I honestly can’t remember the last time a Chiefs’ draft was so universally praised. Perhaps it’s never actually happened before. But by staying true to their board and repeatedly taking the best player available, Herm Edwards and Bill Kuharich have hit the ground running with KC’s rebuilding project.
There are plenty of things to praise about their draft day performance, and much of it will be covered in the coming weeks. The one thing that stood out the most to me, however, was the fearlessness shown in the team’s selections.
Before the draft, as debates raged over who the fifth pick should be, there were those who felt the Chiefs didn’t need to select a defensive tackle like USC’s Sedrick Ellis - not after taking two defensive tackles a year ago in Tank Tyler and Turk McBride. Surely the top pick could be better spent on a much-needed offensive lineman, right?
But spending two first-day picks on the defensive tackle position in 2007 didn’t keep the Chiefs from jumping on Glenn Dorsey when he fell. Nor did it stop them from taking running back Jamaal Charles a year after drafting Kolby Smith, or from picking up tight ends Brad Cottam and Mike Merritt a year after adding Michael Allan.
And perhaps most significantly, it didn’t stop them from drafting saftey DaJuan Morgan just two years after adding current starters Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page. Morgan deserves extra emphasis because he’s an extremely talented player - many teams had him rated as the second-best safety of this year’s class.
Some even had him at the top of their board, ranked above Miami’s Kenny Phillips. Less than a week before the combine – in other words, when game tape was the key evaluator – NFL Network’s Mike Mayock agreed, listing Morgan as the best safety in the draft.
Why is this so significant? All those first and second-year players I’ve mentioned – Smith, Allan, Pollard, and Page – were also drafted during the Edwards/Kuharich era. If Jamaal Charles comes along and knocks Kolby Smith down the depth chart, or Morgan takes a starting job from Pollard or Page, it invalidates those previous draft classes to some degree.
Coaches and executives with big egos – or ones who fear for their jobs – might be hesitant to see that happen. To justify the job they’re doing, they’d want a year-by-year list of their draft picks to have the word “starter” next to as many names as possible.
After all, when evaluating a staff’s draft prowess, you want to see a continual pattern of success – not a single year where they happened to get lucky. While Morgan becoming a starter would reflect well on 2008, Pollard or Page losing their spot would mean one fewer gold star for the 2006 draft.
Down the line, that’s the sort of thing that could open up Edwards and Kuharich to criticism. If players they’ve drafted in the past start becoming less important to the team, it provides ammo for critics. The 2006 draft will become easier to dismiss without Pollard or Page starting, and likewise with 2007 if Kolby Smith ends up buried on the depth chart.
Looking back at this year’s draft, no one would have batted an eye if the Chiefs had taken, for example, Rutgers guard Jeremy Zuttah instead of Morgan in the third round. Zuttah probably could have competed for a starting job from day one. Edwards and Kuharich would have been able to notch another successful draft pick under their belt, while still keeping the points they’ve already earned for Pollard and Page.
But neither man was concerned with any of that. They weren’t worried about this year’s picks reflecting on their previous drafts. They didn’t hesitate to take a player like Morgan, despite the fact it will undoubtedly cause some to say, “Hey, look, they took another safety, they must be admitting one of their previous picks was a flop.”
Throughout the entire process, Edwards and Kuharich simply drafted the players they believed would do the most to help the Chiefs succeed.
That’s how a winning football team is built.