There’s always a bit of a letdown after the NFL Draft. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is merely realizing that the ideal draft class didn’t come to pass. Until the draft is actually done, there is the dream that somehow the Kansas City Chiefs could’ve come away with A.J. Green, Von Miller, and Phil Taylor. Just because we came away from the 2011 NFL Draft without any of those players, that doesn’t mean the Chiefs had a bad draft. I’ve decided to give my review of the picks by the day they were drafted.
The first pick of wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin shocked some people. It was a bit of a surprise because the pick was atypical of the type of player General Manager Scott Pioli seems to like to draft. I say atypical because Baldwin has some character questions in his past. Specifically, he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor indecent assault, summary harassment, and summary disorderly conduct in 2009. The charges were later dropped. That’s great news, and points to his innocence. However, the fact that he was in the position to be charged in the first place is a bit of a flag.
The other flag is a bit more worrisome from a football standpoint. At the end of his 2010 season at the University of Pittsburgh, Jonathan Baldwin put the blame for his lack of production on his quarterback and his coaches. Baldwin expressed that he felt his draft stock was being intentionally harmed by the aforementioned people. Not only is that the absolutely wrong thing to hear from a player I want on my team, but it’s a little bit crazy sounding.
Despite these concerns, Scott Pioli drafted Baldwin anyway. I’m not saying that was the wrong thing to do, or even that it is a bad pick. I’m just saying that there is a risk in this player that wasn’t present in the players chosen in last year’s draft. Obviously, Scott Pioli believes that Baldwin won’t be a problem. Whether that’s because he believes the organization is strong enough to keep Baldwin from making bad choices or because he believes that Baldwin realizes his mistakes and will learn from them is unknown. However, Pioli is not blind to the risk. He just felt that the player Baldwin could become was worth the risk he has.
So let’s take a look at the player Baldwin could be. A good way to do this is to compare him to the average WR in the league. Baldwin is 3 and a half inches taller and 25 lbs. heavier. His hands are an inch bigger and his arms are two inches longer. The fact Baldwin is that much bigger and yet only runs .01 seconds slower than the average NFL WR is impressive. Perhaps the most impressive thing is combining his size with his vertical jump. When he goes airborne and fully extends Baldwin can hit 12 feet. Compare that to the highest jumping corner of this draft class and Baldwin still has about a foot more reach. A wide receiver that will consistently have a foot on defenders is a unique asset that, one could argue, is worth the risk being taken by the Chiefs.
While personally I’m not a fan of taking players with question marks like Baldwin’s, I can understand the Chiefs’ thought process in taking him. If Baldwin can move past his previous mistakes and focus on becoming the best player he can be, I think he can become one of the top receivers in the NFL. He’ll have a great organization, in the Chiefs, that will help him to achieve. He just needs to not be his own worst enemy.
For those looking for a letter grade, I give this pick a B. Understand that I’m judging this pick on its own merits. I’m not taking into account the 3rd round pick that was earned by trading back. What holds this pick back from being an A is the character concerns of Baldwin. Otherwise, this pick meets a need and fills it with a very talented player at a position in the draft that is equal to his scouted value of 1st-2nd round pick. Here’s to hoping this pick ends up being an A+.