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Proven Players vs. Potential Players

"This is a deep draft." "This is a shallow free agent market." Those two phrases together seem to lead to an obvious point: namely, that a team should hold onto every possible draft pick this offseason and avoid trades that aren't too good to be true or offer sheets that require high-round choices. Yet in the middle of the two above statements, I still find myself leaning toward the guy who's already been on an NFL field. And if that costs me a choice, then so be it.

Of course, what do I know? It's not that any of us have our doctorate in Running a Sports Team. And even if we did, it's obvious that half of those with proper credentials still don't have the faintest clue (i.e. anyone involved with franchises that rhyme with Roakland, Racksonville or Ruffalo and the like). While it's all guesswork to some extent, I will go on record and say that I'll take what's proven over what's potentially good every time.

Proven vs. Potential. That's the question for the Chiefs to answer this offseason (and every season). It's the question before every team -- real or fantasy. Draft the enticing rookie or go with Steady Freddy. That'll be the question before me in my fantasy baseball keeper league next week at our yearly meeting. And that's exactly what teams wonder this time of year. Do we sign the free agent that we know can at least play decently at the NFL level or do we hold our draft picks in hopes that we sign the next big thing as a young man.

I can see why people would lean toward the potential. It's exciting. It's the same reason why many of us fly to Vegas or such places every now and then to throw money straight into the casino's vault. It's also the same reason why numerous contestants would trade the known prize in front of them for what's behind Door #2 on Let's Make A Deal. We hope we'll strike it big. It's the lure of the unknown. And hardly anything can top it.

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But it's odd to me that teams continue to avoid statistics that speak of busts in the draft. Peter King's fantastic question in today's Monday Morning Quarterback questioned why a team would want to hold onto a high draft pick to take Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford rather than try for Donovan McNabb. Sure he's older. But you also know what you're getting: a quality starting NFL quarterback, hardly something you can know about any of the big quarterbacks in this draft.

And fans fall for it, too. We'd rather our team hold onto the mid-round selection hoping that the small school offensive tackle or pass rusher will be able to Dumervil it up at the next level. Instead, more often than not, the guy ends up bouncing around on practice squads for a few years before a retirement that doesn't even require a press release to announce. Then you look back and realize that proven NFL performers were available at those same positions for that same mid-round selection on their offer sheets.

Look, I love the draft as much as anyone else. I love the possibilities every time the Chiefs are on the clock and, at this year's Combine, I was completely enamored with the thought of Kansas City picking up all kinds of players with varied levels of potential. At the same time, I also realize that it's all guesswork and that even in a shallow market, there are players to be had who have proven themselves to be at least serviceable on the NFL level. And sometimes that's a lot more than any of these potential guys will give you.

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