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Chiefs Draft 2013: Going Long with Long Ball!

Each year, I try to get (read harangue, cajole, bribe) the king of Drafttek’s Big Board, my friend, Long Ball. After many emails, and promises of lots of beer and some good Carolina BBQ, he agreed to answer a few questions about this year’s draft and the Chiefs. Long Ball is a good friend of mine and I am very grateful he agreed to give us some insight. Although he is a Cowboys’ fan, he has a special place in his heart for our Chiefs. Long Ball combines a good overall knowledge of football, a good scouting mind and enough of an outside perspective on the Chiefs to wipe away the Chiefs blinders.  He is in the process of writing his annual series: The Big Uglies which will be posted on Drafttek.com. I recommend it highly.

 

Last year’s draft was headlined by Andrew Luck. This year’s draft doesn’t seem to have that same type of star power. Are we blinded by the lack of a star QB or is this draft lighter on super blue chip prospects?

Ordinarily there are anywhere from 18 to 22 “blue-chip” prospects in a given draft . . . this year the number may be less than 12, as far as immediate impact players.  However, this draft may be as deep from a “contributor” standpoint as any I’ve graded in a long time.  And yes, this is a weak draft for the QB position. 

 

The popular perception of this draft is that it is three rounds deep with starter prospects. Is that how you read it? Where are the deep spots in the draft and where is it lacking?

Pretty much . . . the 2013 NFL Draft is deep at offensive guard, right offensive tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end and/or 3-4 outside linebacker, 4-3 outside linebacker, cornerback and safety. Now keep in mind that offensive guard is deep almost every year as there are offensive tackles who lack the footwork to play the perimeter and move inside at the next level . . . but there are some guards who played the position in college this year who will play at the next level.

Quarterback, feature (“bell-cow”) running backs, “plug-n-play” wide receivers and offensive centers are lacking this year.

 

You are always good for a dark horse Big Ugly prospect. Do you have one this year?

I have a few . . . at OT I like Menelik Watson from Florida State. The junior from Manchester, England played in just 12 games this season, to bring his career total to 20.  Watson, a former boxer and Division I basketball player for Marist College, didn’t start playing football until his sophomore season at Saddleback College (CA).

I also like OT Terron Armstead from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who dominated opponents in SWAC play. Terron was an injury replacement for Dallas Thomas at the Senior Bowl and didn’t look out of place in Mobile. He had a rough start in the final practice with some bad reps in one-on-one drills, but he recovered and improved throughout practice, finishing strong and earning praise from coaches.

At OG, there are a couple of college tackles that I think will excel inside:  Vinston Painter from Virginia Tech and David Bakhtiari of Colorado.  And finally, if a team is looking for versatility, they could do far worse than David Quessenberry of San Jose State who can play all 5 OL positions and play them well.

Dark horse prospects on the DL would include Montori Hughes of Tennessee-Martin, Nicholas Williams of Samford and Jared Smith of New Hampshire (thought I had better pick some small-school prospects that not everyone has heard of).

 

The Chiefs have a new Head Coach and General Manager once again. You watched Andy Reid coach the Eagles for years. One thing that concerns me about him is his lack of success after losing his legendary Defensive Coordinator, Jim Johnson. Is that too simplistic a view? What are your thoughts on hiring John Dorsey?

The conclusion is not simplistic but you need to take it a little deeper . . . Andy Reid did depend upon Jim Johnson, who was as adaptable a DC as the game has seen.  The reason I say that is he knew when the Eagles WC offense was not controlling the ball, he had to increase the attacking nature of the Philadelphia defense and get turnovers.  The West Coast offense can utilize a rushing attack and I sincerely hope Reid will include that facet in his game plans for the Chiefs.  Reid will base decisions on a trust factor (moving Juan Castillo from OL to DC) and the results can come back to bite him.  New DC Bob Sutton has a disciplined, yet varied, background and I hope he can grow to adapt on the fly as quickly as Johnson could.

I like the Dorsey hire . . . he has gained excellent, solid experience through the Green Bay regime, was hired by Ron Wolf and has a “roll up your sleeves” work ethic as opposed to the “I’m smarter than everyone else” attitude of Scott Pioli.

 

While fans look at the first round or two of the draft, the money in the draft is in pulling good players out of rounds three and beyond. The Chiefs could use a 4th corner to develop and backup C/G. Are there any players you like in the mid-late rounds in those positions? 

Both starters (Brandon Flowers and Javier Arenas) are small; yet the Chiefs have acquired some nice-sized CB’s over the past few years (DeQuan Menzie, Jalil Brown, Neiko Thorpe).  I would continue that trend and look at Darius Slay of Mississippi State, Blidi Wreh-Wilson of Connecticut or Tharold Simon of LSU . . . all 3rd to 4th round prospects.

If you want a C/G prospect, the aforementioned Quessenberry should be available in the 4th round . . . as should any of the other “Dark Horses” I mentioned earlier.

 

Andy Reid is an excellent developer of Quarterbacks. Are there any later round Quarterbacks that you recommend we keep our eye on? 

Matt Scott of Arizona is getting some attention but I like Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah . . . and Jeff Tuel of Washington State is mentally tough.

 

Long Ball, even though you live in Cowboy country, you do have some love for the Chiefs. If you are making the call and the Chiefs can not trade down, who would you select and why?

Well, I have to address the Branden Albert situation . . . the young man has made it very clear that he considers himself a LOT (and of course he would, because he wants to be paid) after being franchised.  Donald Stephenson got some playing time last year as a rookie, but with the release of Eric Winston the OT position must be addressed.  There are only 3 “plug-n-play” LOT prospects this year (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson) and all will go in the first 10-15 picks.  So back to Albert . . . did you franchise him to trade him or play him?  And if you play him, do you negotiate a long-term contract for an OT with back problems (even though he’s only played 5 years)?

I would take Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and never look back.

 

It does look like the Chiefs are zoning in on an Offensive Tackle. Andy Reid values Left and Right Tackles equally. If the rumored long term deal for Branden Albert is consummated, that wouldn’t keep the Chiefs from drafting Joeckel. I know you have been impressed with Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson. The Chiefs are actively shopping the first pick in the draft. They would like to recoup the Second Round pick they traded to San Francisco for Alex Smith. Do Fisher and/or Johnson come into play only if the Chiefs can trade down? Do you see a viable trade possibility for the Chiefs? Who would want to move into #1 and who would they be targeting? 

Well, let’s discuss the 3 tackles . . . Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is the #1 LOT in this year’s draft class.  He only had an average performance at the Combine with a 5.30 forty (1.81 for the 10 yard split, which is more important for the Big Uglies), 4.68 shuttle, 7.40 3-cone, 28.5” vertical, 9’2” broad and 27 bench reps.  This gives him an explosion factor of 65 and his lateral agility is outstanding (0.62), plus his 34-1/4” reach and 10-1/8” hands make it easier for him to handle the perimeter.

Luke is smooth in pass protection out of his stance, demonstrating excellent lateral agility and balance to “catch” the defender, handling speed, counter-moves and bull rushes.  If you wanted to produce a training tape of OL fundamentals, you could do far worse than to film Joeckel’s posture, a picture of technique with knees bent, butt down and both his head and hands up.  Excellent recognition and anticipation in pass protection, as he picks up stunts and blitzes.

In run blocking, Joeckel is quick off the snap, maintains low pad level and leverage, and utilizes the strength in both his upper and lower body to drive his opponent off the line.  He has excellent hand placement (inside the numbers), progresses well to the second level and shows effective mobility in blocking secondary targets.  The boy keeps his legs churning with the short, choppy steps not often seen in current OL prospects . . . sorry about my salivating, but Ol’ Long Ball just doesn’t get to witness the “old school” fundamentals very often.  Luke is also well-schooled in the art of cut-blocking and is durable, having started all 37 games of his collegiate career at left tackle.

Joeckel is built for the position with a lean, tapered upper body and long arms . . . but it’s his pronounced lower body that produces his leverage and power.  There are many long college tackles that come into the league and have to work on squats in order to anchor and handle the bull rushes of NFL defensive linemen . . . Joeckel is already there, as his butt and legs look like they could be attached to an offensive guard.

The best senior LOT prospect made some money at the Senior Bowl . . . Eric Fisher from Central Michigan!  I was real impressed with how smooth and balanced his movements were for a man with a 6’7”, 305 lb frame.  Quite frankly, he reminds me of Matt Kalil from last year’s draft class . . . but there are some differences.

Fisher, who carries 305 lbs on his 6’7” frame, had good results at the Combine with a 5.05 forty (1.70 10-yard split), 4.44 shuttle, 7.59 3-cone, 28-1/2” vertical, 10’ broad jump and 27 bench reps.  His 34-1/2” arms with 10-1/2” hands, his explosion factor is 66, his lateral agility factor is 0.60 . . . he’s quite a specimen!

In pass blocking, Eric rarely lost the edge battle to college DE’s due to his nimble footwork, lateral agility and length . . . he is such a coordinated athlete for his size that his ability to move in any direction appears to be effortless.  He exhibits natural knee bend and reach to send edge rushers around the pocket and is quick enough on recovery to cut off the inside rush lane.  His hand placement is solid, high and within the numbers; however, when he allows his hands to slide down, stronger ends can get into his pads and drive him back.  Due to his lack of lower body development (the main reason he is ranked behind Joeckel), Fisher can get caught by a bull rush for playing too high in his stance.

Fisher is an athletic run blocker who gets off the snap with quickness and more pop than one would expect, making him desirable for a power running game (essential in short yardage).  He also possesses the lateral movement to effectively wall off opponents on the edge, and speed to get to the second level and at the appropriate angle to prevent defenders from reaching the play (evident on combo blocks from lineman to linebacker).  Eric is a fiery competitor, punctuating the end of his strong blocks by extending his arms through the defender for emphasis.

Eric has some work ahead of him to solidify and improve his technique at the next level and hours of power squats in the weight room to develop his lower body . . . but that’s what NFL offensive line coaches are paid to do!  The coaches will find that they have plenty to work with . . . I like this kid!

Lane Johnson surprised me at the Senior Bowl . . . so much so, I went back to my Oklahoma game tapes to do some re-grading.  Early in the year, I had labeled him as a “finesse” OL prospect, and I’ll have to admit part of it is my disdain for the spread offense (as it applies to OL assignments and blocking techniques) and part of it was QB Landry Jones always having “deer in the headlights” eyes, which I blamed on the OL.

His combine results made TE’s blush:  4.72 in the forty (1.61 for the 10-yard split), 4.52 shuttle, 7.31 3-cone, 34” vertical, 10’02” broad jump and 28 bench reps.  His 35-1/4” arms have 10-1/8” hands on the end of them, his explosion factor is 72, but his lateral agility factor is 0.20, evidence of his lack of time at the position . . . but there is also evidence that he is growing into the position.

Johnson is an athlete . . . the former HS quarterback who began the 2010 season at OU at tight end before switching to defensive end midway through the season, starting at right tackle in 2011 and left tackle in 2012 should have the native intelligence and overall perspective to play the most important position on the OL.  With a long frame accentuated by long arms (35”) that have a strong pair of hands on the end of ‘em, Lane not only looks the part but plays with more power than I anticipated.  His kick-slide may be better than both Joeckel and Fisher, as his quick feet allow him to mirror the defender.  Although he could build up his lower body, he keeps his butt low in pass protection, maintains an extremely wide (but not overbalanced) base which allows him to utilize his length to keep rushers at bay.  He has large, powerful hands but constantly has to work at keeping them inside the numbers.  Johnson is a natural bender with flexible joints

In the running game, Lane explodes off the snap using wide, choppy steps to maintain the initial surge.  He’s physical, got a bit of that “Long Ball Nastiness” and locks down defenders, sealing the edge and continuing to engage which creates nice running lanes.  Johnson needs to keep his head up and eyes elevated to improve his blocking angles . . . he can overextend himself from time to time.

I believe all 3 of these young men will be selected in the top half of the 1st round . . . let’s look at the teams drafting below KC.  Philadelphia (#4), Cleveland (#6), Arizona (#7), Buffalo (#8), Tennessee (#10), San Diego (#11), Miami (#12), Tampa Bay (#13), Carolina (#14) and St. Louis (#16) could all make a case for drafting an OT (even though the position may not be their top need). If 30% of those 10 teams select 1 of those 3 tackles, they are gone . . . that’s the reason for my earlier statement.

Well, you asked me what time it was and I told you how to build a clock . . . LOL!  Potential trade partners for the Chiefs #1 . . . I would think you would look at teams who are fairly solid and deep and feel like they are an impact player away on the defensive side of the ball (think pass-rusher, whether outside or inside).  Green Bay, Houston and San Francisco are 3-4 teams and can fill those needs later in the draft, Baltimore is gutting their team and tends to stay put (ain’t Ozzie amazing?) so I would say the two best candidates are Atlanta and Denver.  The Chiefs’ 1st round pick (according to Jimmy’s Draft Chart) is worth 3,000 points . . . Denver at #28 is worth 660 points and Atlanta at #30 is worth 620 points.  That means Denver would have to include their 2nd round pick (320 points), 3rd round pick (140 points), 4th round pick (50 points), 5th round pick (29.8 points), they don’t have a 6th round pick, so 7th round pick (4.2 points), Peyton Manning’s 2nd born child, John Elway’s 1st born grandchild, and then we go into 2014.  Now, I could go into the same exercise for Atlanta but I think you get my point . . . unless a team throws in a solid 1stteam starter, we’re talking “The Great Train Robbery” (Dallas fleecing Minnesota for Hershel Walker).  Unfortunately, KC picked a bad year to have the #1 choice overall . . . it just ain’t gonna happen!

 

I want to thank Longball for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share some insights with us. Keep an eye on his dark horses. He usually hits on them. Keep an eye on the Draft Tek site. His annual “Big Uglies” series is a great read. I keep it near me on draft day!

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