KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A day after is often the best time to review an exhaustive event such as the NFL Draft, where sleep deprivation isn’t uncommon for personnel directly involved or those covering it.
Nov 23, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas (6) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Having a rested mind allows for a big-picture view when identifying areas to learn from, such as what the Chiefs did or didn’t do during the three-day NFL Draft.
While it’s common to see immediate grades based on what a team accomplished through the draft, the true value of an entire draft class won’t be known until 2-3 years at a minimum. It’s best to allow the process to happen, and then grade.
As an example, look no further than the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
Remember the 2010 draft virtually everybody hated, including some of the same national media members now singing the praises of that class? Sounds like that draft worked out just fine for Seattle.
In the meantime, here are five takeaways from the Chiefs’ 2014 draft:
1. Chiefs coveted speed
Speed proved an easy trait to spot with the first three picks: Outside linebacker Dee Ford, cornerback Phillip Gaines and running back De’Anthony Thomas.
Ford runs a 4.54 40-yard dash and coach Andy Reid described the team’s newest outside linebacker as possessing an “extremely high motor on the football field.” That’s a good trait when playing on the edge to go along with 93 tackles (59 solos) and 20.5 sacks at Auburn.
“He’s very quick and very fast,” Reid said of Ford during Thursday night’s press conference. “I’d probably tell you if he wasn’t the quickest defensive lineman off of the ball in this draft, he surely was close to it. He’s got great explosion off of the football.”
Meanwhile, Gaines provides 4.38 speed to a secondary that failed miserably against vertical passes during the second half of the 2013 season.
And the explosive Thomas, who recorded a 4.39 time at his Pro Day to atone for a 4.50 at the NFL Scouting Combine, will contribute on offense as a slot receiver and special teams.
The thought of having Thomas, who holds school records at Oregon in kickoff return yards (1,885) and punt return average (17.13) in a Dave Toub-coached special teams unit should prove scary to opposing teams.
2. Proactive regime
Once is a habit, twice or more is a trend. And the latter could prove true when it comes to the Chiefs regime under general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid.
Dorsey and Reid are proactive and look to the future when building the foundation, and are not reactive in nature.
In 2013, the Chiefs drafted left tackle Eric Fisher as the heir-apparent to then-starting left tackle Branden Albert, who left via free agency in March. This year, the Chiefs drafted Ford and arguably with good reason when looking at the deeper implications.
Current starting outside linebacker Tamba Hali and Justin Houston come with question marks. Hali turns 31 in November and Houston enters the final year of his contract, leaving the Chiefs with a decision at the end of the 2014 season.
Ford shouldn’t be viewed as a situational pass rusher. He’s a first-round pick, and teams don’t use a first-round pick on a player unless there’s a view to include him as a part of long-term plan.
3. Versatility a plus
At least three of the team’s six picks can play other positions than the position the team drafted them:
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey on potentially trying third-round pick Phillip Gaines at free safety:
“There is a possibility. He really is about 193 (pounds). Ideally you’d have him play corner and compete at corner and add depth to the corner. As we all know, you can’t have enough good corners in this league and he sure adds another quality depth for us at that position.”
Chiefs area scout Trey Koziol on the fourth-round selection of running back De’Anthony Thomas, who played running back, wide receiver and returner at Oregon:
“I think when you’ve got a guy that’s got kind of a Swiss army knife‐type versatility, you can move him all over the place.”
Dorsey on the sixth-round selection of offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif:
“He has an exceptional value because I would say he could play four positions – left tackle, right tackle, guard. Let’s kind of just work him in to see where he fits best.”
4. Kelce’s health
Tight end Travis Kelce, one of two 2013 third-round picks, returns from microfracture knee surgery. And there are apparently no concerns over his recovery since the Chiefs didn’t sign a free agent or draft another tight end.
Kelce is currently participating in the team’s offseason workout program.
5. Cut off national media mock drafts two weeks prior to real thing
As one long-time NFL agent once shared in an email: “I think in general mock drafts are a mockery, no bearing on the actual draft.”
The initial wave of mock drafts at the national level are fun reading material, and some are very good, including the insightful mocks from CBSSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com. Mocks are also very solid sources of information when it comes to learning about draft prospects.
However, once mock drafts extend beyond the second week of April, cut it off because there’s a risk of viewing them as gospel of what a team will do.
The problem with buying into mock drafts with the real draft drawing closer is most of them tend to follow a herd mentality, and that arguably establishes a level of expectation for a fan base.
Numerous mocks set the tone by declaring the Chiefs needed a wide receiver, leading to wide-spread anticipation of a receiver being selected in the first round. Very few mocks for the Chiefs at the national level went outside the box. And then the draft happened with no wide receiver in sight when it concluded, which likely led to frustrations.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Chiefs didn’t have an eye on a receiver inside the draft room. But apparently other needs took priority based on the team’s draft board, not an on-air personality’s draft board.
Still, running back De’Anthony Thomas is more than versatile enough to take over as slot receiver, so technically the Chiefs drafted a wide receiver.
If mock draft are required reading beyond researching a player, arguably the best ones come from the local writers and reporters who are actually on the ground with daily access to the team. Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star was solid in his mock projections, often looking at a variety of potential fits and not 100 percent locked in at wide receiver.
The local beat writers have a pulse on the team, but ultimately the only people who truly know what a team will do once the clock starts are in the draft room.