Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Fly Route

April 19, 2007

Rather than pretend I can tell you the difference between a 22-year-old cornerback running a 4.32 40-yard dash and a one-inch taller back running a 4.35 40, lets look back at last year's draft.

I felt I was shelving my Denver Broncos fandom when I panned the Chiefs selections a year ago -- here's hoping I can back up my words:

A quick glance doesn't look promising for me.

Kansas City found some real gems last season, but of course it will take a few more years to really tell who can stick in the league.

Leading the class was defensive end Tamba Hali. Hali finished with 58 tackles, and his eight-sack season was 26th in the NFL last season. That's not bad at all, especially considering he wasn't healthy for the duration.

It's easy to see him really growing into the role in his sophomore campaign, but that's not a given. The Chiefs will likely be without fellow-sack artist Jared Allen early in the season, which will allow teams to focus on Hali.

My main critique a year ago was most scouts felt Hali would have been there a round later. If so, it still wasn't a great pick, only a good one. But, considering how many first-round picks look foolish even one year later, "good" is by no means "bad."

Safety Bernard Pollard didn't turn out to be a poor pick in the second round either, though he didn't have a huge impact with only 10 tackles. A much better grab was Jarrad Page, also a safety, whom the Chiefs picked up in the seventh round.

To get a functional NFL player in a spot where most people are drafting practice-field fodder is a real plus.

Elsewhere, I remain unconvinced by third-round choice quarterback Brodie Croyle. I saw absolutely nothing to change my opinion from a year ago -- a good, not great, college quarterback who struggled with injuries makes for a poor choice in the third round.

He seems to be the quarterback in waiting, which should both encourage and discourage Chiefs fans.

On the bright side, the coaching staff thought enough of him to keep him around and to eliminate some of his competition. On the other hand if I'm right and he never really flourishes in the league, the Chiefs are either locking themselves to mediocrity or ensuring they'll have to spend big or draft high to get a legitimate star of the future in the position at some point.

The other three selections -- offensive lineman Tre' Stallings, receiver Jeff Webb and cornerback Marcus Maxey -- didn't play enough to judge very accurately.

Webb caught three passes and played in 10 games, not terrible for a sixth-round pick, but not indicative of an option to replace one of the team's aging receivers. Stallings saw no action at all and Maxey, a fifth-round choice, was cut, then later claimed off waivers after he was cut by a different team.

In the end, the draft was probably better than I gave it credit for. If Hali can improve a little on his numbers and consistently register in the top 15 or 20 in the league in sacks, it will all look even better. If Croyle proves me wrong or one of the three players that didn't see much time blossoms in the next two seasons, the entire draft will begin to look very smart, a far cry from the yawn I initially met it with.

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