Draft Math: Why The Chiefs' Top Pick Should Be Wide Receiver Or Safety

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Draft debates have heated up amongst the staffers here at Arrowhead Addict. I’m not one to talk about what happens behind closed doors, but I’ll let you in on a secret — there’s no consensus. We’re as split as we could possibly be on who the Kansas City Chiefs should and will take with the 23rd overall pick. I have no ties to the organization so I can only speculate about what I think the Chiefs will do; however, I’m willing to spend a few moments today on the subject of who I think they should take.

If you’ve been following my column this offseason, it probably goes without saying that wide receiver and free safety are the two positions I’m most concerned with going into 2014. For those of you who share those concerns, I should give you the bad news first. In the past 15 years, Andy Reid and John Dorsey’s combined draft histories only produced a total of four players at one of those positions. Using only the past as an indicator, it seems highly unlikely that their top choice will address their problems at wide receiver or safety.

Yesterday, Lyle Graversen wrote an excellent piece on why he believes the Chiefs will draft a defensive lineman with their top pick. As much as it pains me to admit this, I think that’s a strong possibility. Reid spent a first-round draft pick on a defensive lineman six times during his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles. Dorsey spread his No. 1′s around more evenly, but he helped scout and draft three defensive linemen of his own in his time with the Green Bay Packers. Again, if history’s the best predictor of the future, it might be an opportune time for Stephon Tuitt (my pick if the team is set on drafting a defensive end) to make inroads with the good folks at Oklahoma Joe’s.

Tuitt

I’m clearly not intrigued by the possibility of Kansas City taking a defensive lineman with their R1 pick. There are a few reasons why. For starters, I’m not impressed with the defensive line talent that’s likely to be available at the bottom of the opening round. Ra’Shede Hageman and Stephon Tuitt are the two defensive ends I expect to still be on the board when the Chiefs go on the clock. On the off chance that they’re looking to move Dontari Poe outside, Timmy Jernigan and Louis Nix are the defensive tackle prospects they’ll have to choose from.

I’m not all that impressed with the four aforementioned defensive line prospects. I could live with Stephon Tuitt, but I’m not sure that any of those players are as likely to contribute in 2014 as, say, Brandin Cooks. Players at the wide receiver, defensive end, and defensive tackle spots typically need three years to adjust to the NFL. I still think that an Odell Beckham, Jr. is a more reasonable candidate for stepping in and producing right away than a guy like Hageman. He and Cooks appear to me to be more polished prospects.

Another reason why I’m apprehensive about a defensive lineman at 23 is how often they fail in the National Football League. According to data collected by Sporting News in 2012, first round defensive ends and defensive tackles were two of the three position groups that produced the lowest percentage of Pro Bowlers in the ten years preceding the 2012 NFL Draft. Over that stretch, only 17% of all defensive ends and 24% of all defensive tackles drafted made the Pro Bowl. The Sideline View explored defensive ends taken between 2002-2011 and found they had an eye-popping 42.5% bust rate. Blogging The Boys observed draft data on defensive tackles from 1998-2007. According to their findings, an unsettling 38% of the defensive tackles drafted over that span were busts. Oddly, they also sent the highest percentage of players to the Pro Bowl (31%). There may not be a more boom-or-bust position group over the past 15 years.

Poe

You might be surprised to know that offensive linemen have not often been drafted by Reid or Dorsey in the past. Between the two, only four have been taken since 1999. Of those four, only one of them has been an offensive guard. There’s been some talk that guard might be a position the Chiefs would consider drafting, but I think the probability is fairly low (Dorsey never drafted a guard and didn’t select his only two offensive linemen until his last two years with the Packers). History indicates that offensive line spots probably won’t be a priority when draft day comes.

Interior offensive linemen are rarely taken in the first round. According to Chase Stuart of Football Perspective, between 1990-2009, just 9 centers and 16 guards were R1 picks. The end spots are the most plausible historically for the Chiefs’ head coach and general manager. They also have the highest success rate. Offensive tackles typically pan out about half of the time.

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