Johnson Is the Gem But Thorpe Could Be the Steal

The Kansas City Chiefs took a huge step forward this past weekend with the selection of Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson. But the true value of this draft might not be felt until some of the their second day picks get on the field. We take one more look at the Chiefs draft and offer up our final report card on each of the nine rookies they selected on Saturday and Sunday.

It is no secret that the window of opportunity is closing for the Kansas City Chiefs to win an NFL championship. The fans know it, the players know it, the coaches know it, and based on this weekends draft it appears that management is very aware of it as well. With coach Vermeil heading in to retirement along with several key members of the Kansas City offense after this season, the Chiefs had to make sure that this years draft would make as much of an immediate impact as their free agent signings appear to have done as they prepare for the 2005 season.

In the first round the Chiefs were able to acquire linebacker Derrick Johnson from the University of Texas. Kansas City was fortunate to be able to fill a position of need with the best outside linebacker in the draft. With that being said, Johnson's game still has room for improvement. He needs to get stronger in both his upper body and legs along with working on some key fundamentals that will allow him to separate from blockers at the NFL level. Even with Johnson's flaws his pure athleticism and his ability to flow to the ball will make him an instant difference maker for the Chiefs defense. When you combine the addition of Derrick Johnson with the free agent signing of Kendrell Bell the Chiefs may very well have their best group of linebackers since 1999.

Note to Remember: Both Keith Bullock and Donnie Edwards have both stated that Gunther Cunningham is the man responsible for making them great players. Neither of them is as athletic as Johnson so it is exciting to think about just how good Johnson may become.
First Round Grade: A+ The Chiefs second round pick was traded to the Miami Dolphins for cornerback Patrick Surtain. When you compare Surtain to the list of cornerbacks who were actually drafted in the second round or the first round; its safe to say that none of them could have stepped right in to make the immediate the impact that Surtain is expected to bring to the Chiefs secondary.

Note to Remember: The cornerbacks taken in the second round were Stanford Routt, Corey Webster, Ronald Bartell, Darrent Williams, Justin Miller, Kelvin Hayden, and Bryant McFadden.
Second Round Grade: A+

In the third round Kansas City decided to go with a special teams upgrade when they drafted punter Dustin Colquitt out of Tennessee. Coach Vermeil, Coach Gansz, and Coach Cunningham were probably the most excited with drafting this young man. Colquitt first caught the eye of the pro scouts as a junior when had 19 punts for 50 yards or more; including one for 60 yards. Then during his senior year Colquitt averaged 40.8 yards per punt with his longest punt of his career that went 61 yards. Those are gaudy numbers that will get you a serious look in the 3rd or 4th round, especially by a head coach who happens to be the very first special teams coach in professional football. Note to Remember: Colquitt was considered by some NFL scouts to be the best punter to enter the draft since Oakland's Shane Lechler. When punting from midfield he can become a very dangerous weapon for the defense because he can consistently pin an opponent behind the ten yard line. I tried to explain to him the level of crowd noise that would erupt at Arrowhead Stadium in that situation but I don't think he understood.
Third Round Grade: A

In the fourth round the Chiefs took wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe out of Florida State. At 6'1" and 190lbs Thorpe has good size for a guy who can run a 40 yard dash in the 4.3 range. Like Sammie Parker before him, Thorpe was also an NCAA track star. He was talented enough as a sprinter that he won the ACC outdoor track titles for the 100 and 200 meter sprints. Don't however let his track accolades lead you to believe that he isn't a football player; because he is that and more.

In 2003 he was one of the top receivers in the nation recording 51 catches for 994 yards and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately he suffered a broken leg at the end of that fantastic junior season that would force him to rehab much of the off season. Thorpe came back as a senior but was unable to put up the same numbers he had as a junior. He ended his senior season with 40 catches for 496 yards and a pair of touchdowns leaving many to believe he had yet to fully recover from the broken leg.

Thorpe can run, jump, and catch better than 90% of the receivers in this draft. He has also left little question of his playmaking ability when you look at the numbers he was able to produce in the ACC conference. The ACC is the closest thing that the NCAA has to professional level competition and players who do well in that football conference tend to translate in to good pro players as well.

Notes to Remember: This was a fantastic value pick by the Chiefs because many scouts thought of Thorpe as a first round pick prior breaking is leg. The drafting of Thorpe likely spells the end for Johnnie Morton as a Chief and Dante Hall as a receiver.
Fourth Round Grade: B+ With their first pick in the 5th round the Chiefs selected linebacker Boomer Grigsby of the Illinois State Redbirds. Grigsby is a powerful player who has spent the lat four years terrorizing the I-AA level. This tackling machine finished his college career with 579 tackles in 40 starts and was a first team All-American his final three years for Illinois State. Boomer fills a huge void on the team that was left by the departure of Monty Beisel. He will likely develop into a special teams captain and be used as a spot duty middle linebacker for Kendrell Bell. He has a fantastic attitude and possesses the type of demeanor you look for in that kind of player.

Notes to Remember: Of all the players drafted this weekend Boomer was the most excited to be a Chief. He also had the quote of the weekend when he said "If you play like you are going to get hurt then you are going to get hurt. That's the only thing I can really guarantee anybody. I can't guarantee anybody that I will ever be a pro-bowler or even be that great of a player but I know I will be a 250 pound crazy country white boy running down on kickoffs."

Cornerback Alphonso Hodge from the University of Miami Ohio was taken with the Chiefs second pick in the 5th round. Hodge was known as the premier shutdown corner in the Mid-American Conference over the past two years. He is a very fast corner who excels in man-to-man coverage because he is so hard to shake. Hodge is also exceptionally strong for a cornerback as he boasts a 345 pound bench press and a 510 pound squat. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a guy who runs a 4.3 forty and is 5'10" tall.

Notes to remember: Hodge could find his way in to Kansas City's dime back role or possibly even the nickel if he can quickly improve upon his ability to play bump-and-run. Hodge was a very good value pick for the middle of the5th round.
Fifth Round Grade: A

The Chiefs took Will Svitek from Stanford with their first pick in the 6th round. Svitek never played offensive tackle at Stanford instead he struggled as a defensive end. In fact the only time he played on offense was he would fill in at tight end his freshmen and sophomore seasons. Still at 6'6" 301lbs he is built like a tackle but the Chiefs have their work cut out for them if they think they can covert him. Svitek is currently Kansas City's most likely candidate for NFL Europe.

Notes to Remember: There was still some decent defensive talent on the board at this point like C.J. Mosley and Jonathan Goddard. One of those players should have been taken here over a project.

Defensive End Khari Long out of Baylor was Kansas City's second pick of the sixth round. Long is one of those hybrid outside linebacker defensive ends that fit best in to a 3/4 scheme. Luckily for him Gunther Cunningham is good at taking those types of players and turning them into solid pass rushers regardless of the defense. Long will at least have a shot at becoming a special teams contributor for 2005.

Notes to Remember: Gunther could be the best thing that ever happened to Khari Long.
Sixth Round Grade: D

With their first pick of the seventh round Kansas City chose quarterback James Kilian of Tulsa. Kilian is a solid quarterback prospect for this late in the draft. He has had some success in the WAC over the last two seasons where he passed for 4,464 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions. But Kilian was primarily drafted to be the developmental quarterback on the practice squad. NFL Europe is also in his very near future.

Notes to remember: Quarterbacks are tricky prospects. I don't have much to say about this pick. We'll see how he does in minicamp.

Southern Mississippi's Jeremy Parquet was the last player that Kansas City took off of the board. The 6'7" 323lb offensive tackle was actually a steal this late in the draft. Offensive line coach Mike Solari had to have been screaming for this pick as Parquet could have gone as high as the third round. Parquet is not ready to be a starting NFL tackle but is nowhere near the project that the three Chiefs players taken ahead of him in the sixth and seventh rounds.

Note to Remember: I had Parquet rated as one of the top 20 offensive linemen in the draft. Great pick by the Chiefs.
Seventh Round Grade: B+


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