NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Eric Berry (R) from the Tennessee Volunteers is greeted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the Kansas City Chiefs selected Berry #5 overall in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Sorry for the lame title. Gotta keep the post clean, which is pretty hard to do given the events that have transpired over the last 24 hours. But the pick is in, folks. After months of speculating, projecting, and guessing, Eric Berry is a Kansas City Chief and I couldn't be happier about it. Many of you know why I'm excited about the pick. For all of you who don't, I'll give a little refresher.
Scott Pioli said leading up to the draft that he doesn't like to take risks. For many of us, that meant that Pioli was almost certainly going to reach for Brian Bulaga or Rolando McClain. Little did we know that he would take the pick that was ten times safer.
More after the jump.It's really rare that you find the opportunity to take a low-risk playmaker and that's exactly what the Chiefs did in drafting Eric Berry. In Russel Okung, Brian Bulaga, and Rolando McClain, the Chiefs would have drafted players who were technicians at their positions. None of those guys will make you do cartwheels, but every one of them projects to be a pretty solid pro. In Berry, you get the playmaker, the technician, and the standup character guy all rolled into one. It's hard to imagine a safer pick in this draft.
As I mentioned weeks leading into the draft, Berry also adds a dimension to the defense that few players at his position can provide: he has the ability to both cover and hit. Sounds like a pretty commonplace thing, but it's not. You usually have inside-the-box hitters who are adequate in coverage, or coverage safeties who hit like a Yugo. Rarely do you find a freight train that can fly like the wind. That ability to do both seamlessly massively expands the kinds of things Romeo can do as a Defensive Coordinator. Line Berry up as an extra corner? Sure. Need a missile to blow up a screen pass? Fire a Berry Missile. Need a guy who can punish a receiver or running back who dares to try to make the middle his own? Say hello to the Chiefs' new Safety. Need an extra guy to send in on a blitz? Send in Hurricane Berry.
In the process, the Chiefs add a Quarterback to the defense. Berry is a smart player playing a position that can make everyone on the defense a little bit better. When I think about the NFL's rapid change to a passing league with strict defensive holding rules, it makes a very big difference to have a Safety who is smart enough to anticipate and disrupt plays. The best way to beat Peyton Manning isn't to hit him with a blitz. He'll spot it every time. It isn't to line up shutdown corners on their receivers--unless you have four or five of them, lots of luck to you. The best way is to find a Defensive Back with the instincts to think a step ahead of a star Quarterback. Ed Reed has been a Quarterback's nightmare for years because he is always outthinking the Quarterback. Berry could potentially do the same thing to help the Chiefs.
And so, when I hear critics suggest that Safeties aren't worth top 5 picks or that the Chiefs would be grossly overpaying for Berry, I take pause. The way the game has evolved, you can't look at history as a guide for what to do in the future. You also can't worry too much about the injury record of recent Safeties. Nobody seemed to worry about that when the Bills drafted C.J. Spiller. There are a lot of positions in the draft field with an equal or worse shelf life than a Safety. If Berry lives up to his billing, he is worth the pick and worth every dollar in salary.
Last year, the Chiefs took an ultra-safe pick in Tyson Jackson. He's a guy that projects to be pretty solid at his position, but not a guy who has Richard Seymour potential. The more I begin to see that, the more I begin to somewhat resent that pick. This year, the Chiefs had an opportunity to repeat history by drafting McClain or Bulaga. They didn't. They drafted a playmaker and still stayed true to their mantra of taking solid football players with character. Needless to say, I'm just a little bit stoked about the Berry pick.
It's hard to really credit Pioli for taking as big of a no-brainer pick as you'll ever find. Either way, anybody who criticizes the Chiefs' #5 pick needs to get their head examined. The Chiefs may have been lobbed a softball, but they hit that ball out of the park.