Chiefs Drop Ball During Draft
By Eric Paolini
Heading into the NFL Draft last week, the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t have much to work with. Unless they made a draft-day trade, the Chiefs would have only one selection in the two most valuable rounds. Knowing this, Kansas City selected Dee Ford, a defensive end from Auburn who will most likely play outside linebacker in the Chiefs’ 3-4 scheme. The Chiefs used their most valuable pick on a player who mans the same position as the biggest strength of Kansas City’s defense.
In his rookie season, Ford, at the very least, will be a situational pass rusher subbing for Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, or perhaps playing alongside them. That makes Kansas City’s pass rush even scarier, but is that the best allocation of resources? The Chiefs’ wouldn't be on the clock again for 64 picks and they didn't fill a need until the end of the third round.
When the Chiefs were back on the clock at No. 87, they selected Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines to add depth to their shallow secondary. He's not a big, physical corner like the Chiefs normally like to use. Gaines will be more successful in corner-heavy defenses such as the nickel and dime. Unlike the selection of Ford, taking Gaines fills a need. While the Kansas City secondary was solid for most of last season, albeit against bad teams, opposing quarterbacks shredded Chiefs defensive backs over the final games of 2013. Gaines isn't a sure-fire prospect who will end any woes in the Chiefs' secondary, but he’s a decent pick.
The thing Ford and Gaines have in common is that it seems, at least at this moment, that neither player will be the biggest contributor during their respective rookie seasons. Barring injury, Ford will play behind Hali and Houston unless defensive coordinator Bob Sutton works in all three pass rushers on the same play. Gaines may find snaps, but unless the secondary is beset by injuries, it's a slim chance he beats out Brandon Flowers and/or Sean Smith.
After selecting Gaines, the Chiefs went right back to drafting players who don’t fill their biggest needs. They took Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas in the fourth round and followed that pick by selecting Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.
Based on the skill set of Thomas, a dynamic specialty back, he will most likely fill the void Dexter McCluster left after he signed with the Tennessee Titans this offseason. Because of how integral Jamaal Charles is to the offense, and the flashes Knile Davis showed while being a partial contributor, Thomas will most likely find chances on special teams or be used as a slot receiver, very similarly to McCluster. Having dynamic players is always fun for an offense, and something Andy Reid seems to necessitate on all of his rosters. The Chiefs still have a very big need at wide receiver, and hopefully, Thomas isn't their answer. He can contribute at times, but I can't imagine, especially as a rookie, that Thomas will be able to provide reliable enough production at wide receiver to justify the Chiefs' decision to pass on a wideout.
Before the draft, the Chiefs were linked with Murray, and as it turns out, those reports were extremely accurate. The fifth round is decent value for a player who may turn into a backup quarterback. Currently Kansas City has four quarterbacks on the roster: Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Murray, assuming the ex-Georgia QB signs his contract. One or two of those guys may be sent packing during training camp, with Bray being the most likely candidate. Realistically, Murray is most likely to become the Chiefs’ backup quarterback and allow them Chiefs to cut Daniel next offseason for nearly $4 million in savings.
And rounding out the Chiefs’ draft, Kansas City selected two offensive linemen in the sixth round: Zach Fulton from Tennessee and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from McGill. The Chiefs added depth to their offensive line, but neither player will likely be a factor in the 2014 season.
The Chiefs’ 2014 draft was like much of their offseason, limited and not very impactful. Kansas City still has major needs at safety and wide receiver that weren't addressed, and their top rookie this year might not get many snaps.
Long term, the Chiefs’ selections may look quite wise, but for initial impact, their draft wasn’t the strongest. Kansas City played it safe in a way by not making any trades, up or down. They selected some players who perhaps could be starters and main contributors in future seasons, but at the moment, seem to be more depth guys.
Now that the Chiefs’ best offseason chance to pick up the most impactful players is over, the top of their roster is almost decided. Surely Kansas City will bring in undrafted free agents and swell the roster for training camp and may bring in some diamonds in the rough. But for now, the Chiefs’ roster seems to be a bit weaker than last year’s version with little evidence that there could be someone bursting onto the scene out of nowhere.