Pioli's Plan

On Friday, Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli spoke to the media and offered just a few tidbits about his plan for the upcoming NFL Draft. But it's what he said near the tale end of that press conference, that gave me a momentary uneasy feeling about what he learned from his initial draft to his second one.

It's impossible to read the mind of Scott Pioli. By all accounts, he is a very secretive person who doesn't appear likely to tip his hand on the Chiefs upcoming draft strategy. It's clear a year ago that he landed arguably the most talented draft class in the history of the organization.

By adding Eric Berry, Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas, Jon Asamoah, Tony Moeaki, Kendrick Lewis and Cameron Sheffield, each of the seven players he selected could start at some point in 2011.

However in 2009, Pioli can only claim that kicker Ryan Succop was a major contributor to his first draft in Kansas City. The moniker for Pioli in his first draft was his decision to select LSU Defensive End Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick. And he seems firm that long term; he's going to be a great player for the Chiefs.

When asked by reporters about Jackson and if he were at the top of the draft class in 2011, would he still pick the former LSU standout? "I'd take the same player again. Absolutely. Absolutely," Pioli said.

But in over analyzing the comment which I tend to do from time to time, it's clear that there was little else that Pioli could say about the decision to select Jackson. And in fairness to Pioli, that's precisely what he should have said. He would never admit any mistake in taking Jackson, a guy who at best was a mid to late first rounder, because if he did - that would not look well on his draft prowess.

And again to be fair, Jackson is entering his third NFL season and we still have no idea what kind of player he may eventually be in a Chiefs uniform. So the jury is still out on that pick and all fans can do is hope that he's a late bloomer.

But this article really isn't really about Jackson because that chapter in the Pioli era is still open for debate.

Going forward though the Chiefs are in a unique position to add another stellar crop of college talent to their roster. And what fans should be celebrating is the fact Pioli made incredible strides from his 2009 class to the one he directed in 2010.

No question Safety Eric Berry was the crown jewel of the Chiefs 2010 draft.
Getty Images

It tells me that his failures in 2009 had more to do with the carry over staff from the Carl Peterson era rather than Pioli making mistakes with his selections.

In using his guys a year later in both scouting and personnel, Pioli had a clear plan to add athletic players from some very solid college programs. Even further he had the proper time to evaluate their impact at the college level. For the most part, he drafted team captains or players that garnered the respect of not only their teammates but the coaching staffs that were in charge of developing them into contributing players on the gridiron and great men off the field.

Again that's a far different plan than Chiefs fans saw under the previous regime. What Pioli didn't risk with each of his 2010 selections was the integrity and character of the men he hand picked to help lead the Chiefs into a new era of winning. It paid huge dividends a year ago as Kansas City won the AFC West for the first time since Dick Vermeil was the head coach.

In ten days or so, Pioli and his draft posse will be bunkered in the Chiefs war room. And once again, he'll be in a position to add some quality young players that he can only hope makes the same impact as last years draft class.

The good news is that the Chiefs, because of their strong young nucleus of players, can be picky in their draft selections this time around. Sure the team has some needs at Nose Tackle, Wide Receiver, Center and at Linebacker. But they can afford, because of last years success, to make selections that give them the best overall athletes at a multitude of positions versus specific perceived positional needs.

At the moment, I'm not sure which direction Pioli will turn, or if the 2011 draft class will be as heralded as the 2010 members or as disappointing as the 2009 group that yielded just two starters. But I have faith in Pioli, because he appears to once again have a solid plan.

Though fans may think the Chiefs are set at certain positions, Pioli gave the strongest indication yet that he intends to strengthen the overall team. And that's precisely what he needs to accomplish with the upcoming draft class.

"You're never set at any one position because whether a player leaves you or not via free agency, there are bad things that can happen to players and your team so you better be ready with the next player," Pioli said.

And it's those ‘next players' that will likely determine if the Chiefs can successfully defend their AFC West Title in 2011.

If those players can yield another division title, nobody is going to bring up Pioli's 2009 draft grades ever again.

Will last years draft class be a hard follow up for Pioli this time around?

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