Tamba's Heart

I've heard enough about how the Chiefs reached when they drafted defensive end Tamba Hali with the 20th pick in the first round. Suddenly, just because the draft gurus ranked Hali as a second round pick, he's not a good football player.

Hali will be an impact player for the Chiefs. Forget about his disappointing forty time. Forget about his lack of extensive football experience. Number 91 will be a force on the Chiefs defensive line immediately.

According to media outlets, Hali ran a 4.8 forty-yard dash, which is incorrect. Hali's actual time was closer to 4.6, but it doesn't really matter. The forty-yard dash is an overrated measurable for defensive ends. When evaluating a defensive end, the critical time is the ten-yard split. That determines how explosive a player is off the line of scrimmage. The deepest a quarterback drops is about seven to ten yards.

"When you turn the video on, he doesn't look like he's 4.8, or whatever the time was," said Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards. "His 10 (yard) time is as good as any defensive lineman, and that's what we tried to focus on."

Defensive ends typically make plays within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Why would a forty time be important for a defensive end? It's true that you want fast athletes all over the field, but only certain positions require great straight-line speed. Defensive end isn't one of them.

Need proof? Look at current Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen. Allen dropped to the fourth round of the 2004 draft because he didn't have great measurables. Yet Allen has been the most productive member of the Chiefs' defensive line, and a feared player around the NFL. So why has Allen been so successful?

What makes Allen so successful is his drive, his relentlessness and his superior motor. Hali possesses all of those same qualities and he's a better athlete than Allen was coming out of college.

"With his relentlessness to the ball he's like Warren (Sapp)," said Edwards. "He just kept coming and coming. He kind of plays like Dwight Freeney in Indianapolis. He gets blocked and keeps coming. This guy keeps playing until the whistle blows, because you're going to get blocked. Who are we kidding? Then what you do? Do you stand there and watch the play or do you continue to run after the play? When you watch this guy he doesn't stop until the whistle blows. When you get a defensive lineman who can do that, that's special. He does that automatically."

You want to know what type of player Hali is? Put down the draft magazine and watch the film. Tape doesn't lie. When you see Hali on tape, you see what an explosive player he is. You see how well he changes direction (a valuable asset against the bootleg) and how he never gives up on a play. That's the sort of player you want as a defensive end.

"I'm a hard working player," said Hali. "Coming in here, I want to be a leader, not just a mediocre player or a guy who just fits in. I want to stand out and do what I do: pass rushing. I'm going to play every down with everything I've got."

That's the sort of player the Chiefs need at defensive end. With all the analysis flying back and forth in the weeks preceding the draft, the one attribute they can't measure is the most important one: a player's heart. Something tells me we'll be seeing Hali's for years to come.

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