If you're hoping to see the Chiefs trade down from the #3 spot this weekend, you're undoubtedly paying close attention to all the latest draft buzz.
The biggest rumors, of course, revolve around the interest of various teams in USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Will the Redskins or the Jets be willing to go as high as #3, potentially surrendering a 2010 first-round pick in the process? Could the Broncos package the two first-round picks they have this year?
While such speculation is a fun distraction, the reality of the situation isn't quite as exciting. It's been several years since a team near the top of the draft actually traded down – or, to look at it another way, several years since a team was willing to move that high and take on the bloated rookie contracts top draft picks command these days.
Not only do the Chiefs have that history working against them, numerous reports suggest several teams with high selections are actively trying to trade. During a Wednesday media session, San Francisco General Manager Scot McCloughan attached a number to those stories, claiming that seven of the teams in the draft's first nine picks have contacted the 49ers about moving back.
Why would the Chiefs be the lucky team to pull off such a deal?
Unless a team is completely convinced of Sanchez's future as a franchise quarterback, and are equally certain he won't be available after the #4 pick, it just doesn't seem all that likely for the Chiefs to be able to move back, at least not in the major, blockbuster type trade that many have speculated about.
As we discussed two weeks ago in Five Undeniable Draft Facts, the Chiefs, no matter how much they may want to trade down, and no matter how much they're willing to disregard the value chart, may have no choice but to select someone with the third overall pick.
However, a case can be made against all of the consensus top players. In fact, here's a quick summary of the popular arguments against each of those options:
WR Michael Crabtree - too many questions about his speed, route-running, and whether or not he's truly an elite prospect.
LB Aaron Curry - the #3 spot is too early to take a linebacker, especially one who doesn't rush the passer. He also may not be an ideal fit for the 3-4 defense.
OTs Eugene Monroe/Jason Smith - the Chiefs have no need for a left tackle, and it would be crazy to use the #3 pick on a right tackle (or to move Branden Albert).
QBs Mark Sanchez/Matt Stafford - the Chiefs don't need a quarterback after trading for Matt Cassel.
DT B.J. Raji, DE Tyson Jackson - too big a reach at #3.
But instead of talking about what the Chiefs shouldn't do, let's try to figure out what they should do.
For this exercise, because of the acquisition of Cassel, eliminate both Stafford and Sanchez from the discussion.
We'll break down each of the remaining six prospects by three key criteria: 1) the best overall player, 2) their financial value to the Chiefs, and 3) the level of improvement they would bring to the team. We'll rank them according to each criteria, add up the totals, and see who comes out ahead.
#1) Best Player :
To determine our rankings here, I've taken the player ratings from five notable draft outlets – ESPN's Mel Kiper, NFL Network's Mike Mayock, Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, Scouts Inc., and Scout.com – and analyzed where they have each of these players listed.
What we get is the following order:
1) Aaron Curry
2) Michael Crabtree
3) Jason Smith
4) Eugene Monroe
5) B.J. Raji
6) Tyson Jackson
Curry was considered the best player in the draft by four of the five sources. Likewise, Crabtree was considered the second-best player by four of the five. It's also worth noting that only one ranking – Gosselin's – listed Jackson among the draft's 10 best players.
In the analysis of the two players at offensive tackle, Smith is ranked above Monroe by every outlet but one. As a result, when we dive into the next two criteria, Smith will always be ranked one spot ahead of his fellow lineman.
#2) Financial Value
For this particular criteria, we'll analyze whether it's a good idea from a financial perspective to pay the salary of a #3 pick to each of these players. It could be argued that no player, except a proven franchise quarterback, is truly worth the money the #3 pick will earn. But we'll leave that discussion for another time.
Smith/Monroe: They represent the worst possible value in this respect. Quite obviously, if either tackle is drafted to play on the right side of the line, the value is beyond terrible. It's horrific, in fact. It's what nightmares are made of.
But even if a tackle was drafted to play on the left side, things aren't much better. While there's nothing wrong with paying such a high salary to a left tackle, there's one glaring issue: the Chiefs already have a left tackle in Branden Albert.
Since Albert has already shown he can play left tackle at the NFL level, moving him only creates a problem down the road. When his contract comes up – or when the day comes that he decides he's worth more money than he's currently making – Albert will be looking for a raise.
Chiefs fans have seen this same scenario unfold before. When Willie Roaf was acquired from New Orleans, John Tait was moved to right tackle. When it came time for Tait to re-sign, he was looking for left tackle money and didn't find it in Kansas City.
A similar situation with Albert would leave the Chiefs with two options. They could pay him like a left tackle, effectively tying up a large chunk of their cap in their two tackle spots. Or, just as we saw with Tait, they could let Albert leave for a team that will give him that kind of money. Neither option is particularly pleasant.
Curry: While a step up from the tackles, he doesn't offer much from a financial perspective, either. As an interior linebacker who doesn't rush the passer, his value is far less than a nose tackle or a pass rusher. One only needs consider the modest contracts Scott Pioli signed Tedy Bruschi to over the years – which would amount to a mere fraction of the amount Curry would make – to see the premium he puts on this position.
Crabtree: Should Crabtree develop into the kind of elite receiver you'd expect from a #3 pick, there's nothing wrong with paying him a high salary. But a potential issue emerges in the fact the Chiefs already have Dwayne Bowe, and as we've seen with the Arizona Cardinals, sometime teams aren't willing to pay top money to both their receivers. On the other hand, there's also the Colts, who at one point made Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne two of the league's three highest paid receivers.
Jackson: A pass rusher is always a premium player, even those who don't rack up the big numbers. New England's Richard Seymour, for example, has never recorded more than eight sacks in a season, but there's no denying his impact on the Patriots' defense.
Raji: There's no position more important to the 3-4 defense than nose tackle. As such, they often have the largest contracts along the defensive line.
Our order for this criteria:
6) Monroe :
#3) Improvement Potential
With the final criteria, we'll try to determine which players would do the most to improve the team – in other words, the players who would make the biggest impact.
Obviously, it's important to keep the big picture in mind. Just because a player might not be in a position to succeed right off the bat doesn't mean he'd be a bad pick. But it's also a mistake to buy a stereo and big-screen TV for your rec room before the foundation of your house is built.
Considering the Chiefs are in desperate need of talent, every one of these players should be able to help improve the team to some degree. But who would have the biggest impact?
Jackson: A strong defensive end is a key component of a 3-4 defense, which is what makes Jackson attractive to the Chiefs. But it would definitely be rough sailing for him for a while. Without a true nose tackle lining up next to him or a significant pass-rushing outside linebacker for defenses to focus on, it's hard to imagine him making a significant impact until other holes are filled.
Curry: For all the talk amongst Chiefs fan about how Curry is the greatest thing since sliced bread, I offer the following quote from noted NFL draft expert Rich Gosselin: "Most NFL talent evaluators would take Jerod Mayo, the best linebacker in the 2008 NFL draft, over Aaron Curry."
Mayo – last season's defensive rookie of the year – is unquestionably a solid player, but it's hard to deny his success in New England came in large part due to the strong cast assembled around him. He played with a Pro Bowl nose tackle, solid linebackers, and so on. Put Mayo on last year's Chiefs and his chances of winning any award plummet.
The same would hold true for Curry. In a few years, if the Chiefs find a dominant nose tackle and some pass-rushing 3-4 defensive ends, a player like Curry may be able to thrive. But until that day arrives, his impact may be limited to racking up a bunch of tackles five yards past the line of scrimmage.
Despite the fact he's not a pass rusher, Curry goes ahead of Jackson because his play would likely stick out more until the defensive line improves.
Smith/Monroe: No matter which scenario unfolds – the rookie plays right tackle, Albert shifts to the right, or Albert moves to guard – the Chiefs should have a better offensive line as a result.
But the only option that offers definite improvement is the rookie playing right tackle. After all, there's no guarantee he would play better at left tackle than Albert. Even if Albert thrives on the right, it would be negated if there's a drop-off on the other side.
Unfortunately, that scenario – the Chiefs drafting a right tackle at #3 – seems like the most unlikely of all the offensive line possibilities, which is why these two players aren't ranked higher.
Crabtree: Adding another first-round receiver opposite Bowe should certainly help improve the Chiefs' passing game, especially now that the offense is without Tony Gonzalez.
Raji: A nose tackle clogging up the middle would go a long way towards improving the Chiefs' woeful defense and helping the transition to a 3-4 go smoothly.
Our order for this criteria:
If we take the three separate lists we've assembled and assign a point value for each position – six points for #1, five points for #2, and so on – here's what we come up with.
Crabtree: 14 points
Raji: 14 points
Curry: 11 points
Smith: 10 points
Jackson: 7 points
Monroe: 7 points
What can we conclude from this? In an ideal scenario, the Chiefs would be able to move back a few spots and still grab Raji, who most would consider a bit of a reach at #3. But we're not talking about trading back, we're talking about the Chiefs making their scheduled pick.
If Pioli doesn't mind some mild criticism, Raji makes sense for the Chiefs, but he wasn't alone at the top spot. To my surprise, Crabtree also finished at the top, and the notion of taking the draft's top receiver seems more likely now that Gonzalez has been traded.
So there you have it. According to this highly unscientific analysis, it's Crabtree or Raji for the Chiefs at #3.
Now to tune in on Saturday and see what they actually do.
An Unscientific Analysis Of Picking #3
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