Chiefs’ drafting OL is safe? … Don’t bank on it


*All of the information is coming from Pro Football Reference website, which does their best to compile unbiased data and statistics. The website has a column they describe as their weighted career value, which they indicate is their attempt to boil down a players career value into one number. I have no idea how the number is computed, and the website doesn’t really describe how they compute the number. The numbers are cumulative, and appear to give greater emphasis on games played, as injuries appear to be a huge negative for a a player value. Much like other statistics however, while we  may have no idea how they number is computed, the better the player, the better their number appears to be. (Website lists the number under the CarAV).*

As Kansas City Chiefs fans can surely attest, drafting offensive lineman is a crap shoot. Yet every spring, as draft season approaches, pundits and so-called experts continue to preach the safety offensive linemEn provide, especially in the first round.

Offensive linemen, while not flashy, can help win games; yada yada yada. I will start with this: take the notion that linemen are safer draft picks then other positions, and throw it out the window. We will explore and dispel many of the notions, and will try to explain the obvious but misunderstood safety notion. We will explore drafts beginning in 2000 through the infamous 2013 Eric Fisher draft.

Myth 1: If a tackle doesn’t work out, they can be moved inside to guard.

Since 2000, a grand total of 50 offensive tackles have been drafted in the first round. Yes, I’m counting Brandon Albert in that number, as he was drafted as a tackle even though he played guard in college. Of those 50, they have started a combined 289 games at guard at the NFL level.

That averages out to less then six games started at guard per tackle drafted. Not impressed yet? Leonard Davis, who was drafted second-overall in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals started a combined 109 games at guard. The 2004 draft produced Robert Gallary, second-overall to the Raiders and Shawn Andrews, 16th-overall to the Eagles, who  produced a combined 112 starts at guard while amassing a combined 17 starts at left tackle.

One other tackle, Chris Williams of Vanderbilt, the 14th-overall selection, would go on to start enough games at guard in his career to constitute an entire season, Williams would start 38. For those bad at math, four first round tackles have produced 259 games started at guard of the 289 total. Of the remaining 46 tackles drafted in the first round since 2000, they have combined to start 30 games at guard.

While it’s true some players can play guard, the overwhelming evidence indicates, if you draft a linemen in the first round, it’s tackle or bust. Of the 50 offensive tackles drafted in the first round since 2000, only eight ever recorded a start at guard. That’s 16 percent.

Myth 2: Tackles are safer and don’t bust as often

The disclaimer on this argument comes down to value perception. Take for example the 2001 NFL Draft.  The Cardinals draft Davis second-overall, and in his career, he will appear in three pro bowls as a guard (though none as a Cardinal, he signed with the Cowboys after the 2006 season) and play 11 seasons. Later in the draft, the Detroit Lions select Jeff Backus 18th-overall. He never played in a Pro Bowl, but started 191 games at left tackle as opposed to Davis’ 46.  One would say the far greatest value is Backus, though Davis had more Pro Bowls. Pro Football Reference rates their careers as equal, despite their statistical differences.

The biggest issue quantifying offensive line value is their overall lack of statistics. Take for example Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns, who is arguably the best tackle drafted since 2000. He has not been a part of a winning season since he entered the league. Not a one.

If a quarterback was drafted in the first round and had started for eight years without a playoff appearance, what would our opinion of that player be? Trent Williams with the Washington Redskins is considered one of the top tackles in the game, but plays for the disaster known as the Redskins. Bryan Bulaga has appeared in the postseason every year since being drafted. Who’s the more valuable player? This is the biggest issue and concern.

Any other position we can clearly see what a bust is. How do we define a bust. Jason Smith, the second-overall pick out of Baylor is the easiest to see as a bust, but so is Derek Sherrod, the 32nd-overall pick in 2011, who started all of one game with the Packers (it should be pointed out Sherrod’s career was derailed after breaking his leg in the infamous Kyle Orton game in Kansas City, as he lead the Chiefs over the Packers). The history of drafts produces a slew of prospects that failed to have meaningful production for their careers, even for a short time.

Myth 3: You have to get your left tackle early

No team in the AFC West will start a left tackle selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. In fact, the Chiefs are the only team in the division that will start a first-round pick at offensive tackle, obviously being Fisher. The San Diego Chargers have moved 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker inside to right guard. Both the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans drafted their left tackles late in the first round; the Colts grabbing Anthony Castonzo 22nd-overall in 2011 and Duane Brown going 26th-overall in 2008.

Like most positions, it’s about finding the right guy. Through the years, almost like clockwork, the best tackle fails to be the first player at that position drafted.

Chiefs Perspective:

As Chiefs fans, we’ve seen our organization drafting offensive linemen and not quarterbacks. In fact, since the famous 1983 draft in which the Chiefs drafted Penn State’s Todd Blackledge, the Chiefs have drafted seven offensive tackles in the first round,  which averages out to the Chiefs drafting an offensive tackle every five drafts.

Combined with the mass of picks this organization has thrown at the offensive line in general, a total of 12 selections have been used on offensive linemen in the first and second round of the draft since 1984. In comparison, since the 1984 draft, the Chiefs have used two picks on quarterbacks in the first two rounds; Mike Elkins in 1989 and Matt Blundin in 1992. Yes, that’s correct. The Chiefs haven’t used a top-two round pick on a quarterback in 23 years.

Furthermore, Brodie Croyle is the most successful quarterback drafted by the team to take a snap for the Chiefs since, you guessed it, Todd Blackledge. His career numbers are staggering, with 1,669 yards passing. Bludin is second on that list, with a mind blowing 15 yards. (Should be noted the Chiefs did use a fourth-round draft pick on Stanford’s Steve Stenstrom, tried to sneak him to the practice squad after a prolonged holdout, and was claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bears before the Chiefs had the opportunity.)

The organization has, for decades now, been preaching the safety of offensive linemen, and the safety in avoiding in drafting quarterbacks. With the fact that left tackle Donald Stephenson is a free agent after the season, and the Chiefs will face a difficult decision on picking up the option on Eric Fisher’s contract this upcoming offseason, the chatter will start up about the Chiefs needing to draft a franchise left tackle.


Don’t let anyone tell you linemen are safer then other positions. They bust just like any other positions. Wasting a pick on a Trezelle Jenkins is just as much of a waste as say, Sylvester Morris or Jon Baldwin. Donald Stephenson, when he has his head right, has always been as a good as Fisher. The reason lineman appear safer is simply because you can hide them.

The offensive line is like the second base position in baseball. You really only notice the position when it’s really good (Vermeil years) or when it’s really bad. Eventually this organization is gonna have to figure out how to draft linemen, because they can’t keep wasting resources.