John Dorsey and his staff deserve a ton of credit. When the Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up their 2015 draft class, the reviews were mixed. Of course, such exercises are banal, but that doesn't stop NFL analysts from doing what they will do. A quick survey of what you might have read last May:
|Sports Illustrated||Chris Burke||B|
|Sporting News||Vinnie Iyer||C|
|Bleacher Report||Ty Schalter||A-|
|SB Nation||Dan Kadar||B-|
These columns also produced some great lines of commentary. Sports Illustrated wrote, "The head-scratcher of Kansas City's weekend: Mitch Morse at No. 49." Sporting News wrote, "They took a huge risk with Peters, who has shutdown potential as a big corner, but there should be real concern about whether he can respond to their coaching." It's easy to find dumb lines of instant NFL Draft analysis, so this is all low-hanging fruit, but it's good to remind everyone that the Chiefs draft class was mostly a shrug fest. Some potential. Some risk. Some head-scratching, and some "seems good."
Looking back through 12 regular season games, however, Dorsey is likely to wave goodbye to one or more of his own to other front offices around the NFL. The Chiefs have shown an acumen for finding gems both in the draft and the waiver wire. Here's a quick survey back through the names that were called at the podium in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Marcus Peters, 1st round (No. 18 overall)
Twelve weeks into the season, and Marcus Peters is earning serious ink for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He's outperformed the two corners taken above him in the draft (Trae Waynes, Vikings and Kevin Johnson, Texans), and made everyone forget about any perceived character concerns. His incredible instincts for the ball have him among the league leaders in passes defended (18), interceptions (5) and interception yards (141). He's also played 94% of all potential snaps for the Chiefs this season.
Dorsey's previous first round selections haven't lived up to the hype, although Eric Fisher is rounding into form as the left tackle. That said, a home run on this pick is a boon for Dorsey's reputation (not that, in my opinion, it should have ever, ever taken a hit). And if you've not yet read Seth's big Marcus Peters review, then this is a good way to catch up on how good Peters has been.
Mitch Morse, 2nd round (No. 49 overall)
Even if Peters was developing slower than expected (or hoped), we'd still likely be singing Dorsey's praises for this one. Don't forget that Rodney Hudson was a great young center who'd quarterbacked the line since being a second round pick himself, and the Chiefs were either going to have to pony up and get near the Oakland Raiders' incredible offer (5 years, $44,500,000 million) or find a replacement. Enter Mitch Morse, an unheralded offensive lineman taken when there were sexier prospects on the board. You won't hear anyone complaining now.
Despite Andy Reid insisting the team would make him a back-up center with Eric Kush still on the roster (remember those days?), Reid's coachspeak lasted only until it really counted. Morse has been an anchor in the middle, current concussion symptoms notwithstanding, and the Chiefs look like they're set with a long-term starter in the middle for as long as they want to pay him to do so. Pro Football Focus rated him as the NFL's third highest graded rookie heading into last weekend's games, even after missing games.
(It should be noted that Hudson is having a helluva year for the Raiders.)
Chris Conley, 3rd round (No. 76 overall)
Conley hasn't claimed the No. 2 wideout slot across from Jeremy Maclin like Chiefs fans might like to see, but a knee injury limited the Georgia product early on. Recent reps have him standing out on special teams, and his athleticism should make him more of an offensive impact as he gains experience and reps on the field. So far, Conley has 15 catches for 177 yards and 1 touchdown. It will be interesting to see if he hits a rookie wall or gains momentum in the stretch run.
Steven Nelson, 3rd round (No. 98 overall)
Nelson is the first real disappointment in the Chiefs draft class, but it's way too early to make any calls on his future one way or the other. Nelson was inactive for the first four games of the season, and has only made one tackle in the eight games he's been on the active roster. Even when Phillip Gaines was placed on Injured Reserve, the Chiefs obviously decided Nelson wasn't ready for the calls he'd have to make in the middle as a nickel corner. Instead, they utilized their safety depth to move Ron Parker around. Good move for a veteran, win-now team, even if it means Nelson remains a wild card for 2016 and beyond.
Ramik Wilson, 4th round (No. 118 overall)
Wilson is largely learning from one of the best in Derrick Johnson, playing only in 15% of the team's defensive snaps. He's also only played about 1/5 of potential special teams snaps. That said, he showed what he can do in games against the Minnesota Vikings, where he led the team in tackles (9) and showed himself a strong run defender with impressive stops on Adrian Peterson. Given more experience in Bob Sutton's defense, Wilson should be a good candidate to break out for serious snaps in 2016.
DJ Alexander, 5th round (No. 172 overall)
Alexander has been a special teams stud for the Chiefs all season. Dave Toub said on Thursday, "D.J., right now, he's still our leading tackler. He flies. You watch tape and he just jumps out at you on tape." He's playing on 76% of potential special teams snaps and showing impressive instincts as a rookie.
James O'Shaughnessy, 5th round (No. 173 overall)
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, James O'Shaughnessy's rookie campaign was cut short when he was placed on Injured Reserve. The athletic tight end out of Illinois State was selected as a project, a kid who had exhibited good hands and a good work ethic. A full offseason with the team will help him develop into a potential No. 2 behind Travis Kelce as Demetrius Harris becomes a restricted free agent this offseason.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches, 6th round (No. 217 overall)
Speaking of projects, Nunez-Roches has played sparingly on special teams and, well, even more sparingly (super-sparingly?) on defense with a whopping 22 snaps to his name. That's either understandable, if you're a glass half full fan, because the 307 lb. lineman was a sixth round pick, after all. That said, the Chiefs have been public with their desire to rotate the guys up front more than they have been. Instead, Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard are shouldering the burden of four full quarters while guys like Allen Bailey and Mike DeVito nurse various injuries. It'd be nice to see Nunez-Roches handling even 10 snaps per game for the Chiefs.
Da'Ron Brown, 7th round (No. 233 overall)
A seventh round choice out of Northern Illinois. It's important to state those facts up front before anything else, since expectations should be zero for Brown. He's the only Chiefs rookie pick to not make the active roster, but he is on the practice squad and perhaps he'll compete for reps next offseason. There's clearly room on the depth chart for a young wide receiver to make an impact on this roster.
Maybe another developmental pass rusher. Perhaps another quarterback prospect. If you're looking for ways to complain about this draft class, you're stretching to maybe make those points. Eight of nine rookies made the active roster. The top two rookies are impact players, including a shutdown corner, among the hardest NFL assets to secure. Special teams playmakers were unearthed, and there are reasons to believe both Conley and Wilson will start at some point for the Chiefs. In a few years, it's likely the Chiefs will have found four starters in this draft class and a few other role players. That's excellent work for one of the NFL's top front offices.