Chiefs GM Scott Pioli Says Jury Is Still Out On '09, '10 NFL Drafts

KANSAS CITY MO - AUGUST 27: Head coach Todd Haley of the Kansas City Chiefs with Tyson Jackson #94 prior to a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Arrowhead Stadium on August 27 2010 in Kansas City Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

When looking at GM Scott Pioli's tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs there's a pretty stark contrast between the early production of the 2009 and 2010 NFL drafts. His first draft in Kansas City -- just a few months after he was hired -- didn't produce much relative to the 2010 draft.

Pioli spoke about those two classes at a pre-draft press conference at Arrowhead Friday morning. Here are a few things I took out of it.

The jury is still out on Tyson Jackson. The Chiefs used the third overall pick on him and the reaction nearly two years later is that he's been average. Internally, Pioli says the Chiefs are still confident in what he can produce for the Chiefs.

"I look back to that draft and I would say that I think we do have a good player in Tyson Jackson," he said. "I know the jury is still out. We need to see that. I think everyone in our organization is pretty confident still that Tyson is going to be a good player."

That said, I'd imagine the 2011 season is a big one for Jackson (as it is for most third year players). When the third overall pick isn't a regular starter, I'd say you have some work to do. Publicly, though, the Chiefs aren't wavering on Jackson.

So would Pioli make the Tyson Jackson pick again? "I'd pick the same player again," he said. "Absolutely, absolutely."

The 2009 draft looks better with QB Matt Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel. Pioli included those two players when talking about the 2009 draft because they were acquired with a draft pick.

"I also look at our second round and see the fact that we got a starting NFL quarterback playing at a Pro Bowl level for a second round pick," he said. "I think that's a pretty productive decision we made as an organization."

And on Vrabel: "I also think that getting a player like Mike Vrabel really helped immensely -- not only as a player but as a mentor and a culture changer."

I think it's fair to include these two players when evaluating the draft. I'm not sure there's one 2009 second round pick that I trade for Cassel and Vrabel.

Things get better with time. One thing Pioli told me in my interview with him a few weeks ago is that he's pretty happy with the way the scouting operation is coming along now that the larger group of personnel folks have been together for nearly two years. On Friday, he mentioned that idea of evolving as a staff and getting better with time.

"I think if you're going to be good consistently," he said on Friday, "you have to continue to evolve and improve and get better in everything you do. It's not just one the field. It's in player acquisition, the draft, free agency and managing the entire operation."

I think it's fair to say that the 2009 draft was affected by the lack of time the entire scouting staff had together. The success of the 2010 draft, after they were together for a year, would support that idea.

That said, the NFL doesn't wait on anyone. One bad draft could be devastating to your operation. It's just the way the league works. 

The jury is still out on the 2010 draft, too. As fans, it's natural to compare one draft class to another. Rght now the overall feeling is that the '09 draft wasn't very good and the '10 draft was very good. Pioli may catch some flack for the '09 draft and receive a heap of praise for the '10 draft, but the jury is still out on both classes.

"I think the jury is still out on the 2010 draft," he said. "We don't know where that's going to end up. Sure, we had a number of good, young players who came in and contributed as players. I think the greater contribution with that group of players was from a make up standpoint. How they helped us on that continuum of changing the culture and buying into and believing the way the head coach wants to do things and the way he is doing things and the way our organization is doing things."

***
Pioli covered a number of other topics that we'll be getting to including how his scouting staff handles disagreements, when they meet with the scouts and when the coaches get involved in the process and figuring out what you need versus what's available. 
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