For the last few years, two elephants have lived in John Dorsey's Room of Accomplishments. This might be the year that both are finally ushered out the door.
Dorsey has established himself as one of the top general managers in the NFL in his first four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs' success as a team. He's got a yearly tradition of unearthing multiple undrafted gems on both offense and defense, and he's shown the ability to set himself up for the long-term by drafting well ahead of key personnel decisions. He's signed the big free agent. He's hit on high draft picks. The best proof? The Chiefs are 34-19 since Dorsey took over the front office.
Still those two elephants remained. The first was the first overall pick by John Dorsey in his Chiefs tenure: the selection of Eric Fisher, OT, as the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Looking back, that entire draft is laughably bad. The draft's top half looks horrible in the rearview mirror, and Fisher was among those slow to adjust to the NFL. The Chiefs admitted from the outset that Fisher would be a project coming out of Central Michigan, but the spotlight for a player taken in the top slot is hard to avoid.
Since his rookie season, Fisher has done well to dodge the bust label. Every year he's made just enough incremental progress to remain hopeful despite dealing with numerous early injuries and poor grades from the likes of Pro Football Focus. Last season, Fisher took his game to another level, making the Chiefs believers enough to ink him to a long-term deal to man the left side of the line. This year, he's the real deal and becoming a cornerstone player for the Chiefs offense.
In short, four years later, it's safe to say one elephant has already left the room. But the same cannot be said for Dorsey's next first-round selection. In the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Dorsey's team wrote Dee Ford on the draft card and turned it in, bringing a young pass rusher into the mix to go with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. On paper, it was a brilliant fit as Dorsey faced serious decisions on the futures of both starting OLBs, not to mention the dearth of developmental pass rushing talent on the roster.
Unfortunately, Ford's taken as much time as Fisher to find his footing in the NFL. Despite his success on college football's highest level, with 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles during his senior year at Auburn, Ford came into the NFL as a one-trick pony. He was a pass rusher without a wide array of moves, an incredibly quick athlete who could not rely on that alone at the NFL level.
Instead of coming up alongside Houston and Hali and showing himself as a potential replacement, Chiefs fans were wondering whether or not Ford would be a complete bust who couldn't make the leap. Could he develop the technique to succeed? Could he become a force in the run game and set the edge? Will he become flexible enough to best the better tackles in the league?
The earliest results weren't pretty in Ford's rookie season, but something seemed to click last year as Ford held his own (with some admitted miscues) in Justin Houston's absence. Now he's been tasked to do the same, and Ford is delivering stronger performances than ever. The most recent game, Sunday's win over the Oakland Raiders, might have been Ford's strongest professional game to date, with two sacks, a forced fumble and that signature quickness still so effective so late in a grueling division game.
Ford isn't ready to replace Hali or Houston, and the Chiefs still need to shore up the pass rush overall. But Ford is growing into an NFL player. Whether he can make the leap to impact player remains to be seen, but Dorsey's vision for both players is looking more true than false if Ford keeps it up — which is much more than most fans have given him credit for to date.