Chiefs 2013 Draft: Navigating The Blockbuster


As has become customary for Chiefs fans over the years, we begin fantasizing about what could be, and so, many of us have already mentally calendar hopped to the 2013 draft with hopes full bore.

My fantasy is drafting an elite quarterback –Geno Smith, specifically — but, it will likely take a blockbuster trade to get that accomplished.

For the Chiefs to climb that volcano and drop the ring of power — the power that losing has held over this organization — into the lava of Mordor, they’ll need someone young to lead them — a franchise-caliber QB — one who will guide them for a decade or more.

To do that the Chiefs will need to take a big risk. It won’t be easy. Risks never are. In this case the risk will be to trade key players and/or high round picks to gain control of the first pick in the draft.

Gaining the first pick is no guarantee that the Chiefs will end up with a franchise QB. However, it is now a move the Chiefs must make.

MUST make.

Why?

The reason is that it makes more sense now than at any other time in the past 40 years, and that’s because the Chiefs have put together a strong team core and now are basically only lacking one or two key components including a breakout QB.

The Chiefs don’t even need a QB who can carry them on his back for games at a time, just periods of games. Joe Montana is the only Chiefs QB who has been capable of that since Len Dawson — and Dawson was picked up by the Chiefs 50 years ago, this year.

So, what’s the record for teams who take the plunge — the big risk of trading away the future, players and Draft picks — for an elite QB talent?

Here’s a brief history lesson about one of the worst possible trades ever.

In 1999, the New Orleans Saints — with Mike Ditka at the helm — traded away every single player in that year’s Draft, plus a first- and second-round pick in the 2000 Draft for the rights to draft RB Ricky Williams. HC Ditka and GM Bill Kuharich were fired at the end of William’s rookie season, essentially for going 3-13.

Williams played for the Saints for only three seasons and it’s widely recognized as a big bad bust of a deal for New Orleans. Ricky Williams was the sixth player taken in that Draft — not the first.

Seven years later the Saints risked millions again, which changed the whole organization’s fortunes.

In 2006, as a franchise player and free agent, Drew Brees signed with the New Orleans Saints. That same season he threw for over 4,400, set a new single season passing record in 2011 and was the winning MVP of Super Bowl XLIV. There’s probably only two teams in the league that wouldn’t be glad to have Brees take over their QB chores and that would be the Patriots, and the Chargers, apparently.

So, there are two ways to make this blockbuster trade happen to gain a high draft pick or to gain an unwanted, second-string QB from another team.

Think back over the past 20 seasons: who — besides Drew Brees — has worked out “great” as a QB coming from another team either in a trade or free agency?

If Peyton Manning is your answer, consider that he is in no way the Broncos’ future.

If your answer is Michael Vick, consider what he’s ever really accomplished, both on and off the field.

If Carson Palmer is your answer, consider how much he hasn’t improved the Raiders since coming over (9-11 record, 18 TDs, 18 INTs). Palmer will be 33 in December and is also not the future of the Raiders.

If Joe Montana is your answer, remember he only played two years for the Chiefs and was injured for part of his stay in K.C..

The facts show that very few QBs traded in the middle or last part of their careers turn around and blow it up with their new team — besides Brees, Montana and Favre. And the laundry list of QBs who don’t do well in another team’s jersey at the tail end of their careers is legendary: Namath, Unitas, Drew Bledsoe, Archie Manning, Randall Cunningham, Boomer Esiason, John Hadl, Dave Krieg, Donovan McNabb — this list is endless.

While Matt Schaub hasn’t help the Houston Texans achieve much — yet,  he could one day become a QB who helped his new team greatly after being traded.

While trading for a QB or signing one in free agency is a possibility, there’s a good reason it’s more of a possibility than it is to trade up in the Draft. Trading for an unwanted QB costs less, yes, but the outcome is a greater risk. In fact, finding a great QB that way is pretty rare.

That leaves a draft-related trade. Besides, most Chiefs fans I’ve communicated with are tired of the Chiefs trying to bring in someone else’s discard: Steve DeBerg, Ron Jaworski, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac, Damon Huard, Matt Cassel.

Trent Green played well for the Chiefs but was never recognized as the long-term solution. Green produced five straight seasons of more than 3,500 passing yards and three straight of more than 4,000. Green was solid but it’s difficult to build around someone who is done in 5 seasons.

Back to the drawing board — which better be the same thing as the Draft board, in the Chiefs’ case.

Several high-quality college QBs appear to be headed for the top of the 2013 NFL Draft board — including Geno Smith. Are there any that you’d love to see the Chiefs make a move for? The time is ripe. The possibilities are greater than they’ve ever been.

If you’re someone who does want to see that happen — and I count myself in the group who does — how much would you be willing to trade in current roster players, in 2013 draft picks, and in 2014-15 draft picks to gain the upper hand in making sure the Chiefs got their preferred QB?

The first way I look at the answer to this question is to look at the current roster. Teams who end up picking high in the Draft are usually rebuilding and rarely have a QB of their future on their existing roster. However, there’s been a bevy of talented young QBs coming into the league in the past two years and so there is a good probability that several teams picking high in 2013 will already have their QB of the future on their rosters, e.g. Rams, 2012.

Consequently, those teams may be willing to trade for players they previously have had a relationship with who may also be on the Chiefs roster. If that’s the case, it’s good news because it means they already “value” that player. Examples include: Gunther Cunningham, Lions: Hali or DJ; Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Cassel, Ken Whisenhunt; Cardinals: Steve Breaston, Tom Coughlin; Giants: Kevin Boss; Todd Haley, Pittsburgh: ½ of the Chiefs offense including Dwayne Bowe. Not that there’s a high likelihood any of those teams will be finishing with a worse record than the Chiefs, but you never know.

From the Chiefs’ standpoint, the important question is:  who would you NOT be willing to part with for the rights to draft (essentially meaning — purchase) an elite franchise QB of the future?

The top of that list looks like this for me:

1. Jamaal Charles
2. Dwayne Bowe
3. Eric Berry
4. Tamba Hali
5. Derrick Johnson
6. Justin Houston

Aside from these six, I’d be willing to part with anyone the Chiefs have on their roster — along with draft picks — to make a trade and draft for an elite QB happen.

Assessing the Cost
Weeks before the 2012 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams, who were holding the second pick in the draft, traded that pick to the Washington Redskins for their sixth overall pick in 2012, plus their second-round pick in 2012 and their first-round picks in both 2013 and 2014.

That’s a king’s ransom, no doubt about it.

Yet, here the Chiefs sit, without drafting, signing or  trading for an elite QB who has turned out to have a long bright future since 1962.

Another trade that went bad was when Dallas traded Herschel Walker to Minnesota for half of the tea in China. That trade is often called “The Great Train Robbery.”

Here’s what that trade came down to:

Minnesota Vikings received:
RB Herschel Walker
1990 Draft
Dallas’s third-round pick – (#54 – Mike Jones)
San Diego’s fifth-round pick – (#116 – Reggie Thornton)
Dallas’s 10th-round pick – (#249 – Pat Newman)
1991 Draft
Dallas’s third-round pick – (1991 #68 – Jake Reed)

Dallas Cowboys received:
LB Jesse Solomon
LB David Howard
CB Issiac Holt
RB Darrin Nelson (traded to Chargers, refused to report to Dallas)
DE Alex Stewart
1990 Draft
Vikes first-round pick (#21 – traded this pick along with the 81st pick for the 17th pick from Pittsburgh — to draft Emmitt Smith)
Vikes second-round pick (#47 – Alexander Wright)
Vikes sixth-round pick (#158 – traded to New Orleans, who drafted James Williams)
1991 Draft
Vikes first-round pick (conditional pick – 12th pick in the draft – Alvin Harper)
Vikes second-round pick (conditional pick – 38th pick in the draft – Dixon Edwards)
1992 Draft
Vikes second-round pick (conditional pick – 37th pick in the draft – Darren Woodson)
Vikes third-round pick (conditional pick) – 71st pick in the draft – traded to New England, who drafted Kevin Turner)
1993 Draft
Vikes first-round pick (conditional pick – 13th pick in the draft – traded to Philadelphia Eagles, and then to the Houston Oilers, who drafted Brad Hopkins)

The Dallas dynasty of the early 1990s was clearly established by that trade.

However, GMs don’t try to make trades like that anymore. The reason? GMs have to continue working with each other. They don’t want to lose their working relationship.

New school trades are worked so that everyone is happy with the trade. So, for the Chiefs to make this kind of blockbuster trade before the Draft of April 2013, they will need to be clear about what equipment (players and/or draft choices), they are willing to shop around but, don’t expect them to have to give away the farm — like Minnesota did in 1989.

You can tell that the trade environment has balanced out by comparing that trade to the one the Redskins and the Rams made this past spring. I’m sure both team are still very happy. If I was a Redskins fan, I sure would be.

So, what’s this trade — were it to happen — going to look like?

I can feel it in my bones — it’s going to happen — so go to YouTube and find the Weather Girls and have a listen to “It’s Raining Men.”

You’ll feel a lot better while reading this post. Promise!

Ummm…that hits a sweet spot. I have to confess I have a 2012 -2013 NCAA FB man-crush on Geno Smith. In five games so far this year he has 1,996 passing yards, 24 TDs and 0 INTs. That’s ZERO interceptions.

I’ve watched three games of Geno Smith’s including the week he threw 8 TDs against Baylor.  CBS Sports tracked all of Smith’s passes in that game and said the average amount of distance his passes flew before being caught was 35.1 yards. They stressed that Smith is winning by attacking the defenses down field and he’s not winning by “dinking and dunking” his way down the field.

“88.13: Touchdown percentage for West Virginia offense when entering opponents’ red zone. The Mountaineers have scored TDs on 15 of 17 trips.”

On Saturday against Texas, at halftime I watched an interview with Geno Smith and he said, “I choose to go to West Virginia and not Miami or another big name school because I wanted to help an unknown school become a big time top ten contender.”

Hallelujah! He’s perfect for the Kansas City Chiefs.

I like Smith’s athleticism as much as I like RGIII’s but, be clear: Geno Smith is a pocket passer. Geno Smith is a quiet leader who works hard to excel and his progress is easy to chart.

While Smith is a pocket passer, he can also run well when necessary — as pointed out by WVUs quarterback coach Jake Spavital,

If you look at a lot of NFL teams — especially with Aaron Rodgers — it’s run seven yards and slide, and that puts a lot of stress on the defense. Obviously Geno can do that. We don’t want him acting like he’s a dual-threat quarterback, as much as we joke around about it, but we’re going to at least have defenses acknowledge that our quarterback can run when he’s out of the pocket.

Geno Smith is the new-school, mobile QB prototype. He’s also been a brainy type since birth. From the time he was very young, Smith has been more than just an astute student.

On September 28, the NY Times interviewed his mother, Tracey Seller, who said, “His visions of things have always been beyond his years. After taking an intelligence test, he was labeled gifted.” The Times report also stated,

If his mother wished, Smith could have skipped a grade. She decided against it, preferring he mature with his peers — a notion that did not go as planned, considering Smith often grew bored after finishing his school work faster than most of his classmates.

Grouped with other students classified as gifted, Smith was taught an advanced curriculum… In fifth grade, he won an oratorical contest reciting work by the poet Langston Hughes.

Smith’s brilliance carries over to the game. “On the field, he’s visualizing,” his mother said. “It’s like a puzzle, his masterpiece.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says, “Geno Smith looks and plays the part of a big-time quarterback, possessing the passing and running skills that have revolutionized NFL offenses.”

At this point in time, I’d give what the Washington Redskins gave for RGIII to get Geno Smith of the West Virginia Mountaineers, which would look like this: trade first-round picks, plus give up our second-round pick in 2013, plus give up our first-round picks in both 2014 and 2015.

To get that elite, franchise QB with incredible upside and sky’s-the-limit leadership ability — on and off the field — I’d make that deal all day and twice on Sundays.

And never look back.

Well, Chiefs fans, what are you willing to give to see the Chiefs make that blockbuster trade a reality?

And don’t say a kidney.

Now, a kidney-shaped pool? I may need to call you on that one later.

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