It’s that time of year again, when we all scour every mock draft we can find and endlessly ponder and argue about what the Chiefs should do once April 25th rolls around.
Everyone has an opinion, most formed forged by a mix of personal preferences, tape study, and a survey of mocks and expert commentary. The problem is that draft science is far from a real science and Mel Kiper Jr. is not god. In fact, the man is our creation – he exists as a result of our obsession and boredom this time of year, and don’t get me wrong, I listen to his podcast, read his articles and scan through all of his mocks. Still, that is far from meaning that the Chiefs should take his advice on Draft day.
The big theme of this round of draft chatter is about how none of the QB’s are worthy of the first overall pick so therefore the Chiefs should steer clear of them with their first selection, choosing instead one of the standout pass-rushers or linemen.
Perhaps it’s my background as a journalist, but I hate groupthink and that includes the conventional wisdom that builds up around this time every year and then gets shattered by the guys actually making the decisions. Let’s be clear, regardless of whatever the self-styled draft scientists say, the player that is worth the Chiefs 1st pick is the player most likely to make the team better, Kiper’s big board be damned.
To me, it is obvious that this player is whoever the Chiefs deem to be the best quarterback prospect available. I believe that player to be Geno Smith, but what John Dorsey thinks is far more important than my amateur evaluation. In the coming weeks I will go through and detail why the Chiefs shouldn’t pick each individual other prospect that the so-called experts have mocked to them, but for now, I just want to point out that Dorsey has a much better track record than the “experts” when it comes to drafting quality players.
Let’s compare the Packers’ 1st-round picks since 2005 with what the scientists wanted them to choose:
2012: LB Nick Perry
Pick #: 28
Result: Jury Still Out. Perry started five games this season and racked up a couple of sacks, but couldn’t stay healthy and finished the year on injured reserve with a wrist injury.
2011: T Derek Sherrod
Pick #: 32
Result: Jury Still Out. I know it seems like a cop-out, but Sherrod has also seen limited time due to injury. He broke both the tibia and fibula in his leg during the team’s stunning loss to the Chiefs in 2011 and hasn’t been back on the field since. Before then, he started five games giving up no sacks but generating concern in Green Bay about his grasp of the fundamentals.
2010: T Bryan Bulaga
Pick #: 23
Result: High-end starter. Drafted late in the round, Bulaga has played right tacklke for three years “near a Pro Bowl level” and will get a shot at playing left tackle in 2013, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
2009: B.J. Raji
Pick #: 9
Result: Franchise player. Raji is a major force at his position and a difference-maker in games.
2009: LB Clay Mathews
Pick #: 26
Result: Franchise player. Ditto for Matthews. 42.5 sacks since being drafted. ‘Nuff said.
2007: DT Justin Harrell
Pick #: 16
Result: Bust due to injury. There is an odd theme to injury being the bane of the Packers’ most promising young players, but it was again the case here. He was cut in 2011 after four disappointing seasons, which the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel summed up thusly: “Harrell never quite had a chance to cash in on his potential as injuries robbed him each season.” Still, he was drafted with a torn bicep suffered in college and was a risky pick on the behalf of the Packers’ front office.
2006: OLB A.J. Hawk
Pick #: 5
Result: High-end starter. ESPN insider describes him as: “an excellent combination of size, strength and athleticism for the position. He is an instinctive player who understands angles and how to the leverage the football. He has improved attacking the line of scrimmage being more physical on contact. He is solid as a zone coverage defender but may get exposed in combination man schemes.”
2005: QB Aaron Rodgers
Pick #: 24
Result: Living legend. A-Rodg probably has to get another Super Bowl victory to punch his ticket to Canton, but he is one of the best three quarterbacks playing this game right now, possibly the very best.
All and all, not a bad haul for eight first-round picks – one bust, two high-end starters, two franchise players, and one superstar that will define this generation for the team. I don’t need to remind you of what the Chiefs got themselves through these years, but suffice to say it is significantly less stellar.
How did the experts do? Well, this is what Kiper, king of the draftniks, wanted Green Bay to do all of these years:
2012: LB Nick Perry
Ok, this one was sort of obvious. Green Bay needed a pass-rushing threat opposite Clay Matthews and Perry was projected to be the only one available at this spot.
2011: T Derek Sherrod
Ditto. Also shows that these iffy picks were eminently popular.
2010: G Mike Iupati
Real pick #: 17 by San Francisco
Result: High-end starter. Scouts Inc. has him ranked as the 49ers’ 6th best player.
2009: CB Malcom Jenkins
Real pick #: 14 by New Orleans
Result: Good starter. The Saints moved him to free safety where he shows good overall skills on that dreadful defense but hasn’t been a difference maker. He has four interceptions in four seasons.
2008: CB Antoine Cason
Real pick #: 27 by San Diego
Result: High-end starter. He gives up big plays, but is overall still a solid d-back. His Madden 13 overall rating was 86, which is pretty dern good.
2007: RB Marshawn Lynch
Real pick #: 12 by Buffalo
Result: High-end starter. Lynch is a borderline franchise player and definitely would have been a good pick for Green Bay if Buffalo hadn’t snatched him four picks earlier. It’s also important to note, however, that Lynch was a trouble-maker who washed out for his first team, which very well could have been the Packers instead of the Bills.
2006: A.J. Hawk
Right again! Rival expert Todd McShay had the Packers taking TE Vernon Davis. Now that would be scary.
2005: S/OLB (?) Thomas Davis
Real pick #: 14 by Carolina
Result: Mediocre player. Davis’ biggest problems lately have been health. He only played nine games in three seasons from 2009 to 2011 and didn’t stand out in 15 starts in 2012, picking up 68 tackles, no sacks and one interception for the Panthers.
So matched up against the real Green Bay front office, Kiper would have gotten for them four high-end starters plus one good and one mediocre player vs. one superstar, two franchise players, two high-end starters and a bust. That, of course is what conventional wisdom brings – low-risk moves that pay off but make no home runs.
Was 24 the right spot for Aaron Rodgers to be drafted? Well, we know now that it definitely was not. Instead, Alex Smith was taken 1st overall that year followed by RB Ronnie Brown, WR Braylon Edwards, RB Cedric Benson, RB Cadillac Williams and CB Pacman Jones. Why? Well, it was a strong running back draft class, just like this is a strong draft for defensive front-seven players.
This is why the “best player available” philosophy is always so misunderstood. Best player available doesn’t mean “next player on Kiper’s Big Board” or “the consensus pick by the draft scientists.” It means finding a player with something special that you can envision helping your team, possibly leading it to the promised land. John Dorsey is much better at that part of the game than any of the talking heads, and has proven it.
Forget about what the crowd says would be “good value” for Chiefs #1 pick. Good value is going to be getting the best quarterback for the future we can. Trading Albert for a young tackle prospect is not good value. Picking up another overhyped D-lineman or undersized pass-rusher isn’t either.
In short, don’t listen to the chatter. Dorsey’s got this.