A common debate I have with fans is the approval of General Manager Scott Pioli. This is Pioli’s fourth year in office. Like many elected public officials, it’s time to analyze the work that they put into this coveted job. I’ve decided to create a by-the-numbers report on Pioli’s progress as a GM.
There will be 5 categories that are used to evaluate an NFL Executive. I will leave the grading process up to you and try to leave out editorial of my own. This, by no means is a perfect way of grading a Front Office Executive - however it does let the numbers do the talking to understand the strategy of a mastermind.
Prelude / Index-
2. Coach / Personnel / Quarterback
3. Major Re-Signings / Major Free Agent Acquisitions / Trades
4. Development of Inheritance
5. Street Free Agent / UDFA / Day 3 Draft Picks
In other markets, the NFL Draft might not come first. It might not even come in second, or even third. But if you work for Kansas CIty, it should always be at the top of the list. Kansas City is a great community with a great fan base, great food, and great culture. But it is a small market with calm ownership. The top three reasons for why Draft comes first :
1. Although it has historical value, most current players were in gradeschool or lower when Kansas City last won a playoff game. It isn’t New England, Pittsburgh, or Philadelphia with a coach that is wish listed for a veteran to play out his final contract at.
2. It’s not in Texas, California, or Florida. These three states account for over 80% of all NFL players making Kansas City an unpopular destination for those who want to live closer to home. (Note : Brandon Lloyd and Darren Sproles are the two largest names from Kansas City)
3. It’s not New York. Players looking to get their ego rubbed by the media or sign lucrative endorsement deals won’t look this way.
So with that philosophy, the draft is by far the most important factor to this particular Front Office job in terms of finding talent and hopefully securing ways for them to stay long term.
When analysts started to discuss the hiring of Scott Pioli, his ability to draft - specifically Pro Bowl Quarterbacks & Defensive Lineman - was usually the first thing mentioned. He was part of the team of eyes that found Tom Brady, Richard Seymour , Vince Wilfork, and Matt Cassel. Carl Peterson had multiple years with poor drafts. Not just in the 1st round, but an entire decade without finding a 2nd or 3rd round prospect that would be re-signed after their rookie contract expired. Fans grew restless of Peterson's tenor, and once Pioli came in - he fired the majority of Peterson's staff before the 2009 NFL Draft. One that many analyst have stated was a weak draft where Executives would have to do painful amounts of tape watching to find the few gems.
So far Scott Pioli has complete 4 NFL Drafts with two head coaches and 3 Directors of College Scouting. The results of these drafts are below with the number of picks on the far right and the number of players still on the 2012 Roster on the left.
Starter , Specialist/Sub-Package , Pro Bowl
2009 - Jackson ,Washington, Succop (3 of 8)
2010 - Berry, McCluster, Arenas, Asamoah, Moeaki , Lewis , Sheffield (7 of 7)
2011 - Baldwin , Hudson, Houston, Bailey, Brown , Stanzi , Miller, Powe ( 7 of 8 - Bannon cut)
2012 - Poe, Allen, Stephenson, Wylie, Menzie , Gray , Long , Hemmingway ( 8 of 8)
31 picks. 25 remain on the team before the final cut.Pioli’s batting at .801 which should be incredibly flattering after a dismal draft in 2009. His draft picks account for 33% of the 75 man roster before it is cut to 53.
1 Pro Bowler - Berry ( 03 % of all Pioli draft picks)
7 current starters - Jackson, Berry, Asamoah, Lewis, Baldwin, Hudson, Houston (22 %)
5 2012 Subpackage / Specialist - Succop , Moeaki , McCluster, Arenas, Bailey ( 16% / 39% *)
2 potential future/midseason 2012 starters - Poe , Allen (6 % / 29% ** )
2 potential 2013 starters - Bailey, Stephenson (UNQ)
Going into the 2012 season, Berry remains the only player from this group shortlisted in Pro Bowl consideration. The drop off between Berry and Justin Houston / Jon Asamoah (the next two highest grades from Pioli’s drafts) is dramatic. The drop off between Houston/Asamoah and Lewis/Baldwin/Hudson is smaller but still significant. Lewis gave up the 2nd most scores of any starting defensive back last year. Hudson is in his first year after looking promising as a guard in 2012. Baldwin has had off-the-field issues as well as confidence issues, causing his rookie season to be average at best.
Amongst the other picks remaining on the roster. There are several players that are 4th on the depth chart or below: Donald Washingotn, Jalil Brown, Jerrel Powe, Gabe Miller, Jake O’Connel, Cyrus Gray, Junior Hemmingway, Jerome Long, Cameron Sheffield.
It should be noted that Pioli has only drafted 1 Quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, since taking over duties as GM. This was once believed to be Pioli’s claim to fame. It could be debated that, in hindsight - a large part of this is circumstantial.
In year 1, he passed on Mark Sanchez after obtaining Cassel (who was the ready-now QB). In year 2, he passed on Jimmy Clausen despite hiring his college coach Charlie Weis. Many agree that both turned out to be a smart move. In year 3, Cassel had a Pro Bowl Season and he favored Ricky Stanzi higher than at least 1 other 1st Round Quarterback. In year 4, he did not accept a trade for Ryan Tannehill and passed on Drew Stanton and Russel Wilson.
Pioli By Comparison -
There are 7 teams that I will highlight in this series.
The New York Jets - who hired Rex Ryan in 2009 and rebuilt in 2009.
The Detriot Lions - an up-and-coming franchise that hired Jim Schwartz in 2009 and also began rebuilding in 2009.
The Denver Broncos - AFC West Rival. Hired a new coach in 2009. Under a new GM and Coach with John Fox.
The Baltimore Ravens - The team that beat Kansas City in their only playoff appearance under Scott Pioli
The Pittsburgh Steelers - A team that Pioli mentioned in The War Room, as a franchise that he’d like to model Kansas City after.
The New York Giants - 2011 Super Bowl Champions.
The New England Patriots - Pioli’s former team where he earned his calling card. Also 2011 AFC Champions
Each one of these franchises has made a playoff appearance in the last 4 years. Outside of the Detriot Lions, each one has also won a playoff game.
Starter , Specialist/Sub-Package , Pro Bowl
2009 - Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy, Sammie Hill (6 of 10)
2010 - Ndamukong Suh , Jahvid Best, Amari Spievey , Willie Young , Jason Fox ( 5 of 6)
2011 - Nick Fairley, Titus Young, Mikel LeShoure, Doug Hogue (4 of 6)
2012 - Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, Dwight Bently, Ronnell Lewis, Tahir Whitehead, Chris Greenwood, Travis Lewis (7)
Total Picks : 29
Starter % : 31%
Remain on Roster % : 75%
Pro Bowl % : 03%
Note : The Lions are a hot, young team in a defense heavy division. Injury issues with Matthew Stafford and speedy Jahvid Best as well as attitude problems with its All Pro DT Suh are the three things that are keeping it from becoming one of the elite teams. Similar to the Chiefs, the Lions did not draft a single starting player this year. Their highest pick, Riley Reiff, is waiting to dethrown Jeff Backus in the near future.
2009 - Knowshon Moreno , Robert Ayers, Alphonso Smith, David Bruton , Kenny McKinley (5 of 10)
2010 - Demaryius Thomas, Zane Beadles, JD Walton, Eric Decker, SydQuan Thompson , (5 of 9)
2011 - Von Miller , Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin , Nate Irving , Quinton Carter, Julius Thomas, Mike Mohamed , Virgil Green, Jeremy Beal (9 of 9)
2012 - Derek Wolfe, Brock Osweiler, Ronnie Hillman , Omar Bolden , Phillip Blake, Malik Jackson , Danny Trevathan (7 of 7)
Total Picks : 35
Starter % : 22%
Remain on Roster : 74%
Pro Bowl : 02%
The 2009 Draft was a powder keg. Reports are saying that Knowshon Moreno will be cut. Robert Ayers has not as a starter and will likely be released as well. Alphonso Smith, who has been a star in Detroit, was traded for Detroit’s 7th round pick from the same year (Dan Gronkowski who is no longer on either team). The most storied pick of them all , Tim Tebow, was traded this offseason to make room for Peyton Manning. Like the Chiefs, the Broncos have 4/5ths of their offensive line on their 1st contract.
2009 - Michael Oher , Paul Kruger, Ladrius Webb (3 of 6)
2010 - Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Arthur Jones (5 of 6)
2011 - Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, Chykie Brown, Pennell McPhee (5 of 6)
2012 - Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce, Gino Gradkowski, Christian Thompson, Asa Jackson, Tommy Streeter, DeAngelo Tyson (8 of 8)
Total Picks : 26
Starter % : 30%
Remain on Roster : 84% (Wow)
Pro Bowl : 0%
Going into this, I knew the Ravens almost always came out as victors in NFL Draft Grades. There’s a reason why people should respect Ozzie Newesome. Although he hasn’t drafted a Pro Bowler in 4 years. He deserves to be mentioned as a rare victor in the 2009 draft, throwing strikes on all 3 of his first picks.
2009 : Ziggy Hood, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, David Johnson (4 of 9)
2010 : Maurkice Pouncey, Jason Worilds, Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Scott,Stevenson Slyvester, Jon Dwyer , Antonio Brown (7 of 9)
2011 : Cameron Heyward, Marcus Gilbert , Curtis Brown , Cortez Allen , Chris Carter, Baron Batch (6 of 7)
2012 : David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Sean Spence, Alameda Ta’amu, Chris Rainey, Toney Clemons, David Paulson , Terrance Frederick , Kelvin Beachum (9 of 9)
Total Picks : 34
Starter % : 26%
Remain on Roster : 76%
Pro Bowl : 09%
Had the Steelers not had so many 7th Round Compensatory Picks in 2009 this would look even better. That being said, the Steelers are another franchise that knows how to find Pro Bowl talent at the bottom of the first as well as middle rounds. It might be easy because they have Big Ben, but it’s still extremely impressive how fast they can reload after losing 2nd contract veterans.
For a team that literally doesn’t sign a single free agent but had made 3 Super Bowl appearances in the last 7 years, this city’s franchise should receive more hype than New England
NEW YORK GIANTS
2009 - Hakeem Nicks, Will Beatty, Ramses Barden, (3 of 9)
2010 - Jason Pierre-Paul , Linval Joseph, Mitch Petrus, Adrian Tracy ( 4 of 12)
2011 - Prince Amukamara , Marvin Austin, Jerrel Jernigan, James Brewer, Greg Jones, Tyler Sash, Jacquian Williams, Da’Rel Scott (8 of 8 )
2012 - David Wilson, Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants, Markus Kuhn (7 of 7)
Total Picks : 36
Starter % : 19%
Remain on Roster : 61%
Pro Bowl : 02%
Comparatively to the Jets, the Giants don't make a large splash into the free agent pool. For the most part, they've kept together some of the key elements of their last Super Bowl roster (Justin Tuck, Kenny Phillips, Corey Webster, Chris Snee , and David Diehl ) along with Eli Manning and kept building around a fairly similar philosophy of tough defense with considerable depth and clock managing rushing attack.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
2009 - Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, Sebastian Volmer, Myron Pryor (4 of 10)
2010 - Devin McCourty , Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez , Zoltan Mesko , Brandon Deaderick (7 of 12)
2011 - Nate Solder, Ras-I-Dowling, Shane Vareen, Stevan Ridley, Ryan Mallet, Marcus Cannon, Malcolm Williams (7 of 9)
2012 - Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner , Alfonzo Dernard , Jeremy Ebert (7 of 7)
Total Picks : 38
Starter % : 26%
Remain on Roster : 65%
Pro Bowl : 02%
Something fairly telling in this isn’t what Bill Belichick has drafted but what he hasn’t = Wide Outs. He spends a high percentage of picks on defensive backs and offensive linemen. Since Pioli left, lmost all of the players who are starters ended up starting their rookie year. BB looks for ready-now players more than development players. Which is fairly unusual since Pioli seems to draft players (ie Offensive Linemen) that will sit on the bench for a year before starting. BB rarely drafts players that weren’t no.1 at their position in college. For example, if there were two great DTs or CBs on the same team, he’ll pick a no.1 CB or DT on a smaller school team over that player. Pioli, by comparison has drafted 3 Defensive Backs who served as the 2nd corners on their team - Javier Arenas, Jalil Brown, DeQuan Menzie.
* Outside of the Giants and Broncos, a majority of playoff teams have received over 25% of their starters through the last 4 drafts.
* Both the Patriots and Steelers found 3 Pro Bowlers through the draft. The Ravens found more starters but fewer "stars". It’d be interesting to revisit their playoff loses to see how those players contributed.
* Within the past 4 years : Pittsburgh, New York, Baltimore, and Detroit have replaced ¾ of their Starting Front Four Defensive Linemen. This would go against the conventional wisdom that states that D-Line is an area to sign rugged veterans. If Poe becomes the starter, they will be part of that group.
* Only Denver has replaced MORE than 2 Offensive line starters in the past four years through the draft.
*Only 1 of these teams has drafted their starting quarterback in the past 4 seasons. That is Detroit. Two if you want to count Tebow.
Denver and Detroit are the only teams NOT to have drafted a starting Corner in the past 4 drafts.
Final Thought - One of the first things that comes to mind when comparing playoff teams to our own, is that although Pioli has found starters, he hasn’t found Home Runs like many expected him to. There haven’t been stock-pile picks drafts days like there were (are) in New England or trade up to take the dropping star like there have been in Baltimore.
If one thing is clear, Pioli seems to be using the draft to prevent mania a year ahead of starter’s contract is dwindling more than try to a) conquer needs b) get the best player available.
2010 Eric Berry = Jarrad Page expiring contract
2010 Dexter McCluster = Jamaal Charles expiring contract
2010 Javier Arenas = Brandon Flowers expiring contract
2010 Jon Asamoah = Brian Waters expiring contract
2011 Rodney Hudson = Casey Weigmann expiring contract
2011 Jon Baldwin = Dwayne Bowe expiring contract
2011 Allen Bailey = Glen Dorsey expiring contract
2011 Justin Houston = Tamba Hali expiring contract
2011 Jalil Brown = Brandon Carr expiring contract
2012 Jeff Allen = Ryan Lilja expiring contract
2012 Donald Stephenson = Brandon Albert expiring contract
He also seems to enjoy surplusing conservative special team / utility players. For example - Jalil Brown, Donald Washinton, Javier Arenas, and DeQuan Menzie, McCluster, Wylie. The strategy comes from a playbookish strategy in mind.
Pioli’s Philosphy So Far = A strong desire to have a team where a high % of the roster sees the field during a ball game. Binder sized offensive and defensive playbooks that will blur opponents, make it easier to gameplan around weaknesses.
A large reason why the Chiefs appear to be struggling in the pre-season is due to the fact that many players in Pioli’s system are meant for specific schemes and packages and do not have a high ceiling in terms of being every down starters. We also saw this during Charles and Baldwins injury last season.
We’ll get to the beloved , inherited players of Carl Peterson / Herm Edwards eventually. Pioli isn’t far away from the other executives in the NFL when it comes to the draft.
Weekend : Pt 2 - Coaching / Personnel / Quarterback
NEXT Week : Pt 3 - Major Re-Signings / Major Free Agent Acquisitions / Trades
* Notes that 39% of Pioli’s picks would see the field on a regular basis or highly utilized subpackage basis, despite not starting.
** Notes that 29% of Pioli’s picks are in contention to appear at the top of the depth chart - as starters - by 2012. This does not include injury/suspension substitutions.