.

The difficulty with picking up Haden, as dubldug would tell you, doesn’t lie with him. It lies with Brandon Carr, our promising, larger corner, who’s had an up-and-down two years starting for the Chiefs, but most fans seem to be relatively satisfied with. What’s to become of him? He’s too promising to be let go — or is he? Dubldug’s suggestion has been to move him to safety.  But is that conceivable?

Key questions answered about what would happen with Haden, after the jump.

Is Brandon Carr even a fit for this defense?

sort of, yes. But not really, I don’t think. Carr is, essentially, a pure Cover 2 corner, which is why he was targeted by Herm Edwards in 2008. He is a good tackler, but he’s not a pure coverage guy. He actually plays Herm’s relatively shallow zones that corners are relegated to.  Haley’s defense is more likely to send extra players for pressure into the backfield, and therefore requires more blanket coverage from its corners than Carr is probably capable of.  Yet he is a big corner, and teams always need those as receivers and tight ends in the NFL get bigger and stronger. But he was mediocre, it seems, as a pure coverage corner in 2009.

Some Chiefs fans have suggested he could play nickel. But nickel corners typically cover slot receivers, and that simply doesn’t play to the strengths of a bigger corner like Carr. Actually, it plays distinctly to their weaknesses.

You’re not suggesting we cut or trade Brandon Carr, are you?

Not at all. But I really don’t think the Chiefs are going to work hard to resign him when he contract is up, and if we bring Haden on, I don’t think Carr would happy with a backup’s contract when there could be a couple defenses out there that might believe he’s starting material in their schemes (Cover 2 defenses, or any defense with Gunther Cunningham). (And I suspect Pioli would put him on the block right now if he could find a suitor.) But I want to see Carr stick around. One of this team’s biggest holes is depth at corner. And I think Carr would be a good backup in this system. I just don’t see his second contract being in Kansas City.

Haden’s still worth it, though, right?

Oh hell yes he is. Have you seen this kid play? Even if Carr is a casualty of this aquisition (and he’s going to be a casualty eventually because he’s simply not a starter on this kind of defense), that doesn’t slow my decision to pick up Haden.

What does slow my decision is that there are other players that could be taken with the #5 overall that wouldn’t involve devaluing an already existing playmaker on our team such as Berry, McClain, Spiller, Mays, Clausen, Dez Bryant. I’m not saying I’d prefer those players over Haden (I definitely wouldn’t go with Bryant or McClain over Haden), but picking any of these players doesn’t sideline an existing performer.

Could we try moving Carr to strong or free safety?

The Chiefs absolutely will not do that. Follow Crennel everywhere he’s gone as a coach, and you’ll see a coach that prefers his safeties to be a certain size and speed:

Starting strong safeties under Crennel: Marquis Smith, Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison, Chris Crocker, Sean Jones.

Starting free safeties under Crennel: Percy Ellsworth, Tebucky Jones, Eugene Wilson, Brian Russell, Brodney Pool

What you’ll notice from those lists is that his strong safeties are larger than Carr by an average of 10 pounds (that Carr can’t add) and that his free safeties are faster than Carr by an average of two steps (that Carr can’t make up). The one exception is SS Chris Crocker, Crennel’s starter in 2005, who was actually smaller than Carr is. The result? Crocker was let go after one season.

So there are several possibilities for Carr if we pick up Haden: he could play backup, be traded, or even be cut. But he will not be switched to safety.

Where is Haden on AA’s big board?

Depends who you ask, of course. My opinion is distinctly different than almost all of the Chiefs blogosphere, including my colleagues at AA, so I’ll let Paddy and Merlin speak for themselves.

Right now, the first ten on my big board in terms of being the ultimate football prospect is: 

  1. DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
  2. S Eric Berry, Tennessee
  3. DT Ndomukong Suh, Nebraska
  4. RB CJ Spiller, Clemson
  5. CB Joe Haden, Florida
  6. QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
  7. DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
  8. S Taylor Mays, USC
  9. ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama
  10. OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland

In terms of who I think the Chiefs should select is as follows (this assumes only McCoy and Suh are off the board):

  1. Berry
  2. Spiller
  3. Clausen
  4. Mays
  5. Haden

Like I said, though. Ask Merlin and Paddy what they think and you’ll get a completely different list.

What is the likelihood the Chiefs pick Haden?

I don’t think Pioli’s drafts show that he favors going CB this high. He typically builds the defense from the line outwards, and plucks his corners from the midrounds. But I know that Haley and especially Crennel love pressure corners. How much does Pioli delegate during Drafts here in Kansas City? He has complete control, so my knowledge of human nature would say that he defers very little.

I’d put his likelihood well behind most of he people on my list above. Nowhere near 10%, probably as low as 5%.