Just about every “draft expert” out there has there reasons for why Eric Berry is not going to be the Chiefs pick when we come up to bat at #5. Usually it is something along the lines of “Scott Pioli likes safe picks” or “Safety doesn’t have high enough positional value at #5” or “The Chiefs o-line was abysmal in 2009”. Each of these claims has some degree of merit, however, I feel that using any of the above reasoning is just lazy. In my opinion, there is enough information floating around out there to not just debunk each of these lines of reasoning, but to cofirm that Berry will indeed be our pick on Thursday. Below is my case for why the Chiefs WILL draft Eric Berry with the number 5 overall pick:
1) Eric Berry is a safe pick.
It has been suggested here (as well as elsewhere) on a number of occasions that Scott Pioli likes to “pick safe” when it comes to his first round draft picks. Most people have treated this as a simple matter of whether or not a player plays a position that is considered “safe”, most specifically offensive line. This is not necessarily the case, and Scott Pioli said so himself when interviewed on 4/16. When asked if the economic commitment of the # 5 overall pick would lead him to draft more conservatively, he had this to say:
“... Which goes back to what I was stating before, that’s why I don’t want to corner this organization into positions – saying you can or can’t do it based on a position. To me, there is so much you have to take into account with every pick you make: it’s the skill set of the player; the mental makeup of the player; it’s the fit of the player; it’s who the player is that is exceedingly important. These are young men, it’s not just number five, there is a lot of money that these players are going to get and who you’re giving that money to as a person is very important.”
Pioli’s implication here is clearly that he has not pigeon-holed himself into offensive line because that is the “safe” position. It is not necessarily about the players position as much as it is their skill set, work ethic, and character. By this definition, a safety would not be intrinsically an un-safe pick, however, a player such as ,say, Dez Bryant would be (sorry Matt). As far as these traits are concerned, Eric Berry has them in spades- it is well understood at this point that Eric Berry’s football skill set makes him a once in a decade prospect. His work ethic and character have both been well documented as being extremely high in both accounts. I don’t think that it would be unreasonable to call Eric Berry a “safe” pick based on the above comments by our great leader.
People are probably sitting here saying, “what about what Peter King reported Dimitroff as saying?” Oh, you mean this?
“I was talking to [Kansas City GM] Scott Pioli about Berry, and I said, ‘Scott, this guy’s your pick.’ And he said, ‘You know how I feel about safeties that early.’ And I understand.”
I love that people somehow thinks this quote means we won’t draft Berry. Do any of you really think this quote means anything? For starters, Thomas Dimitroff is an extremely intelligent man, and good friends with Scott Pioli. Do you really think that he is out there talking to Peter King revealing our draft strategy if Scott Pioli didn’t have something to do with it? I am guessing not. I think it’s a way safer bet that these two sat there and had a good laugh about how far off this comment will throw people for the weeks leading up to the draft. Certainly did a number around these parts.
Another one of my favorite articles about the “safety” (pun intended) of our number 5 pick was Peter King’s article criticizing the durability of stud safeties:
“The Tennessee safety, obviously, is a rare prospect. But the history of safeties in terms of longevity and greatness at the top of the draft is very shaky. The nature of the position is smallish people throwing themselves around like linebackers, and that doesn't lend itself to long careers. The three best safeties to be drafted in the past decade -- Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Bob Sanders -- have missed 78 games due to injury in their 21 combined NFL seasons.”
I’m not going to waste too much time on this one- these stats are wildly skewed. 49 of those games missed (49!!!) belong to Bob Sanders. The player who Berry is compared to the most, Ed Reed, has only missed 4 games in 6 seasons, all of which were last year. Five straight seasons without missing a game? Sounds like a real problem King.
And what about Berry’s injury history in college? I think Eric himself sums it up the best: “As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I was a starter for three years. Never missed a game due to injury. Never missed a snap.”
2) The whole Bryan Bulaga at #5 thought is a total farce.
Don’t get me wrong, Bryan Bulaga is a great tackle, and certainly is one of the top players in this draft. But realistically, he isn’t the best tackle, or the second best, or probably even the third best. So why does half the country have him going to us at #5 overall? Partially because of the conception of Scott Pioli as a “safe drafter”, but that only makes sense in so far as his position. Why not the second rated tackle in Trent Williams?
Because the national media is lazy. Someone out there at some point thought back to last year with all of the hype surrounding Kirk Ferentz and Scott Pioli’s well publisized friendship, and just decided it made sense. Bulaga is a top tackle, Pioli and Ferentz are good friends, well then this must be the pick… Really? The national media makes a huge leap here that somehow a friendship between these two people is going to influence who he picks in this spot. No doubt the chiefs have interest in Bulaga, and they have worked him out, but they would have done this for due diligence anyway. Where were the articles stating WHY people think that this is the #5 pick? Did Pioli and Ferentz talk about this, did someone talk to Ferentz?
Well it took him a couple months, but Peter King eventually tried to follow up on this idea:
“In the spy-versus-spy world of mock drafting, I've thought for a while that Bulaga was a natural to go to Kansas City at five. GM Scott Pioli is so close with Ferentz I thought at one point he might try to hire him as his head coach in Kansas City. But Ferentz told me he hasn't spoken with Pioli about Bulaga this offseason, and Pioli hasn't been to Iowa City since the fall.”
Well isn’t that interesting…
3) Scott Pioli isn’t as worried about our o-line as the national media is.
This is one that has been bugging me a lot the past few weeks. Every time I see a mock draft where they have us taking an OT in round 1, the reasoning is usually that Matt Cassell got tossed around like a rag doll bitch. Fair enough. What these mocks consistently ignore is the free agency moves that have been made to address this problem. Our weakest points on the line were arguably the C and RG positions. Enter Casey Wigemann and Ryan Lilja. While Wiegmann is clearly not the long term answer for the Center position, it certainly makes me feel a lot better about next year. Regardless of whether or not he takes the starting role from Niswanger (likely), we will still have much greater depth in the middle of our line. And Lilja could start for this team for years and years to come.
One could sit there and throw out some questions about the tackles- is Branden Albert going to be able to develop into the stud left tackle we are hoping he will? Can Ryan O’Callaghan improve on his season from last year and lock himself in as our long term right tackle? Well what does Scott think?
When asked about the possibility of moving Albert around, Pioli had this to say:
“Branden’s our left tackle. Obviously in the past he’s played other positions. We haven’t spent a lot of time playing him at other positions or practicing him at other positions. He’s our left tackle and he does a good job for us. And he improved a lot last year. Obviously, before I got here I watched all the tape from his rookie season and watched everything from last year and there was truly progression over the course of the season.”
Does that sound like someone who is shopping for a new left tackle? It sure doesn’t to me, and his reasoning is sound. We used a first round pick on Albert just two short years ago, and he has showed improvement in each of his first two seasons. There is no reason right now to believe that he still won’t end up being the caliber of left tackle that we are expecting him to be. Why would we sit here after he has put in two years to learning the position in the NFL and move him around? Seems a bit silly, and certainly unnecessary.
Well what about O’Callaghan?
“The way the season ended is the way it is right now. The right tackle is Ryan O’Callaghan. I thought at the end of the season we were getting better on offense. I am pretty comfortable with Ryan O’Callaghan, I think we are pretty comfortable with Ryan O’Callaghan. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get more good players, but I think Ryan O’Callaghan did a nice job when he came in here.”
Sure, he doesn’t sound totally in love with O’Callaghan, but he sounds content. That’s not to say that he doesn’t want to go out there and maybe find some players to compete for this spot, but he sure doesn’t sound like a guy who is desperate to draft a tackle in the first round.
Ultimately I can’t predict the future, and Scott will do whatever it is that Scott wants to do when Thursday rolls around. But I feel like there is enough information out there to indicate to me that Berry is not just a possibility, but a likely front runner for our pick at #5 overall. The combination of Berry's football skills, personality and work ethic, as well as our positional need at safety all point to this being the pick... thats of course if we can't trade down.