Chiefs GM Scott Pioli’s First Round Draft Tendencies

Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has managed or had a strong voice in 12 drafts, starting in 2000 with the New England Patriots. In this article, we'll examine his actions in past first rounds to see if we can get a sense of what he will do in the first round of this year's draft (I might look at rounds 2-7 in later articles).

Some assumptions before we start:

  • Belichick had final say over drafts in New England, but as I understand it, they agreed most of the time, so I assume Pioli wouldn't have done a whole lot differently.
  • The sample size we're dealing with is small but represents a lot of years running an NFL front office and it's all we have, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

Focus on the First Round

While Pioli has only had 12 first-round players, he's actually had 14 opportunities to make a first round pick (it would be 15 except the Patriots had to forfeit a first round pick for Spygate). The table below shows what Pioli did with each opportunity.

Year Pick # Team Player Pos. Notes
2001 6 Patriots Richard Seymour DE --
2002 21 Patriots Daniel Graham TE Traded 32nd overall, 3rd round and 7th round picks to Redskins for 21st overall pick
2003 13 Patriots Ty Warren DE Acquired 14th pick from Bills for Drew Bledsoe; traded 14th overall and 6th round picks to Bears for 13th overall pick
2003 19 Patriots -- -- Traded to Ravens for 2nd round pick in 2003 and 1st round pick in 2004
2004 21 Patriots Vince Wilfork DT --
2004 32 Patriots Benjamin Watson TE --
2005 32 Patriots Logan Mankins G --
2006 21 Patriots Laurence Maroney RB --
2007 24 Patriots Brandon Meriweather S Traded Deion Branch to Seattle for this pick
2007 28 Patriots -- -- Traded to 49ers for 4th round pick in 2007 and 1st round pick in 2008
2008 10 Patriots Jerod Mayo LB Traded 7th overall and 5th round picks to Saints for 10th overall and 3rd round picks
2008 -- Patriots -- -- Forfeited due to Spygate
2009 3 Chiefs Tyson Jackson DE --
2010 5 Chiefs Eric Berry S --
2011 26 Chiefs Jonathan Baldwin WR Traded 21st overall pick to Browns for 27th overall and 3rd round picks

We can summarize this data by grouping it into one of three actions: trading up to pick a player, picking a player at your original slot, and trading down or out of that year's draft. Doing so gives us the following table:

Action Frequency %
Traded Up to Pick 2 14
Traded Down or Out 4 29
Picked at Original Slot 8 57

The data comes out as we would expect. Teams rarely trade up because it's costly, thus trading down is infrequent and picking at your slot is the most common action. I suspect that trading down or out 30% of the time is extremely high, but I haven't explored it further.

Projecting 2012 First Round Action

Let's use this data to project what Pioli is most likely to do with our first round pick this year.

What Pioli Is Least Likely To Do: Trade Up

From a historical perspective, Pioli hasn't traded up in eight years, and only once gave up a significant haul to move up. In that instance, Pioli paid 3rd and 5th rounders as well as the Patriots' first to move up 11 slots and grab Daniel Graham, whose NFL career has been a disappointment relative to his draft position.

This year, Washington has already secured the most talked about trade: moving up to the 2nd overall pick for RGIII. Prior to that trade, Pioli publicly stated he thought it would cost too much and thus make it more difficult for the Chiefs to improve other positions. His poor experience with the Graham trade certainly could have helped shape his perspective.

Unless the front office falls hard for Ryan Tannehill or gets desperate for an OT, I'm confident KC won't be trading up this year.

What Pioli Would Like to Do: Trade Down

Pioli's draft strategy is to identify multiple players he likes and then make the appropriate moves to ensure he gets one of his guys. At the 11th pick, there are a lot of his favored "big, strong, fast, tough, disciplined, smart" players still on the board. Thus, I imagine Pioli would be happy to trade down, acquire some later round picks he can use to hedge his first round bet and still manage to get one of his preferred first round players.

Players that other teams might want to trade up for that could also be available at our pick include Ryan Tannehill, Trent Richardson, a stud defender or the best LT on the board.

The Most Likely Scenario: Make the 11th Pick

Let's assume there won't be any trade partners and the Chiefs will have to take a player. Is Pioli more likely to go offense or defense? Here's the historical breakdown:

Type First Round Top Half of First Round
Offense 5 0
Defense 7 5

The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of defensive players around the 11th pick, and that's who I believe he'll target. I'm sure Pioli would love to get a 3-4 end to replace Glenn Dorsey (DEs were 3 of his 5 top half of the first round picks), whose contract expires next year, a big NT to clog the middle or another OLB to build pass-rushing depth.

Unless the Chiefs fail to sign an OT in free agency, I don't believe Pioli will take an OT in the first round because I doubt he thinks we have enough quality starters or depth to start taking bargaining chips.

For everyone clamoring for David DeCastro, relax. Everything I've read about DeCastro fits the specifics Pioli says he's looking for. According to the book War Room, the Chiefs did talk to another team about moving up to the middle of the 2011 draft to take another interior lineman, Mike Pouncey, so considering DeCastro this high isn't unprecedented.

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