Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te

Chiefs Must “Get Better, Faster Than Anyone Else”

They say you can’t properly evaluate a draft class until three or four year have passed. However, we may be able to hold the current regime to their own standard.

What standard?  TO MAKE THE CHIEFS BETTER.

By considering this aristocratic goal and evaluating the Chiefs efficacy in the 2013 NFL draft, there’s an eerie Scott Pioli-type-feeling that ascends.

I recall being connected to the TV and the PC as if I was connected to an I-V… four short off seasons ago on draft day and hoping for the best. Devoid of a second round pick… expectations for the “other” handful of Chiefs’ selections was, to say the very least, intensifying.

Unlike four years ago, the first pick in this draft was seen as a huge success. Score one for Reid and Dorsey (with a backwards assist from Scott Pioli for leading the Chiefs to the worst record in the league thereby granting this regime the first overall pick).

The rest of the draft feels like a deja-vu-vian recapitulation all over again all over again. The problem with touting this point of view is that it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Four years ago the Chiefs had needs everywhere.

This year, the Chiefs had a few holes to address going into the draft and if they came away with two or three starters they could reasonably expect to consider themselves a playoff ready team.

Andy Reid and John Dorsey’s mantra “make the team better” has been sounding all too similar to Scott Pioli’s “the best 53.” So, what’s the real problem?

The Chiefs actually did make themselves better over the weekend. But, ask any of the other 31 flavorful teams in the league and they’ll tell you they taste better now too.

The Chiefs motto, maxim, war cry or goal… simply cannot be… “to get better.”

The Kansas City Chiefs must… get better, faster than anyone else… in the NFL.

Otherwise, what’s the use?

If Clark Hunt “settles for” one GM/Head Coach tandem after another to come to town and proudly tout they will, “Make The Chiefs Better”… then what’s the use? In that case, the Chiefs will never see a Super Bowl much less a playoff victory or even a division crown.

Case in point: drafting ILB Nico Johnson at #99.

There’s an old saying about purchasing real estate:  “Buy the worst house on the best block.” The problem is… it’s a faulty precept when it comes to acquiring players in the draft. However, that is essentially what the Chiefs have done with Nico Johnson from Alabama.

Here’s what was being said about Nico Johnson before the draft:

NFL.com    …player who hasn’t yet shown great playmaking ability. Lacks straight-line speed to recover once behind a step in coverage or juked at the line of scrimmage, will also struggle to get angle on backs before they turn upfield…. 64.7 grade

Walterfootball.com     …flows pretty well in the direction of plays and is able to get on some perimeter runs. There is no hesitation in taking on blockers…Johnson does not look like the best of athletes. He is not a fast linebacker that can cover a lot of ground. His instincts and awareness seem to be a little slow as well. If he improves his ability to read his keys and shows better instincts that could help make up for a lack of foot speed.

Rotoworld.com    …Many NFL teams reportedly view Alabama LB Nico Johnson as a two-down linebacker who will have to leave the field on nickel downs. In the pass-happy NFL, the nickel has essentially become a base defense. So not being able to defend the pass is a huge negative. Johnson failed to do so effectively in college, and continued to struggle at the Senior Bowl.

CBSSports.com    …Isn’t the intimidating striker that his physicality might lead you to believe. Doesn’t often leave his feet and explode through his hips as a hitter to knock ball-carriers to the ground. Instead, he latches on and ‘rassles them in a manner that may not appear as aesthetically pleasing but gets the job done, nonetheless… Doesn’t play as fast as might appear in workouts. Limited awareness as a pass defender. ~ Rob Rang

nfldraftscout.com    …rated Nico Johnson the 148th best prospect overall.

Coming out of Alabama, Nico Johnson has 163 total tackles, 2 sacks and 2 INTs in four years. He played in 51 games. When Chiefs’ Derrick Johnson left the University of Texas he had 458 tackles, 10 ½ sacks and 9 INTs in four years. DJ played in 50 games at UT.

The most glaring difference between DJ and NJ: Derrick started 40 out of 50 games at UT and Nico started 20 of 51 at Alabama. Nico started 17 of 39 game from his sophomore-senior seasons, while DJ started every game in that same period.

What appears most problematic is, Nico Johnson started only 5 games out of 13 in his senior year.

It may be unfair to compare a “Mike” and a “Will” linebacker. It can also unfair to compare a 15th overall pick and a player who was the 99th pick in the draft but, it should also point out what Nico Johnson is… and is not… capable of.

Judging from comments made the day Nico Johnson was drafted… Chiefs fans are hoping that Nico Johnson (NJ) will step in and take over for Jovan Belcher at the Mike linebacker position and be the running game “Stop Sign” the Chiefs have long needed in the middle.

NJ may not be the tackling machine many fans are expecting him to be but, on the other hand, he might be capable of setting Derrick Johnson up… to do his thing.

In 2011, Josh Looney of KCChiefs.com wrote a piece called, “Belcher is KCs Thumper” and makes the point that Belcher isn’t there to be a tackling machine but, he takes on offensive linemen so DJ can get a clear path to the ball carrier.

Looney says,

“Belcher handles much of linebackers’ dirty work. Part of that duty includes the elimination of lead blockers so Derrick Johnson can use his rare athleticism to make plays.”

Looney also quotes Derrick Johnson,

“Probably half of my tackles come from Jovan blowing somebody up and I’m scraping over the top. He’s not a selfish guy. He knows what he has to do in this defense to allow certain people to scrape over the top for tackles. Sometimes in the 3-4 defense you have to be a sacrifice guy.”

If these Chiefs expect Nico Johnson to be the “sacrifice guy”… it might work. Maybe. He’s got the body for it at 6-2, 248. Don’t forget, Nico didn’t start half the games he appeared in for the Crimson Tide so at best he comes in as a developmental player. Which also means his body is more well preserved than we may have previously thought… and that’s a plus.

When the Chiefs selected Nico Johnson with the 99th pick in the draft, the players still available were:

  • S Shamarko Thomas (88 tackles, 2 INTs in 2012, taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers 12 picks later, a player with starting capability who could have filled a need for the Chiefs)

  • WR Quinton Patton (a 6’ wr with 4.4 speed ranked 58th overall by nfldraftscout and taken by the 49ers)

  • DE Alex Okafor (ranked 57th overall by nfldraftscout)

  • S Phillip Thomas (ranked 64th overall by nfldraftscout)

  • C Brian Schwenke (ranked 80th overall by cbs sports)

A round later, in the 5th, the Carolina Panthers took the so-called “next best available ILB” — A.J. Klein from Iowa State — who had 117 tackles as a senior with 5 INTs for his career. The BleacherReport says, “A.J. Klein spent the last three years at Iowa State making a name for himself as a consistent middle linebacker.”

There are other good examples of prospects taken later than Nico Johnson which makes you question the Chiefs evaluation/selection process and decision makers.

While the Chiefs may have gotten “better” at the MILB this off season by drafting Nico Johnson and signing free agents Akeem Jordan and Frank Zombo… you can not say they have gained any ground on the competition at that position. Even the lowly Raiders took a better LB, Sio Moore who could play ILB or OLB and ranked as the 68th prospect overall (although it was earlier with the 66th pick).

However, it’s clear the Chiefs didn’t get better faster… this off season at linebacker… than their own division foes (think Shaun Phillips to Denver and Manti Teo’ to San Diego).

And that, should be the goal. Drafting a player who was ranked 148th overall, with the 99th pick in the draft tells us the Chiefs were not gaining “value” but instead, that they were disposing of value or more appropriately put… giving value away.

The “value” being referred to here is not just a cash investment. It’s talent. When real talent is gained, that talent can be exhilarating and galvanizing to everyone around… on the field and in the stands. When lesser talent is brought in, true talent is displaced. The squandering of that kind of value cannot be measured. Nor can it simply be replaced in free agency.

Here’s what Chiefs head coach Andy Reid had to say following round seven of the draft on Saturday,

All right so, uh, really we’ve finished uh, um… the draft picks here… so, um, uh for this draft… and uh… uh we feel good about it, we’ve, we’ve filled some needs … uh, not that that’s the way we went in thinking … but, uh the way the board fell… it… it allowed us to fill… fill in some spots where we’re a little bit short on, on numbers and uh at the same time give us good football players uh that we think we were able to get uh for at a good value where they fell in the draft.

“We’ve filled some needs” is the first point Reid, perhaps mistakenly, reveals following the draft. I’m less sure now than ever before that Andy Reid and John Dorsey were actually attempting to take the best player available.

The Chiefs draft has drawn mixed reviews.

  • Mel Kiper graded the Chiefs draft as a C- grade. He said, “what Andy Reid and John Dorsey did was underwhelming.”
  • USA Today- “Hard to argue with T Eric Fisher at the top, nor the trade of their second-round pick for QB Alex Smith. Fourth-round RB Knile Davis could more effectively assume the battering ram role behind Jamaal Charles … Nico Johnson (Round 4) might start…GRADE: A-
  • RotoWorld- Selecting workout warrior running back Davis over Johnathan Franklin was one of the worst picks of the 2013 draft. If Davis’ college tape means anything for his NFL future — and I believe it does — he won’t be long for the league. Johnson is a two-down role player and special teamer at best. Commings has been billed as a physical press corner, but I watched his tape and found him to be allergic to contact. Grade C-
  • FoxSports- the grades from three writers, Floyd Engel- Grade B, Alex Amrvez- Grade B and Peter Schrager- Grade B- (their analysis was based on the Chiefs  first selection).
  • Bleacher Report- Grade B-
  • CBS Sports- (Rob Rang)- …tight end Travis Kelce and running back Knile Davis are definite gambles … I like the physicality and size of defensive back Sanders Commings and linebacker Nico Johnson… the Chiefs gambled too much on upside throughout much of the rest of their draft. Grade C
  • Sportingnews.com- Overrated Arkansas running back Knile Davis was a wasted third-rounder. It wasn’t exactly a “worst to playoffs” weekend for the Chiefs. Grade C-

You may be asking: at other positions, have the Chiefs gotten… better faster? Positions like QB, DB and TE? Some would argue that Alex Smith is not a great upgrade over Matt Cassel. I think he is. What about the defensive backfield? Some are thinking Dunta Robinson, Sean Smith and Sanders Commings are more of a “throw a lot of players at the wall and see who sticks” philosophy. If the Raiders first round draft pick, cornerback D.J. Hayden, is the same player he was before his heart threat, the Chiefs may have lost ground there as well. If you haven’t heard the D.J. Hayden story, it’s one of inspiration that could even touch Al Davis’ cold dead heart. On second thought….

What is clear is that the current incumbents are going to take action and if a player doesn’t work out, they’ll move on and make a move for another player. Those are positives to be admired and it distinguishes them well from the previous sovereign reprobate.

However, one must question if a team vision has become clearer now that the draft has completed?

Consider the drafting of the Chiefs 96th pick RB, Knile Davis from Arkansas.

In his post called, “KC’s 2013 Draft: Not Flashy But Much Needed,“ Lyle Graversen defends the selection of Knile Davis,

“I hear people HATING on Knile Davis like he was the worst pick in the history of the NFL draft. The man is 230 lbs and runs a 4.3 forty! If they can fix his fumbling problems he can team with Charles to just wear defenses out.”

Please note that Graversen begins his third sentence with the word “if.” That is precisely why Knile Davis is not a pick to assure that the Kansas City Chiefs are going to get better faster than anyone else. Davis is an if.

As a sophomore he ran for 1,458 yards with a 6.5 yards per carry average. He was out in 2011. In 2012, Davis returned with 534 yards and 4.3 yards per carry. You also have to question if Davis will ever come back from his ankle injuries. The Arkansas Traveler reports,

“…the broken ankle was the fifth major injury he has suffered in five years. Davis has also broken both his collarbone and left ankle twice.”

Knile Davis comes with more than one if.

Have the Chiefs gotten… better faster… this off season than their division foes? The Broncos drafted Montee Ball at RB. Ball has a long history book of successes and holds the NCAA record for TDs (79)… plus no dropsy issues.

Better faster? We won’t know the answer to that for months… perhaps years. But, it’s not looking good from the cheap seats.

I just hope “what” Andy Reid and John Dorsey really mean… is that they’re wanting to get better, faster than than anyone else.

Doesn’t that have to be the real goal?

Because in this draft, the Chiefs had at least a couple of picks with genuine caveats and caution signs.

What do you think Addicts? Are you all in bliss with this draft class? Or, maybe I’m just having a bad day cause I stepped on a nail.

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