Dec 18, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin (89) before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 19-14. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Sophomore Year

“Your boy Big Matt is a big fan of this draft class!”

-Your boy Big Matt

Sometimes a certain draft class just clicks for you, for whatever reason. Every pick makes sense. You come away feeling great about the players, and are predisposed to liking their play on the field. This was how I felt when the Chiefs picked Junior Siavii…

Kidding. 2005 was the last draft class I really felt that way about. I was thrilled DJ fell to us, I thought trading our second for Pat Surtain was a steal (oops) and picking Colquitt showed ingenuity. I was also high on both Boomer Grigsby and Will Svitek. Some pretty hit-and-miss analysis, admittedly, but that was how I saw things.

Since then, the Chiefs have drafted many good players. A few great ones. But the next five drafts all contained what I viewed as huge mistakes. Croyle in ’06, Turk McBride in ’07, Dorsey in ’08, Tin Man in ’09, McCluster and Arenas in 2010. All high picks that I absolutely hated at the time they were made.

2011 provided no such draft-day eyesores. Baldwin wasn’t a guy I’d been considering, but after that trade back Pioli had carte blanche to play around a little bit in my eyes. And since Baldwin shattered the “right 53″ nonsense, so much the better. After that, I gave every single pick an enthusiastic two thumbs up. Bailey might only have been one thumb actually, but the point is, this was a class that clicked with me. The porridge was just right (which for me means full of fried cod).

Still, what do we really know about these guys, after one year? We can be reasonably certain Justin Houston is going to be very good. We can also be reasonably certain I’m going to count every sack he gets as a personal victory for me and my NORML cronies.

I read an article once, many moons ago, that said of a team’s first three picks, the odds were that one would exceed expectations and excel, one would bust, and one would endure, but not necessarily impress. Obviously every draft class is different, but it was all based on odds over time. A first round pick has ___% of becoming a bust, ___% of becoming a breakout, etc. And the way it worked out, each class was statistically favored to have one player in each of the three categories.

I don’t know how accurate any of this is anymore, if it ever was. These distinctions are all subjective anyway. But I’ve found it a good way to temper expectations when looking at our top picks. It’s also interesting, after picks have been made, to look at the entire class and wonder how the chips will fall. We root for them all, but intellectually, we know half of them will be gone when the smoke clears three years later.

I like to look at picks 4-7 and think, “Which one of you silly bastards is gonna be someone I one day respect greatly?” One long-term starter is a reasonable expectation for the later rounds (Where you at, Shane Bannon?).

Back to the top picks. If we take Houston’s success as a given, that still leaves the 2011 class with a first, second and third round pick. Jonathan Baldwin, Rodney Hudson and Allen Bailey are all question marks at this point. Bailey had a promising finish, Hudson was a pick we all liked, and Baldwin had that one great catch. Still, none of them have proven anything. They could all be stars, or they could all bust.

My question is, if we’re following the methodology I outline, who we do we think is most likely to do what? The exercise requires that we pick one bust, one breakout, and one B student.

Jon Baldwin: For Baldwin to exceed expectations, he’d have to be a star. Dwayne Bowe was picked around the same area of the draft.  I think we can look at him as a guy who exceeded expectations, if only slightly. Baldwin would have to acheive similar results to claim a similar distinction. I don’t see him doing that.

I find myself casually expecting good things from Baldwin, but if we’re being honest, he’s still the most likely of our top picks to bust. A lot can go wrong here. Cassel might fail to get him the ball, other receiving options might shine, he might have legitimate character issues. First round wide receivers bust all the time, it would be naive to think ours is somehow bustproof just because of how much we want him to be good.

I think if I was a betting man*, Baldwin would be my bust. In a weird way, a Baldwin-bust might hurt us the least, actually. It doesn’t seem like we’re depending on him nearly as much as his colleagues.

*I actually am a betting man, and am bad at it. 

Rodney Hudson: My fears with Hudson all revolve around him not having played center in college. I don’t know, to me if there’s any position on the line where muscle memory would be important, it’s center. Plus there’s all that old-school stuff about the center being the leader of the line, etc. Can Hudson just step into that?

This is why I’m in favor of drafting a center this year. Just in case. Or if the drafted center excels, Hudson can compete for a spot at guard, maybe unseat Ryan Lilja. We could use another solid guy in that rotation. Its reasonable to expect Jon Asamoah to suceed. Its reasonable to expect Rodney Hudson to succeed. Its reasonable to expect Ryan Lilja to succeed. What isn’t reasonable is expecting all three to succeed and stay healthy. I’d feel more comfortable with Philip Blake or Ben Jones in the mix as well.

The thing that makes a Hudson bust extremely unlikely is that if he fails at center, he will be given a chance at guard.  Is this guy likely to fail if given two chances? Doubtful. Everyone loved him coming out of college. He might not become a “star” per se, but you gotta think Hudson will be a solid starter somewhere. This is my B student.

Allen Bailey: That sound of clay scraping on felt you hear is me pushing all my chips across the table. I move all in on Allen Bailey.

Is this the result of sophisticated football analysis? Uh……yes?

Nah. Bailey looked good at times last year, but it’s not like he set our hearts on fire.  The reason I’ve become so bullish on Bailey is because his development is suddenly of paramount importance to our defense. My boy Wally Gilby, for whatever reason, is gone. Our starting defensive end combo is the worst in the league at pass defense. We need a defensive lineman somewhere on this roster that can rush the passer. Actually, we need two. Bailey has to be one of them.

My dearest hope is that Bailey claims a spot in the starting lineup this year. I guess you could call him my new Alex Magee. Let’s hope this one works out a little better than the last one. I think it will. Although Magee is a free agent. Hmmm. Another chance for the Mageeks? I’ve still got a closet full of T-shirts.

In any case, I’m excited about Bailey. He’s one of my top five Chiefs to watch this year, probably.

Conclusion: Baldwin is my bust, Bailey my breakout, Hudson my B-student. Interested to see how you guys would sort them. Who is the bust, if you have to pick one? Tough, tough call.

Enjoy the weekend, Addicts. I’ll see you Monday.


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Tags: Allen Bailey Jonathan Baldwin Rodney Hudson

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