Grading Out the 2008 Draft Class

A couple weeks prior to the draft, our very own Patrick Allen was being interviewed by another website as to how the Kansas City Chiefs’ current transformation became possible.  He began with the Jared Allen trade, which netted the Chiefs an additional 1st and two 3rds in the 2008 NFL Draft.  (I can’t find the interview now, I’ll tack it onto the end of the post later if Paddy can track it down.)

The 2008 NFL Draft presented this team’s opportunity to do what it had wanted to ever since Herm Edwards walked through the door: officially clean house, bring in fresh, new talent, and rebuild this team from the ground up.  High draft placement, and 13 draft picks presented the perfect opportunity.  And one of the Chiefs best draft classes ever was born, a draft class that has formed the backbone of the team’s playoff run in 2010.

So let’s enjoy this while we can.  Next year, we have to review the horrid 2009 class, and who the hell wants to do that.

Any Chiefs fan worth his salt must give Herm his due: on their way out the door after a disasterous 2-14 season, they gave this team such a special draft class that many of them have translated to a brand new administration, something largely unheardof in the spoils system of the NFL. 

The rule of thumb for any draft is three years, after rookies have been given most or all of their contracts to adjust over the course of three seasons of struggling to win a roster spot and fighting to maintain it once they are successful.  Three seasons is often not enough for everybody, there are some players that do, in fact, take much longer.  (Just ask Jason Babin.)

These rankings aren’t entirely fair anyway.  This class was a great draft class, but it was brought in by Bill Kuharich and the Herm Edwards staff.  They favored better pure athletes over boy scouts.  Guys that played with enthusiastic, reckless abandon over technicians and brainy players.  Guys that overflowed with confidence, instead of knowhow.  When current Chiefs GM Scott Pioli took over the helm, he didn’t just change the drafting personnel and staff, he changed the drafting philosophy.  But there’s no way to evaluate how somebody like Brandon Carr might have panned out if Herm Edwards was still coach. 

So, we judge the players that remain based on how they work in Pioli’s system, because we must.  Let’s review them, one by one.

1st round: DE/DT Glenn Dorsey, LSU

I am a renouned adorer of Glenn Dorsey, the football player (not so much a fan of Glenn Dorsey the actor).  But coming out of college, I wanted USC’s Sedrick Ellis.  But it’s hard to complain about this pick when it occurred, seeing how the slightly undersized Dorsey was recognized as one of the best college football players of all time and the top prospect at his position.  Herm took a shot with the 5th and can hardly be blamed for it.

Dorsey was selected to fill in a radically different role than the one in which he currently excels.  Herm’s defense demanded Dorsey to be an uber-aggressive penetrator — which he turned out to struggle in.  Pioli, on the other hand, asks Dorsey to control gaps and absorb blocks.  And, oddly enough, Dorsey is one of the league’s best.  What Dorsey still can’t generate is much of a passrush, which is surprising given his talents.  If he can somehow engineer some 7-sack seasons, this grade is an A.  Grade: B

1st round: OT Branden Albert, Virginia

Herm Edwards hit on all of his first round picks, and to this day I continue to believe he hit on Branden Albert.  Albert’s rookie season was outstanding by rookie standards, but his sophomore season, like the rest of the team, was pathetic.  His third season gave us glimpses of both Alberts: the rabid run-blocker and the vulnerable pass protector.  Players like Albert are why attempting to evaluate a player after three seasons can sometimes be unfair.  Considering what we spent for him, he deserves another season to prove his worth.  If he sinks, a move might be necessary, but he won’t be a Chief for long if that’s the case.  Grade: B-

2nd round: CB Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech

Flowers was a pick I feared us making when I first got the news he was a Chief.  As a prospect, he posted Facebook pictures of what seemed to be an extraordinary amount of drugs and guns during Draft season.  But upon his arrival in Kansas City, he became a world class citizen and a Pro Bowl caliber player on our defense.  What makes Flowers so special is partially his fluid hips, great hands, and anticipation.  What sets him apart is his unquestionable, explosive passion.  Grade: A

3rd round: RB Jamaal Charles, Texas

The Chiefs have an amazing history of running backs, from LJ to Priest Holmes to Christian Okoye.  So it is astonishing to remark that we may be watching the best Chiefs RB in history right before our eyes.  The soft-spoken Charles sports the patience of Priest with the explosion of LJ.  Never in Chiefs history has there been a running back quite like him — any time he is shoulder to shoulder with a defender trying to cut off the angle, forget it: he’s already gone.  Grade: A+

3rd round: TE Brad Cottam, Tennessee

Cottam remains a question mark after going down with a brutal injury a couple years ago.  He now finds himself working out with Matt Cassel occasionally during the lockout.  All of Chiefs nation is excited for his return to see how close to his former self he resembles.  He was fascinating as a prospect: a 6’7″ 270 lbs tight end with good speed and great hands.  He didn’t get enough time his rookie season.  I’d love him instead of Leonard Pope as a compliment to Tony Moeaki.  Grade: C-

3rd round: S DaJuan Morgan, North Carolina State

Morgan was a pretty good special teams player during his time in Kansas City, but not much as an actual position player.  That’s the same criticism you could level at all defensive players out of NC State, home of the incredibly athletic, incredibly raw football players who are dumb as bricks.  (See also: Tank Tyler.)  Morgan never could get on the field when the defense played, which isn’t saying much considering the absolutely shallow depth we’ve had at the position since Marty Schottenheimer. Grade: D+

4th round: WR Will Franklin, Missouri

Franklin roused interests when he was selected among the Chiefs faithful.  Ugh, is there any Missouri Tiger we won’t fall for?  (Colin Brown, you say?  I thought we were saving 2009′s draft class for next year!)  Grade: F

5th round: CB Brandon Carr, Grand Valley State

There are many examples of the simple axiom that NFL scouts truly do know more than you, but I’ll be damned that perhaps the best one is Brandon Carr.  Plucked out of obscurity by one of Bill Kuharich’s regional scouts, Carr ended up taking over for Patrick Surtain and has started every game since, highlighted by his 2010 performance of shutting down league-leader Brandon Lloyd of the Denver Broncos.  The problem is, he may have played himself out of Kansas City.  Pioli almost never signs two corners to big-time contracts.  So enjoy him while you can, Addicts.  This may be his last year here.  Grade: A

6th round: OT Barry Richardson, Clemson

I love the big man from Clemson, mainly because of what he’s become.  This was one of Kuharich’s most brilliant selections of 2008, which is saying something.  Richardson was early on a first-day prospect before his general laziness and overweight Combine performance brought him down to low-rounder status.  He never really caught on under the lax Herm regime, but Todd Haley lit a fire under Richardson’s ass.  Richardson does have trouble giving up pressure around the edge, but he is a good pass protector everywhere else, and is a prototypical road grader.  I love that the Chiefs are giving him another chan in 2011. Grade: B+

6th round: WR Kevin Robinson, Utah State

Injured during almost his entire time as a Chief, Robinson was selected solely as a punt returner.  I don’t know why a rebuilding team drops a 6th rounder on a punt returner specialist, especially one with a broken leg, but that’s just what we did.  When he did return he had a couple flashes as a returner, before making a predictable fall out of the league. Grade: D-

7th round: DE Brian Johnston, Gardner-Webb

A solid pick for this team in the 7th round, the Chiefs were in desperate need to replace Jared Allen, so they took a flyer on another lanky white guy from the middle of nowhere.  Johnston didn’t amount to much other than occasional pressure for one year before getting cut, but we all had some laughs, didn’t we?  Grade: C

7th round: TE Mike Merritt, Central Florida

“All this for a little bit of weed?” Grade: F

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