I can talk all day about drafting by need vs. Best Player Available vs. drafting based on throwing darts at Mel Kiper's draft board.
At the end of the day, the Chiefs have to go heavy on defense in this draft. They have to. There a couple of reasons why and believe me, it's not just because their defense needs help. More after the jump.There are some that may suggest that Pioli's focus on offense in the offseason all but assures that the Chiefs will go heavy on defense in the 2010 draft. I definitely see merit in that point. The Chiefs brought in a few offensive players this offseason who are worthy of starting in 2010. Granted, players like Thomas Jones, Chris Chambers, Ryan Lilja, and Casey Wiegmann are band-aids patching up a leaky faucet. They have some gas left in the tank, but chances are, they probably have enough to start for one or two years. They'll need to find replacements for these guys at some point. But I think what those moves demonstrate is that Pioli is not going to panic if it doesn't happen today. They're no longer walking into the 2010 draft with the offensive line problem looming over their heads.
Couple that with the fact that the 2010 draft looks pretty strong from a defensive standpoint, and you have a compelling argument that the Chiefs' top priority in the upcoming draft will be on defense.
But there are some other non-common sense reasons that others may not have considered.
- Pioli is a defensive guy. I don't know if Pioli likes defense better than offense. What I do know is that he's significantly better at drafting for it. When you think about the Patriots' best draft picks, you'll probably find that the majority of their offensive stars were late round steals or free agents, while the majority of their defensive stars were picked up in the draft. Pioli has had a less than stellar track record drafting Running Backs and Wide Receivers, and given the spot where he drafted tight ends like Ben Watson and Daniel Graham, he has a less than stellar drafting at that position too. The one area where Pioli has done okay is at Offensive Line, but most of those moves occurred in later rounds. Contrast that to the defense, where they've brought in players like Seymour, Warren, Samuel, Wilfork, Banta-Cain, and the list goes on and on. Even more assuring that the majority of these great draft picks were made during the Romeo Crennel years.
- Charlie Weis: one thing you have to love about Charlie Weis is his ability to build an offense around average parts. The Chiefs are going to rely more heavily on a Zone Blocking Scheme and anyone who knows about the scheme will tell you that you don't necessarily need pro bowl parts to make it work well. You just need offensive linemen with good, quick feet. In Weis' offense, he's going to have Cassel get rid of the ball very quickly. At receiver, the Patriots over the years have had a lot of success even with pretty average receivers. Deion Branch, David Patten, David Givens, Jabar Gaffney, and Reche Caldwell are among the long list of average receivers who had some success in New England.
- Expect the unexpected: Last year, every draft expert and their mother claimed that the Chiefs were going with Aaron Curry. This year, every draft expert is completely convinced it will be an Offensive Tackle, whether that means Russell Okung or Brian Bulaga or Trent Williams. Usually, the credo is "where there's smoke, there's fire." That's true, except when you're talking about the draft. In the draft, where there's smoke, there's probably some punk kid setting off smoke bombs to divert you away from the real fire. Interestingly, the experts are convinced Pioli will draft an offensive lineman because he's so predictable. But if there's anything we know about Pioli, it's that he's predictably unpredictable. So either he'll be unpredictable by picking the predictable (Okung) or he'll be unpredictable by picking the unpredictable (Eric Berry). Or perhaps he'll be unpredictable by predicting the outlandishly unpredictable (Rolando McClain's brother, Orlando McClain). The confusing point being, it amazes me that even after last season, draft experts are so absolutely convinced that Pioli is going to predictably pick the safe Offensive Lineman. In fact, the more I hear that the Chiefs are taking an Offensive Tackle, the more I'm convinced that they won't. Then again, I don't know how to predict the predictably unpredictable.
- This might be a game manager's team: So, I know a lot of people here are opposed to the idea of bringing in Jimmy Clausen. I'm still behind the idea, but if he's not the guy, let's face one pretty clear fact: Matt Cassel may have upside, but it's almost certainly not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning level. I think he could be a good Quarterback, but he's not a guy that I see carrying a team like an elite pro bowl Quarterback can. If the Chiefs choose to drop Cassel in 2010, their Quarterback options will likely be limited too. Point being, there's a very good chance that this team is going to have to win in spite of their Quarterback, not because of him. That means the team will need to build around a really good running game and a defense that makes stops when they count most. It's not like this is a bad thing. It's the equation that's worked quite well for teams like the Giants, Jets, Ravens, as well as others. That's not an indictment on any of those Quarterbacks. It's just to say that if you don't have a pro bowl Quarterback, you have to find a way to build around him. Even if Cassel doesn't reach greatness, there's some merit to a powerful defense surrounded by a strong running game managed by a Quarterback who knows how to make plays when it matters most. The Chiefs need to do everything they can to find a true franchise Quarterback, but they need to be prepared just in case they don't.