So, to say the least, I haven't been a big fan of a lot of the moves Scott Pioli has made for the Chiefs. I thought he did a subpar job bringing in quality free agents in 2009, I was less than overwhelmed with his 2009 draft, and I am slightly skeptical about whether he made the right call in putting so much of an investment in Matt Cassel and Tyson Jackson.
I do, however, like what they've done so far in the 2010 offseason and I absolutely love, love, love what they did in the 2010 draft. Some fans may be bothered by the Chiefs passing up on highly valued positions like Nose Tackle, Offensive Tackle or Outside Linebacker; I'm not bothered by this one bit. Others suggest that the Chiefs invested in role players. I'm actually a lot more exciting to see them do so.
This draft is more representative of the true "Patriot Way" than even the Patriots have done for several years. I'll explain more after the jump.
You do NOT draft for Need:
I've seen quite a few fans express their disappointment that the Chiefs didn't pick up a Nose Tackle or a LB, whether Inside or Outside, or an Offensive Tackle. My response to that is that the worst thing you can do is walk into the draft with a very small target list of positions in mind. I'm reminded of when Carl Peterson used second round picks on Defensive Tackles like Eric Downing year after year after year. I'm reminded of when Scott Pioli reached for a 5-technique Defensive End in Tyson Jackson because he was drafting for position, rather than the Best Player Available (BPA).
The other complaint might be that given how bad the Chiefs were last season, they should be focusing on foundational players rather than role players, and this is a comment I don't understand. If the Chiefs are bad at almost every position, then why is there a need to focus on only a few specific areas of need? As if the Chiefs plan on ignoring the Nose Tackle position forever or as if they're completely content with Shaun Smith as their long-term guy. Furthermore, especially when we're talking about second rounders at tough positions, there's absolutely no guarantee that a Terrence Cody or a Sergio Kindle will be productive pros. If we're talking about first round picks that come with expensive contracts, then okay, you have to factor in positional need. If we're talking about a deep playoff team with a few needs here and there, then yes, you draft for need. But if we're talking about a young team with needs all across the board, you take the guy you believe is the BPA for your team. No questions asked.
And based on everything I've heard, it sounds like McCluster was picked at just the right value. It also sounds like he was among the top RBs AND WRs on a lot of team's boards.
That's why draft experts seem to love the draft, even though there were areas like their offensive line and front 7 that probably needed a bit of help. Sure, the run defense is going to struggle, but it's not like the Chiefs were primed for a Super Bowl this season anyway. The question isn't who the Chiefs passed on. The question is, will the players the Chiefs drafted help this team significantly? And do these draft picks put the Chiefs in a much better position to win 3 to 4 years down the road? There's a very good chance that the answer to this question will be "yes."
As for the Front 7, there's always next season. Why the rush?
A Return to the Patriot Way:
Scott Pioli is building this Chiefs in a very specific way. He wants leaders who love football, even if it comes at the expense of talent. And it appears that he's okay with not becoming too starstruck by high potential impact players who play positions of high positional value.
It sounds like an odd theory, until you really think about how the Patriots have been run over the last few seasons. The Patriot Way, arguably, has lost its way. I'm reminded of an article I read a few months ago, where Willie McGinest suggested that the Patriots were losing locker room leadership. When you look at the building blocks of the Patriots' dynasty, they were primarily players who fell under the model Pioli is trying to build today. Players like Tedy Bruschi, Ty Warren, and Willie McGinest weren't necessarily flashy or physically gifted, but they were terrific locker room guys who consistently got the job done and loved playing football. The past few years, you've seen the Patriots move away from that a little bit. They haven't been shy about gravitating toward questionable locker room guys like Randy Moss or Corey Dillon. The recent rift between Adalius Thomas and the Patriots seems to really illustrate my point. You just don't sense that the team has the same kind of character or makeup of the "feel good" Patriots that the dynasty represented.
Why did they move away from what worked? I don't really know. My gut tells me that some of it has to do with moving away from character as a critical piece to scouting, but I would also argue that the Patriots have become much more obsessed of late with filling in need positions. Moss and Thomas were brought in to fill in visible roster gaps. Pre-Dillon, the Patriots were primarily a passing team that liked to use their Running Backs as receivers. And so, when you look at draft picks like Maroney, Chad Jackson, and about a gajillion tight ends, it seems to me that the team has really focused on drafting for need. Maybe that's just what happens when your foundation is built and your key holes are much more visible, but maybe it also suggests that the Patriots have lost their way.
The True Patriot Way of Personnel Evaluation
Finally, one comment really struck me in Pioli's comments to Clark Judge a couple of days ago. He mentioned that Dexter McCluster was a pick that the scouts, coaches, and personnel guys all agreed to and loved. That was a piece that was missing last season. Now the scouts and the right coaches are in place.
I'm especially intrigued to see how much Weis' and Crennel's presence affect personnel decisions. Ever since Weis left New England, they Pats have been a little dicey drafting offensive players. In particular, I'm curious to see which team picked right at tight end: the Patriots trading up to grab Rob Gronkowski or the Chiefs trading up to draft Tony Moeaki.