Predicting Pioli's Picks

This is the time of year when mock drafts rage out of control, NFL teams bring in untold amounts of rookies for personal workouts, and reports circulate that supposedly hint at which player a team is targeting. Everyone is trying to predict what team will take which player, and the teams themselves are trying to throw everyone off the scent.

But in the end, nobody really has a clue. Not even Mel Kiper, Jr.

In fact, in Kiper's final mock draft last year, he had the Chiefs taking defensive end Derrick Harvey at #5. It turned out that even though Kansas City waited until several rounds later to take a defensive end, they probably could have used Harvey after the 10-sack performance Tamba Hali, Brian Johnston, Turk McBride and the rest of the 2008 pass rush put on display.

But the point remains – it's a game of chance at best, and a waste of time at worst, to attempt to accurately predict who the Chiefs will take this year. It's like playing darts in the dark - you're just as likely to hit some innocent bystander as you are to shock everyone with an incredible shot.

But what else are we supposed to talk about?

Well, maybe we can't predict the exact player the Chiefs will draft. But I've always believed you don't look at any constantly-changing value boards, or where a team might be picking, if you want to gauge what will go down inside Radio City Music Hall on a given weekend every year. Instead, look at who's doing the drafting.

Based on his history in New York, we had a pretty good idea that any draft Herm Edwards had a hand in would yield a decent defensive back or three from various rounds. And indeed, the Chiefs found themselves a few decent defensive backs – Jarrad Page, Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr.

Of course, we also knew that Carl Peterson could waste a second-round pick like no one else, based purely on his time running drafts in Kansas City. We don't need to recount all the failures (Junior Siavii perhaps being the worst). Even when Edwards arrived, that trend continued via players such as Bernard Pollard and Turk McBride, neither who have lived up to their draft status so far.

So now that Peterson and Edwards are gone, what trend can we look for? What's in Scott Pioli's history that might give us an inkling of who the Chiefs will draft this weekend? What position might they target?


Seymour addressed a key need for the Patriots in 2001.
Charles Krupa - AP

For brevity's sake, we will mainly focus on the top two selections the Patriots made each year when Pioli was in New England. Based on that period of time, we can make reasonable assumptions about what's to come as Pioli begins his tenure as Kansas City's draft architect:

1. The Chiefs will draft quarterbacks often, and mostly late.

2. The Chiefs may commit the "sin" of drafting for need more often than not.

3. The Chiefs will commit horrible blunders.

The first "golden rule" is no secret. The Patriots drafted five quarterbacks from 2000 through 2008, and none were taken before the third round. It doesn't mean the Chiefs will take a quarterback this weekend, but we shouldn't be shocked if they do.

Our second assumption focuses on the players Pioli and Belichick selected early in the draft during nine years in New England. Despite their reputation as draft geniuses, and the generally accepted notion that picking "the best player available" is almost always the most logical course of action, it must be noted that more often than not, it appeared Pioli and Belichick certainly drafted for need.

However, as we will see, when you draft the right player, no one really cares why you drafted him.

But the trend is there. When Belichick and his entourage arrived in New England, they immediately drafted an offensive tackle with their first pick. The need was obvious – Drew Bledsoe had been sacked 55 times the previous season, and his left tackle, Bruce Armstrong, was an ancient 35. Adrian Klemm went with the 46th overall selection.

The Patriots, having fielded one of the league's worst ground games the previous year, and having no viable starting running back, then took halfback JR Redmond with their next pick. Clearly, these moves were designed to address obvious needs.

Klemm and Redmond, of course, both busted. The Patriots might have been better served at the time by taking "the best player available," although looking at the second and third rounds in 2000, there wasn't much to choose from. At least Pioli/Belichick didn't draft William Bartee, for instance. Either way this is a clear instance of our third history-based assumption – the Chiefs will commit horrible blunders. Certainly Pioli and Belichick were not perfect with their first two picks.

But that initial failure didn't deter the Patriots from drafting for need, once again. Having fielded a decidedly average defense in 2000, and having little in the way of pass rush outside Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour went sixth overall to New England. Having also apparently recognized Klemm was no solution after Bledsoe was sacked another 45 times, the Patriots grabbed tackle Matt Light in the second round.


Will the Chiefs address their biggest need with Everette Brown?
Phil Coale - AP

Those two selections (plus Tom Brady) served as a springboard for New England's first championship. Naturally, the apparent "drafting for need" philosophy continued thereafter.

The Patriots' 2001 championship team, while ultimately successful, had its weaknesses. Namely, the league's 22nd-ranked passing game, featuring Troy Brown and David Patten at wide receiver, and little else, especially at tight end. The response was Daniel Graham in the first round, and Deion Branch (who would also help New England's anemic kickoff return game) in the second.

Then disaster struck the following season, as New England's run defense imploded, falling to 31st in the league. Chiefs fans may remember an epic shootout that took place between Kansas City and New England that year, featuring 221 rushing yards from Priest Holmes and crew. Not wishing to repeat such incidents, the Patriots grabbed a stout 3-4 defensive end in Ty Warren, and a new strong safety in Eugene Wilson.

With the arrival of nose tackle Vince Wilfork in the next draft (a clear reaction to the aging of Ted Washington), New England's run defense was fixed. The next time the Chiefs and Patriots squared off, Kansas City's running game was bottled up. Drafting for need paid off.

And year after year, the Patriots kept it up. When Corey Dillon aged, they picked Laurence Maroney, and when a contract dispute arose with Branch, Chad Jackson arrived to make up for his absence a few months later (again, the Chiefs will commit horrible blunders). Last April, the Patriots drafted linebacker Jerod Mayo. Why? Age at linebacker created a need.

So what does it all mean for the Chiefs this weekend?

1. There's a chance another quarterback is on the way. Between Matt Cassel's inexperience, Tyler Thigpen's inaccuracy and Brodie Croyle's knees, the position, while improved, is far from rock solid. And the Chiefs recently visited with Missouri's Chase Patton.

2. Despite all the screaming for "the best player available," which may well be quarterback Mark Sanchez, linebacker Aaron Curry, or offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, the Chiefs could draft for need, and the biggest need is a pass rush. We shouldn't be shocked if Florida State's Everette Brown, Texas' Brian Orakpo, Penn State's Aaron Maybin, or perhaps even a sleeper like Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson are picked in the first round by the Chiefs.

3. Prepare to be disappointed. Klemm, Redmond, Maroney and Jackson showed the Patriots – and Pioli - were far from perfect. But then again, neither is Mel Kiper, Jr.

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