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2012 NFL Draft: Should Chiefs Stay Put In Round 1?

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Here's what ESPN's Jamison Hensley had to say about the Cleveland Browns' draft this year:

The theme of the Browns' draft this year should be quality and not quantity. Cleveland shouldn't consider moving down because that means passing on a impact talent like Alabama running back Trent Richardson. The Browns need playmakers and not picks this year.

This argument got me wondering: doesn't this advice apply to the Chiefs albeit for a different reason? Let's look at the case against trading down.

We'll start with the roster. Assuming players return from injury well and given the off-season signings, we have a reasonably good mix of veterans and young talent across the board. There are four obvious weaknesses among the starters:

  • Nose Tackle is a question mark at best.
  • Quarterback if Cassel can't improve on 2010.
  • ILB (Belcher) could use an upgrade.
  • Guard needs replacement if Lilja doesn't return to form.

Given this very short list, doesn't it make sense for the Chiefs to play it safe and get the highest quality player they can that plays one of these positions? There are two parts to this argument:

1. Competition must be balanced with player development.

Being three deep at every position with draft picks sounds appealing, but it risks shorting not one, but all three players of the attention they need to properly develop. Make no mistake: every player who enters the NFL needs to be developed, but coaches only have so much time and there are only so many practice reps. Fewer still are game situations where a team can risk throwing rookies into the fire. Piling on draft picks also increases the pressure on coaches to "move on" from players before they can be properly developed.

Balance is particularly important on a young team like the Chiefs, where the staff is working diligently to build a foundation of players that can be productive for years to come. Is simply having another draft pick really worth risking a current promising player's development?

2. A few high quality players is a better draft haul than many riskier players; essentially, quality trumps quantity.

The Patriots are well known for their aggressive draft day trading, but they may also be the best example of the dangers of trading down for quantity over quality. Their defense is in shambles at least partially because they've started missing on early round picks. From the last five drafts, they've cut Brandon Meriweather (1st), Darius Butler (2nd), Terrence Wheatley (2nd), Shawn Crable (3rd) and Tyrone McKenzie (3rd). Additionally, at least Jermaine Cunningham (2nd) and Ron Brace (2nd) are on the bubble. On offense, they've missed on Brandon Tate (3rd), Taylor Price (3rd) and Kevin O'Connell (3rd). Would the Patriots be better off if they had stayed put and taken the best player on their board?

The Chiefs' Draft

To clarify, I'm not arguing we should reject all trades. If Tannehill falls to our slot, we don't particularly like him and someone offers us an RGIII or Julio Jones type trade, Pioli should take it in a heartbeat. What I am arguing is that Pioli shouldn't take any trade opportunity simply for the sake of having more picks. The decision needs to be made based on who we'll be able to get, how it'll effect current players on our roster, and the riskiness of our current slot versus our new slots.

Returning to the Chiefs' needs, QB and NT are thin at the 11 pick this year, but our slot virtually guarantees a stud guard in DeCastro or your choice of inside linebacker between Hightower and Kuechly. Is it really worth missing out on these players to pick up an extra later round pick?