I started this series the other night by looking at Scott Pioli's 2009 draft, his first after being hired as General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. I'll continue today with the 2010 draft. Enjoy and please continue with the comments, they make for very interesting conversation.
Remember, don't overreact to the grades, pay more attention to the commentary. I'm not only interested in how the pick turned out long-term, but the logic behind the pick when it was made. I think by looking at both of these factors, we can get a good idea of how well Pioli has drafted while in Kansas City.Kansas City Chiefs 2010 Draft
Round 1, Pick 5 - Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
2010 Analysis: This was exactly the pick I was looking for. Berry did a great job in college of creating turnovers, was very underrated in run support and basically had no holes in his game. He was big, but not so big that you worried about him covering ground in the pass game. The rare safety who looked like he could be excellent in both the run and pass games. I thought the Ed Reed comparisons were a little ambitious, but I did think multiple Pro-Bowls was well within reach. He also filled a huge need at the back end of the Chiefs defense (remember Mike Brown?). Scouts and the talking heads seemed to agree with my assessment as the Chiefs scored high grades on this pick.
The here and now: I'm sure a lot of people came away a little disappointed after Berry's rookie year, expecting an instant star. However, I usually temper my expectations for rookies, expecting that they will improve steadily throughout their first year. Berry struggled at times that season, getting caught biting hard in the passing game and giving up some huge plays. This seemed to improve as the season went on though. He was, however, an absolute stud in the run game, coming into our TV screens as a red blur and routinely making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Obviously, like many, I expected he would take another healthy step forward in his second season. Of course we all know what happened. Berry has struggled returning from injury this season, routinely getting caught out of position in the passing game and lacking the big plays he made with some regularity during his rookie season.
Grade: A-. I absolutely loved the pick at the time it was made. I wouldn't have done anything differently. Berry's rookie year, while it had it's rocky points, was enough to make me think that he would eventually reach his potential as a perennial Pro-Bowler and one of the better safeties in the league. Of course the injury appears to have derailed that path (at least for now). I have trouble penalizing Pioli or the front office for such an injury and I'm still hopeful that Berry will regain his form of yesteryear. I docked this pick slightly because of the relative value of the safety position (I'm a stickler, I know) and the fact that, right now at least, Berry isn't living up to the hype.
Round 2, Pick 4 - Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Mississippi
2010 Analysis: Oye! I remember exactly where I was when this pick was made (stopping at the hotel bar at a healthcare IT conference in Dallas, TX). I was livid. There are two major reasons that this pick made no sense to me. 1) The Chiefs had holes all over their starting units on both sides of the ball. There were tons of players on the board that they could have selected that would have helped to plug one of those holes (my personal favorites were Sergio Kindle, Rob Gronkowski and Terrance Cody). Instead, they chose a guy who would NEVER be a starter. I don't care if you're putting McCluster at WR or RB, he's not starting in the NFL. 2) He was extremely poor value at this point in the draft. Like many of you have said around here, a team with a strong playoff roster can afford to make these kinds of luxury picks (obviously the Chiefs didn't qualify for that designation). But even if my team was coming off of a deep playoff run and had few holes, I would have been furious with this pick. McCluster, or a very similar player, could have likely been had a round (or 2 or 3) later. He also lacked great top-end speed, which is the one thing that might have made this pick make some kind of sense. Experts seemed to give this pick varying grades between decent (citing his big play ability and great character) and terrible.
The here and now: After his rookie season, I was pissed. I figured if they made this pick, they at least had a plan. McCluster appeared to be completely lost in this offense and the coaches had no idea how to use him (granted he missed time with an injury, but what we saw of him was not good). His second year gave me a very small glimmer of hope, as a return to RB seemed to make him a bit more comfortable. I was nervous about them moving him back to WR this season after the disaster that was his rookie year. However, I've been pleasantly surprised so far. He's looked much better running traditional downfield receiver routes and this staff seems to have a much better idea of how to use him (hint: if you run a screen or reverse every time he's in the game, the other team is going to catch on). Unfortunately, outside of the San Diego game his rookie year, he's never really shown anything in the return game either. I still think this was a dumb pick, but McCluster is doing his best to salvage some value from the carnage.
Grade: D. I know the guy seems to have turned a corner, and believe me I'm as happy about it as anyone. But the blatant disregard for positional need and value on this pick leaves me completely jaded. You simply DO NOT draft backups and/or role players in the 2nd round (let alone the high 2nd round) and that's exactly what McCluster is (and that's his ceiling). He could raise this grade a bit with continued improvement, but there's a ceiling built in here.
Round 2, Pick 18 - Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama
2010 Analysis: You're kidding me right? All of the good will Pioli earned with me by taking Berry, he burned with these two 2nd round picks. You could more or less copy and paste the analysis above for McCluster into this section. Arenas was not going to be a starter (I know some of you out there consider slot players to be basically starters in this day and age of the NFL, but I respectfully disagree) and he was extremely poor value at this point in the draft. I'm also very leery of drafting guys for their return ability. This skill is always highly overrated coming out of college where these players make themselves look way better than they really are by running around and away from players that shouldn't have even been on the same field with them most of the time. Not to mention I'd been clamoring for a real NT since they switched to the 3-4 and Terrance Cody was STILL sitting there. Most media outlets, even the ones that went along with the McCluster pick to some degree, seemed confused by the pick of another role player with a 2nd round pick.
The here and now: Arenas started off a little stronger than McCluster, finding a place in the defense at the nickel spot. He struggled a bit in coverage his rookie year, but showed marked improvement in his second season. He's been a huge disappointment returning kickoffs (though it's debatable how much of that is on him and how much is on the blocking unit), but he's done a very respectable job bringing back punts. Unfortunately he looks to have already hit his peak as a solid nickel corner and punt returner. And for those of you who think he can play outside, the Chiefs clearly told you he can't when they chose to play Jacques Reeves every snap of the Atlanta game in Week 1 (even after Julio Jones cooked him to extra crispy in the first half), while Arenas played considerably less.
Grade: D. I can't decide which of these 2nd round picks was worse. I simply did not understand the strategy of choosing role players with two valuable 2nd round picks when there were numerous starting caliber players (at positions of need) still on the board. I understood Pioli's intent to find leaders, team captains and strong character guys, but to draft those qualities at the expense of talent seemed, for the lack of a better word, stupid.
Round 3, Pick 4 - Jon Asamoah, G, Illinois
2010 Analysis: Pioli now has me on a roller coaster. After taking my breath away with the Berry pick in round 1 and then doing the same (but for a much different reason) with both 2nd round picks, Pioli again has me shaking my head in agreement. While not an immediate position of need (Brian Waters and Ryan Lilja were in tow), it was clear there would be youth needed sooner rather than later on the interior of the offensive line. Asamoah was my 2nd rated guard in the entire draft (behind Mike Iupati) and was a perfect fit for the zone blocking scheme. I saw him as a long-term starter at guard and a possible Pro-Bowl type player if everything clicked. Consensus around the league was that this was a very solid pick, if not an excellent one.
The here and now: Asamoah sat his rookie year behind Waters and Lilja (as seems to be the custom on the offensive line now). He moved into the starting lineup last season, after Waters' preseason release, performing admirably for a first year starter. He looked very good pass blocking, but struggled at times in the run game. So far this year he has had his share of struggles, but I remain confident that he can be a long-term pillar on this line.
Grade: A-. Getting the 2nd rated guard in the draft at this pick was excellent value. Asamoah appeared to be a perfect fit, both in terms of scheme and character. This pick gets docked ever so slightly because guard wasn't an immediate need and there were still plenty of holes at starting spots.
Round 3, Pick 29 - Tony Moeaki, TE, Iowa
2010 Analysis: After trading back into the third round, Pioli made another solid pick. The Chiefs desperately needed an infusion of talent at the TE position after trading away Tony Gonzalez and Moeaki looked like a solid addition. Not overwhelmingly talented in any one area, Moeaki boasted a nice broad skill set. He wasn't a prolific pass catcher, but he had enough speed and athleticism to stretch the middle of the field and possessed a pretty nice set of hands. He wasn't a devastating inline blocker, but he was very technically sound in both run and pass blocking. There were two main knocks on Moeaki entering the draft. First, he wasn't the ideal height for the position (measuring in at only 6'3''). And while it would have been nice if he had a few extra inches, I'd rather grab a skilled guy who's 2-3 inches shorter than a 6'6'' TE who can't block or catch. The second weakness was a little more concerning. Moeaki had accumulated quite the medical file while at Iowa. His injuries included two broken feet, concussions, a broken wrist, a dislocated elbow and hamstring and calf problems. Needless to say, the injuries were a major concern. But the thinking was that if the guy could ever stay healthy, he'd be a very solid starter.
The here and now: Moeaki had a very nice rookie season, making some excellent catches (I think we all remember his TD in the San Francisco game) and providing a safety blanket for Matt Cassel in the passing game. He was also a big part of the blocking effort that spurred Jamaal Charles to a sensational year. Just like Berry, I think we all expected a nice step forward in his second year. However, again, we all know what happened. Moeaki has also appeared to have trouble adjusting this season after his ACL injury. He's looked solid blocking for the most part, but his athleticism and speed in the passing game appears to be missing. I'm still holding out hope that he can be a productive player once he recovers completely. There's also no telling what Moeaki would look like right now (or his rookie year for that matter) with a real QB throwing him the ball.
Grade: B. Everyone is going to immediately scream that they could have had Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez with this pick, but that's really abusing hindsight. Graham was completely raw coming out of school and Hernandez had concerns about his blocking and his character. And as mentioned above, there's no telling what Moeaki would have looked like with Drew Brees or Tom Brady throwing him the ball. Overall, I liked the strategy behind this pick. Moeaki had all of the tools to be a productive NFL player, he just needed to stay healthy. To find a productive starter (which is exactly what Moeaki looked like pre-injury) at the back end of the third round is nothing to sneeze at. Obviously this grade is going to be strongly dependent on whether or not Moeaki can get all the way back from this injury and in this case I hold Pioli a bit more responsible (than in Berry's case) as Moeaki had a history to indicate that this was a strong possibility.
Round 5, Pick 5 - Kendrick Lewis, S, Mississippi
2010 Analysis: This one confused me a bit at first. I was expecting them to play Berry at FS since he was so good playing centerfield and creating turnovers and Lewis clearly wasn't going to be playing SS. But once I realized how good Berry was in the run game and that they were going to play him at SS, this made a lot more sense. Lewis, like Moeaki, was a pretty skilled player who fell down draft boards for various reasons. First, he was small, measuring in at 5'11'' and 197 lbs. Second, he didn't have very good timed speed (4.72 40 yard dash). Still, I wasn't overly concerned. Size in a safety, especially one that plays primarily well off the line of scrimmage, isn't a huge concern for me. And while speed is important in the secondary, Lewis appeared to play much faster than he timed. He was also extremely productive (6 INTs, 22 PDs his last two seasons) against top-level competition in the SEC. With Jarrad Page holding out (and eventually getting his ticket out of town), this pick made a lot of sense. Opinions varied greatly on Lewis. Depending on what source you consulted before the draft, he was either a top-5 safety in this draft or an UDFA.
The here and now: Lewis stepped into the starting lineup early in his rookie year and never looked back. He's been pretty productive (6 INTs, 17 PDs his first two years) and really seemed to take on a leadership role on the defense last season. He's not the greatest tackler, but playing next to Berry (who is a good tackler) helps ease that problem. The main concern right now, as with Moeaki, seems to be keeping him healthy as he's yet to play this season because of a shoulder injury.
Grade: B+. Finding a starting safety in the 5th round? Nothing wrong with that. If Lewis can get healthy (and stay healthy), I expect him to remain the starter at FS for the next few years assuming he re-signs with the Chiefs. I think this pick is a good example of Pioli sifting through the numbers and scouting reports and figuring out, at least in this case, what's important (production, intangibles, level of competition) and what's not (size, timed speed).
Round 5, Pick 11 - Cameron Sheffield, DE/LB, Troy
2010 Analysis: I'd been screaming for a pass rusher to play opposite Tamba Hali since this draft started, and in the 5th round, Pioli finally took one. Because of his alma mater, Sheffield drew immediate comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. He wasn't that level of prospect coming out, but Sheffield certainly possessed an intriguing skill set. He had a very quick first step and showed a good ability to bend and get around the edge in the pass game. There were however concerns about his ability to stand his ground in the run game and his technique in both areas needed some work. I would have rather grabbed Cam Thomas as a NT prospect, but OLB was certainly a need and Sheffield had some nice upside as a pass rusher.
The here and now: Sheffield missed his entire rookie season after a scary neck injury during preseason. He returned last year, but I never saw the pass rushing ability that he was said to possess during the draft process. There's no telling whether or not the injury robbed him of some of his skills, but I didn't see anything in his play to get excited about. Sheffield was cut earlier this season when Tamba Hali returned from his suspension.
Grade: C. A solid upside pick. They certainly needed another pass rusher and Troy had a history of producing some pretty good ones (not that I believe in that sort of thing holding much water). Unfortunately Sheffield never seemed to turn the corner (literally and figuratively). I like the strategy behind the pick, it just didn't work out.
Overall Draft Grade: B-
Apart from the 2nd round, I loved this draft. They filled a lot of needs (S, G, TE, LB) and brought in a lot of talented players, landing possible starters even in rounds 3 and 5. The Berry and Asamoah picks in particular scored very high on my grade sheet.
Unfortunately, the 2nd round actually took place. There's not much more to say about these picks other than what was said above. Probably the best way I can show my frustrations with this draft is to point you to the 2012 draft. The Chiefs selected WR Devon Wylie and CB DeQuan Menzie, both great slot players (though we obviously haven't seen them at the NFL level yet), in rounds 4 and 5 respectively. Ignoring for the moment that I thought even Wylie was a reach in round 4, this is a perfect example of how you can find these types of players later in the draft.
The injuries to Berry and Moeaki, and their subsequent struggles this season, obviously drag this grade down a bit more. Still, I really liked the vast majority of these picks at the time and I can't bash Pioli too hard for the catastrophic knee injuries that Berry and Moeaki experienced last season.
I know this draft drew a lot of interest from fans. What did you guys think? Where am I off? Comment on!