Undeniable Draft Facts - Part I

With the NFL draft just two weeks away, we're in a confusing, speculation-filled period. These five undeniable draft facts should keep you level-headed as we forge ahead into the great unknown.

1) This is not a good year to be drafting high.

A point many have been arguing this offseason was recently driven home by the NFL Network's Mike Mayock, who told Sports Illustrated, "This is by far the worst year for the top 10 that I've seen." He explained that teams will be able to draft players around pick #20 that are equal to the players in the top 10, and they won't come at a high price.

It's the words "by far" that really stand out. Mayock isn't merely saying 2009 is a bad draft class for top-echelon players, he's saying it's "by far" the worst he's seen. That has to make you stop and think.

As it relates to Kansas City, that statement seems to suggest two things - the best move the Chiefs could make is trading down, but few teams will be looking to move up. That's not a good combination.


2) Aaron Curry is not Jack Bauer.

If you've spent the last few months tracking what Chiefs fans think about the Wake Forest linebacker, you've undoubtedly seen statements like:

- Curry is a once-in-a-lifetime prospect.

- Curry has to be a Chief or the team will regret it forever.

- Curry is the next Derrick Thomas.

And so on and so forth. The Curry legend has almost grown to Bauer or Chuck Norris-like proportions. Any day now I expect talk radio callers to start telling tales of how Curry sleeps with a nightlight. Not because he's afraid of the dark, but because the dark is afraid of him.

Incidentally, the final item on that list is my favorite. Back around January, the Curry-Thomas comparisons were running wild, until people finally began pointing out how absurd it was to compare someone who racked up only nine and a half sacks in four years of college to someone who once had seven sacks in a single game.

Rather than backing off the hyperbole, though, the comparison simply shifted and now it seems Curry is being anointed as the next Ray Lewis.

When people point out that linebackers aren't selected near the top of the draft – especially those who don't rush the quarterback – it only seems to embolden the Curry supporters. That Curry is being talked about as a top three pick in spite of that tradition is taken as proof of his dominance and used as further evidence that he should be the Chiefs' selection.


Is Aaron Curry reaping the benefits of a weak draft year?
Chuck Burton - AP

In reality, Curry is one of the top draft prospects in a class that's not particularly strong on top. That's why his name has been bandied about as a potential top-three pick. Unlike other years, there aren't enough top prospects to push him back into the 6-12 range where a comparable player would normally go. He's not a once-in-a-lifetime marvel – he's the beneficiary of having a weak class around him.

Does any of that mean Curry won't be a good player in the NFL? Of course not. He may be elite. He's widely considered among analysts as the draft's safest pick because he's talented, makes few mistakes, and seems unlikely to be a bust.

But being "safe" doesn't make him a perennial Pro Bowler, either. Being "safe" means he could be in the mold of Derrick Johnson – a decent enough player who only comes up big in one or two games a season.

So, please, let's stop all the Curry insanity. He's a fine prospect. But if he was half the player some seem to think he is, with the weak state of the top 10, he'd be long gone by the time the Chiefs make their pick.


3) The Chiefs must draft the best players they possibly can.

This seems rather obvious, doesn't it? But every year there are those who insist that filling a specific need is the more important goal on draft day. That may be true for a team that's one piece away – a win-now team that could say, "You know, a really good receiver might put us over the top this year."

But after compiling a grand total of six victories over the last two seasons, the Chiefs are hardly in that position.

This year, the "draft for need" crowd has focused on the Chiefs' lack of a pass rush. With only 10 sacks last year, they say, the Chiefs' primary focus should be on finding a pass-rusher, no matter which more-talented prospects they have to skip over in the process.

If the goal of the 2009 draft was to re-simulate the 2008 season and make the Chiefs a little more competitive along the way, drafting a pass rusher would be a good way to go. With a few more sacks, maybe the Chiefs could have won as many as four games. That was what they did when Jared Allen logged 15.5 sacks in 2007, after all.

Unfortunately for supporters of that method, that isn't the goal of the draft. The purpose is to make the Chiefs better in 2009 and beyond, something teams accomplish by collecting as many good football players as they can.

There's no arguing the Chiefs need help when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. But they also need help in other areas. Without a pass rusher worthy of selection at the #3 spot, they don't have the luxury of ignoring better players and reaching on someone in an effort to patch holes from last year's ship.

That style of drafting is the equivalent of sticking your finger in the leaky dam, only to watch another leak spring up a few inches from the old one. Then you plug the new leak to see yet another pop up. It's an endless cycle and you never get ahead of the game.

Of course, there are surely proponents of taking a pass-rusher who don't fall into this "drafting for need" category. Some may not see a big difference between, say, Aaron Curry and Florida State's Everette Brown, so to them the Chiefs wouldn't be passing up better players to fill a need. There's nothing wrong with that.

This reminder is for those who were even advocating a pass rusher before the Matt Cassel trade, when the debate included the prospect of taking a quarterback. Yes, it's true – some of the "draft for need" crowd was endorsing their position with the idea that Tyler Thigpen could hold down the fort for another year, because what the Chiefs really needed was more sacks.

If you've ever found yourself talking to someone who argues that filling some random need is more important to a team than finding a franchise quarterback, say "That's nice, Carl," and ask him how he's enjoying retirement.

Tomorrow: We examine the draft value chart and the need for a particular player.

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