Each draft has its own character. There are positional strengths and weaknesses. Teams are presented with the same basic set of options. Do you trade up? Trade down? Or make your selection. Of course, trading requires a dance partner. Even if a team wants to move, it may not be able to. Deals happen in every draft, but predicting a particular trade is a chancy proposition. Last year, the Chiefs were able to pull off a textbook trade down. Honestly, could anyone have reasonably predicted that exact trade? I doubt it. What options do the Chiefs face this year?
1] Trade up
Logic – The Chiefs team is stocked to the point where they could afford to package multiple picks to fill a specific hole. The rumor mill has been working overtime with speculation that the Chiefs are interested in trading up to Cleveland’s spot (#4) to select Ryan Tannehill.
Reality – Tannehill is a nice early second round prospect with a lot of potential. Thanks to the Vikings drafting Christian Ponder high last year, Tannehill will be overdrafted by a team hungry for a quarterback. Scott Pioli is a conservative drafter in round one. He tends to select players from top conferences who have a long college history and lots of good tape. Tannehill would be drafted more on potential than his tape. That’s out of character for Scott Pioli. Pundits and fans really don’t know what the Chiefs are thinking here. Nor should we. It’s more likely that the rumors are a product of a set of media folks looking for a juicy story.
2] Trade down
Logic – The draft is a crap-shoot and many picks will not work out. By trading down, a team gets more chances, therefore a greater opportunity to select players that will turn into good NFL players.
Reality – This is the preferred option each year, if certain conditions are present. A review of last year’s draft situation will provide a prime example of how it works well. We had a spirited conversation on Arrowhead Addict discussing a couple of good choices that were likely to be available when the Chiefs were on the clock. I preferred Derrick Sherrod and I had support. Others supported Gabe Carimi. Still others supported Phil Taylor. Most of us did not suspect that Jonathan Baldwin was on the Chiefs’ list. I considered Taylor overrated, based more on workouts than game tape. However, the point was that there were a handful of similarly rated players available to the Chiefs. The Chiefs were able to trade down, pick up an extra third round pick. That extra pick may be gold the way Justin Houston played his rookie year. With that as a recent memory, Chiefs fans are very eager to trade down, looking for the next pot of gold.
The probable circumstances this year in the draft do not lend themselves to a trade down. To understand why, we have to look at NFL grading. The NFL grades prospects on a 100 point scale, with 100 being the highest grade. Recently, Sayre Bedinger at NFLMocks.com put together a big board using that 100 point scale. His rankings illustrate my point. The rankings for players the fans have talked about the Chiefs taking are:
David DeCastro 97
Luke Kuechly 94
Michael Brockers 93
Fletcher Cox 92
Dont’a Hightower 91
Ryan Tannehill 90
Dontari Poe 90
DeCastro’s grade of 97 is in the stratosphere. Only three players in the draft are rated higher. When you are drafting outside of the top five and someone is available with a 97 grade, you jump all over that player if you have any need at that position. Sitting at #11, you have to jump on DeCastro. If he is gone, now you can trade down. The player grouping that is left is only four points apart. You can drop probably six slots or so and still get someone on your list.
Why would DeCastro be available at number 11? Positional value, or lack thereof. Guards, as we are told, are not top half of round one picks. That’s the conventional wisdom. Rather, that’s today’s conventional wisdom. Let’s hop in the time machine for a history tour.
The year is 1986. Overhead, the Commissioner is at the podium. “With the seventh pick in the draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Brian Jozwiak, guard, West Virginia.”
The year is 1980. What do we hear? “With the eleventh selection, the Chiefs select Brad Budde, guard USC.”
Do you want more examples?
OK, 1976, the Chiefs took guard Rod Walters with the 14th pick.
The point is that the positional value of the guard position has changed over time. Recently, interior linemen were not considered first round material. Then centers like Alex Mack and the Pouncey twins started going in round one. Value can be found by taking players with high personal value, but lower positional value. Scott Pioli did that recently by taking Eric Berry at number 5. Safeties rarely went in the top 10, but Berry did. These days, guards don’t go top 15. DeCastro should break that mold. If available, he should be the Chiefs’ pick. I would love to seriously consider a trade down. However, the circumstances do not indicate it this year.