Suriously though, I love Pioli's draft so far. Love it.
"But CRB," you're saying, the interior of the line is the strength of the line!"
*touches a loving finger to your lips* Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Hush now. Urrythin's gonna be alright. Trust me.
And now that I've made you just a wee bit uncomfortable, I'd like to get a little more serious and actually explain what I mean.
Firstly, whether or not you agree that the players Pioli got were players we needed, you must agree that each of these players is very talented. Furthermore, you must agree that they fit a very clear philosophy that's being articulated in the top rungs of the leadership at One Arrowhead Drive: each of the players is, as we've heard, a "character guy"; each of the players loves football; each of the players is versatile; and each of the players is smart.
You'd have a damn hard time convincing anybody in the league that drafting these types of players is a bad idea. It'd probably be easier to convince an Oakland Raider fan to not suck right out loud.
Even further, the players don't simply fit a personality mold; they also fit a very specific offensive or defensive mold.
Let's take the two most obvious examples: Eric Berry and Gilbert Arenas*. It's extremely evident to me that management understands what's coming in the NFL and, more specifically, in the AFC West. The trend toward pass-heavy offenses is going to continue and there may be entire games where Crennel is forced to play five defensive backs. And in those games, we will now sport the following defensive backfield: Flowers, Page, Berry, Carr, and Arenas.
I'll let that soak in for a minute.
Look, I'm a line guy. I think it's absolutely tantamount to build from the inside out...on both sides of the ball. But, I see a logic in what Pioli did here. When one is trying to rebuild a defense from the ground up, one has two options: one can either put big talent at disparate positions, "spreading the wealth" as it were and making a bad defensive unit into an serviceable defensive unit, or one can take a position of strength and make it into a position of dominance.
Both ideas seem alright with me, but look a little deeper. If Pioli is right, what has he done? Practically speaking, he's made the quarterback hold the ball a touch longer, easing the pressure on the defensive line. Theoretically speaking, he's made the opposing offense one-dimensional.
And how 'bout Dexter McCluster?
Just imagine for a second putting all three on the field. Jamaal and Dexter can both catch the ball, all three can run the ball, and while he was at Ole Miss McCluster ran the Wildcat, may it die a slow and horrible death.
Not to mention the chance of putting McCluster in the slot. This kid has a very real opportunity to make Wes Welker-type impact. Welker and McCluster are about the same size, they're both tough, they both have hearts the size of dump trucks, they both block, they both catch, and they both break tackles. If there's one "prototype" Pioli should have plagiarized from the Pats, it's Wes Welker...and we may have just found ours.
On the other hand, these types of players are going to become more and more used by teams across the NFL. How should we address that? Javier Arenas! Small, fast, smart! Brilliant!
Which brings me to my next point: no one can argue that Pioli isn't a long-view guy any more. Eric Berry is the obvious exception because he was the most "right now" pick but look at the rest of the picks. Having a slot receiver like Welker is a requirement for a modern offense and Dexter has a legitimate shot at fulfilling that role. In turn, having an elite nickelback may indeed be a requirement of defending a modern offense and, from everything I've read, Javier Arenas is a prototypical nickelback. In fact, I won't be surprised at all if Arenas turns into such a strong player at his position that a large section of the fans begin demanding he take Brandon Carr's spot even though Brandon Carr is most suited to play against bigger, strong flankers.
But wait! There's more!
Jon Asamoah is another long-view pick!
It's absolutely true that, as it currently stands, guard is a position of strength for us. But, again, take a closer look and you'll see that the average age of the interior three linemen is (in best Carl Sagan voice) 4.2 billions years while the average age of the two tackles is (best PeeWee Herman voice) 25 and a half years.
Now, let's say that this year Ryan Lilja's knee doesn't re-buckle and let's say Brian Waters hasn't hit the wall, and let's say Casey Wiegmann doesn't choose to retire due to BPH? Is a versatile guard who needs a year or two of coaching going to be valuable in 2011 or 2012 right when Albert and O'Callaghan are entering their primes?
I think maybe yes.
I repeat: (best Guys-from-the-Guiness-Commercials voice) Brilliant!
Two last things. First, I am absolutely in love with the now-apparent plan to move back to a quicker, more agile offensive line. I was concerned at first when I found out Wiegmann was going to be the center this year but, now that I know we're going back to a scheme more closely resembling the OL glory days under Vermeil, I'm much more comfortable with him. Lilja, Waters, and Asamoah all fit this scheme much better too.
Second, while I'm not prone to fanciful flights of prognostication or other speculative shenanigans, I feel absolutely comfortable predicting that in five years these names you heard yesterday and today will be household names in Kansas City, even if they don't turn out to be household names in the NFL. I'll admit that I get caught up in winning sometimes; but to know that our staff isn't focused solely on what a player can do for them on the field but also what they can do for the community off the field is just a really warm-and-fuzzy feeling.
Suffice it to say, I'm very optimistic about the not-too-distant future. I think the staff has pulled off what might prove to be one of the best off-seasons in team history. Don't get me wrong, there's still work to do; but long-term, I think we are moving in the right direction and I'm now all but convinced that the entire organization has the patience and the determination to make a run at greatness.
Or I could just be a homer.