Red Zone

A closer look at four years of Pioli draft busts with the Chiefs

Updated: 2013-02-01T20:05:35Z


The Kansas City Star

As we look ahead at the 2013 NFL Draft, it’s instructive to also look back — that is, back at the Chiefs’ most recent drafts under former general manager Scott Pioli.

Pioli’s checkered success in the draft wasn’t the only reason his tenure ultimately was marked by on-field failure and off-field fan frustration, but it’s a good starting point. He had a lot more misses than hits in his four draft classes.

Nobody knows better than new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid that the trend of lackluster drafting can’t continue if his time in Kansas City, not to mention that of new general manager John Dorsey, will end better than Pioli’s did.

“You’ve got to draft well,” Reid said. “I don’t think you build your team in free agency. That’s not how you go about it, and I’ve experienced that. I’ve seen that firsthand. You can afford to bring a guy in here or there (through free agency), but you better have that nucleus of guys you raised up.”

Every draft pick is a opportunity to make a franchise better. But too often during the last four seasons, the Chiefs failed to capitalize on those chances.

Knowing full well that hindsight is 20/20, we’re taking a look back at each draft choice during Pioli’s tenure, and guys the Chiefs could’ve landed instead.

2012 draft

First round, No. 11 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis

•  Could have had: Poe

The jury is still out on Poe, who’s a project. Starting all 16 games, Poe finished with 28 tackles after being forced into action by injury. He slammed hard into the rookie wall late in the season, but it’s too early to call him a bust.

Second round, No. 44 overall

•  Chiefs picked: G Jeff Allen, Illinois

•  Could have had: LB Bobby Wagner, Utah State (Seattle)

Allen might still pan out, but Wagner — chosen 47th overall — and other players, such as Bears WR Alshon Jeffery or Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks, were much more productive as rookies.

Third round, No. 74 overall

•  Chiefs picked: OT Donald Stephenson, Oklahoma

•  Could have had: QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin (Seattle)

The Chiefs needed a quarterback (yes, still), and Wilson piloted the Seahawks to the playoffs as a rookie. Wilson went one pick after Stephenson. Whiff.

Fourth round, No. 107 overall

•  Chiefs picked: WR Devon Wylie, Fresno State

•  Could have had: OT Bobby Massie, Mississippi (Arizona)

Injuries derailed any chance Wylie had to make an impact as a rookie, while Massie — taken five picks later — started all 16 games at right tackle for the Cardinals. Of course, neither is likely destined for an All-Pro career.

Fifth round, No. 146 overall

•  Chiefs picked: CB DeQuan Menzie, Alabama

•  Could have had: RB Alfred Morris, Florida Atlantic (Washington)

Bringing in Peyton Hillis to complement Jamaal Charles wasn’t a bad gamble. Of course, it was rather predictable that Hillis would get hurt. And when he did, there was little help below him on the depth chart. Morris (No. 173 overall), who set a rookie rushing record in Washington, could’ve been the hammer to Charles’ lightning.

Sixth round, No. 182 overall

•  Chiefs picked: RB Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

•  Could have had: RB Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

There were other possibilities, and Morris (see above) would have been a better choice, but Gray had value as a special teams player and still could provide much-needed depth as he learns the pro game. And other possibilities with this pick — perhaps Cardinals QB Ryan Lindley (No. 185 overall) — were far from a sure thing.

Seventh round, No. 218 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DT Jerome Long, San Diego State

•  Could have had: CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska (New England)

For a secondary that lacks depth, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who was selected No. 224 and had 35 tackles with three interceptions for the Patriots as a rookie, would’ve been a nice edition. Running back Bryce Brown (No. 229), a Wichita native and the younger brother of Kansas State LB Arthur Brown, also was available as depth behind Jamaal Charles.

Seventh round, No. 238 overall

•  Chiefs picked: WR Junior Hemingway, Michigan

•  Could have had: LB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State (Cincinnati)

Burfict was undrafted after a poor combine performance and character concerns, but he turned out to be another Justin Houston, with 127 tackles in his rookie season. Rams running Daryl Richardson stepped in to provide depth behind Stephen Jackson and also would’ve been a good pick.

2011 draft

First round, No. 26 overall

•  Chiefs picked: WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh

•  Could have had: QB Andy Dalton, TCU (Cincinnati)

The pickings immediately after Baldwin, who has 41 catches for 579 and two touchdowns in two seasons with the Chiefs, were slim, but quarterback Andy Dalton, who went nine selections later, has led the Bengals to the playoffs two straight seasons. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers — now a Super Bowl quarterback — also was available to challenge Cassel.

Second round, No. 55 overall

•  Chiefs picked: C Rodney Hudson, Florida State

•  Could have had: Hudson

Hudson missed much of the 2012 season because of a broken leg, but he should be a rock in the middle of the Chiefs’ offensive line for many years to come, if he can stay healthy.

Third round, No. 70 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DE Justin Houston, Georgia

•  Could have had: Houston

Houston plummeted in the draft after a failed drug test at the NFL Combine, but he has justified Pioli’s faith in him. Character concerns also sent a first-round talent at QB — Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett (74th overall) — into a free-fall.

Third round, No. 86 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DE Allen Bailey, Miami, Fla.

•  Could have had: WR Cecil Shorts, Mount Union (Jacksonville)

Taken 114th overall, Shorts — 55 catches for 979 yards and seven touchdowns last season — is a game-breaker for the Jaguars. Bears S Chris Conte and Seahawks LB K.J. Wright also were available. Bailey has 15 tackles in 26 career games.

Fourth round, No. 118 overall

•  Chiefs picked: CB Jalil Brown, Colorado

•  Could have had: S Chris Prosinski, Wyoming (Jacksonville)

Brown wasn’t a bad choice, but Prosinski, who was taken three picks later, has been slightly more productive. Really, though, it’s a coin flip here.

Fifth round, No. 135 overall

•  Chiefs picked: QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa

•  Could have had: WR Denarius Moore, Tennessee (Oakland)

There remains a pocket of fans who love Stanzi, but he couldn’t crack the lineup over Cassel or Brady Quinn. That says a lot. Meanwhile, Moore (148th overall) was available, as were Falcons RB Jacquizz Rogers and Browns OT Jason Pinkston.

Fifth round, No. 140 overall

•  Chiefs picked: LB Gabe Miller, Oregon State

•  Could have had: CB Richard Sherman, Stanford (Seattle)

Sherman, who was taken 154th, is a big, physical corner who could’ve been the perfect complement to Brandon Flowers. Miller has yet to play a snap in the NFL and spent last season as a practice squad tight end with the Bears.

Sixth round, No. 199 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DT Jerrell Powe, Mississippi

•  Could have had: QB Greg McElroy, Alabama (N.Y. Jets)

Again, for a quarterback-starved team, McElroy — who went nine picks later — might have challenged Cassel for a starting spot as he did Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. The injury-prone Powe, well, he’s barely hanging on.

Seventh round, No. 223 overall

•  Chiefs picked: FB Shane Bannon, Yale

•  Could have had: CB Chris Harris, Kansas (Denver)

Bannon never played an NFL snap, while Harris, who went undrafted and played in the Chiefs’ backyard, has 111 tackles in 31 games, including 15 starts, with 2 1/2 sacks and four interceptions for the Broncos. Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin also was there for the taking with this pick.

2010 draft

First round, No. 5 overall

•  Chiefs picked: S Eric Berry, Tennessee

•  Could have had: Berry

He’s been picked for a pair of Pro Bowls and still shows plenty of promise, especially given the fact that he missed the 2011 season because a torn ACL. It was a solid year for first-round picks, and the Chiefs got a good one.

Second round, No. 36 overall

•  Chiefs picked: RB Dexter McCluster, Mississippi

•  Could have had: TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona (New England)

Who would have helped Cassel more? A massive tackle- and record-breaking tight end, or a luxury piece on offense? Gronkowski’s size alone makes him a better fit for a Chiefs squad saddled with inaccurate quarterbacks. He went 42nd overall.

Second round, No. 50 overall

•  Chiefs picked: CB Javier Arenas, Alabama

•  Could have had: WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame (Seattle)

It isn’t that Arenas doesn’t fit in well with the Chiefs as a reserve cornerback, but rather that Pioli picked him 50th overall primarily as a return specialist. He went too early, while Tate, who went 60th overall, could have done at least as well returning kicks and would’ve helped a depleted wide receiver group.

Third round, No. 68 overall

•  Chiefs picked: G Jon Asamoah, Illinois

•  Could have had: WR Eric Decker, Minnesota

Asamoah has been a solid choice, with 31 starts in the last two seasons, but Decker — selected 87th — has scored 21 touchdowns the last two seasons. Quarterback Colt McCoy also was available as a potential challenger for Cassel, and Bears safety Major Wright was there for the taking.

Third round, No. 93 overall

•  Chiefs picked: TE Tony Moeaki, Iowa

•  Could have had: TE Jimmy Graham, University of Miami (New Orleans)

So, you want a tight end? Fine, but Pioli whiffed in going with the oft-injured Moeaki, who played for his pal Kirk Ferentz in college. New Orleans snagged Graham, who had 99 catches for 1,310 yards with 11 touchdowns in 2011 alone, two picks later.

Fifth round, No. 136 overall

•  Chiefs picked: S Kendrick Lewis, Mississippi

•  Could have had: Lewis

Lewis has been a solid performer for the Chiefs — perhaps better even than fans seem to believe. Last season was marred by injury, but Lewis should bounce back. He had three interceptions his first two seasons and makes the calls on defense, which isn’t bad for a fifth-round pick.

Fifth round, No. 142 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DE Cameron Sheffield, Troy

•  Could have had: OT J’Marcus Webb, West Texas A&M (Chicago)

Sheffield started one game in a 17-game NFL career, while Webb (218th overall) has started 44 games — mostly at left tackle — for the Bears in three NFL seasons.

2009 draft

First round, No. 3 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DE Tyson Jackson, LSU

•  Could have had: DT B.J. Raji, Boston College (Green Bay)

By all accounts, Jackson was a reach at No. 3 overall, and he’s yet to produce at anything approaching the level expected of a top draft choice, with just five sacks in 59 games. Meanwhile, Raji, who went six picks later, has been a Pro Bowl anchor for Green Bay’s defensive line. Tackles Andre Smith and Eugene Monroe also would’ve made sense.

Second round, No. 34 overall

•  Chiefs picked: Traded the pick to New England for QB Matt Cassel

•  Could have had: S Jairus Byrd, Oregon (Buffalo)

While it didn’t work out (and handing Cassel an immediate long-term extension was premature), the trade was a good risk. The Chiefs needed a quarterback, and he’d won 10 games as a starter in 2008 with the Patriots. But a ball-hawking Pro Bowl safety would have been nice too. Byrd went 42nd overall.

Third round, No. 67 overall

•  Chiefs picked: DT Alex Magee, Purdue

•  Could have had: WR Mike Wallace, Mississippi (Pittsburgh)

Magee made 18 tackles in 25 games and was out of the league after two seasons, while Wallace, who went 17 picks later, is the deep threat the Chiefs have sorely lacked in a beleaguered offense.

Fourth round, No. 102 overall

•  Chiefs picked: CB Donald Washington, Ohio State

•  Could have had: DT Henry Melton, Texas (Chicago)

Melton, who went three players after Washington and has 15 1/2 sacks in three seasons, might not have been a perfect fit in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense, but he’d have been a better choice than Washington, who never had an interception in 32 career games.

Fifth round, No. 139 overall

•  Chiefs picked: T Colin Brown, Missouri

•  Could have had: LB Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina (Minnesota)

Even Mizzou fans scratched their heads about this pick. Brown has played 12 games for the Bills in the last three seasons. Meanwhile, Brinkley, who was chosen 11 picks later, and Dolphins safety Chris Clemons have been far more productive NFL players.

Sixth round, No. 175 overall

•  Chiefs picked: WR Quinten Lawrence, McNeese State

•  Could have had: CB Jason McCourty, Rutgers (Tennessee)

Lawrence never made much impact, participating primarily on special teams, while McCourty (203rd overall) has emerged a solid-tackling, top-tier cornerback.

Seventh round, No. 212 overall

•  Chiefs picked: RB Javarris Williams, Tennessee State

•  Could have had: WR Julian Edelman, Kent State (New England)

Williams never stuck in the NFL, racking up six career carries for six yards, while Edelman (232nd overall) might’ve solved the Chiefs’ return issues while providing depth at wide receiver.

Seventh round, No. 237 overall

•  Chiefs picked: TE Jake O’Connell, Miami (Ohio)

•  Could have had: G Lance Louis, San Diego State (Chicago)

O’Connell has played in 35 games, but has just 15 catches for 108 yards and no touchdowns in four seasons with the Chiefs, while Louis (No. 246 overall) has started 24 games in the last two seasons mostly at right guard.

Seventh round, No. 256

•  Chiefs picked: K Ryan Succop, South Carolina

•  Could have had: Succop

Mr. Irrelevant filled a need and — by and large — has filled it well for four seasons. But he’ll be challenged to keep his job after a missing four field-goal attempts inside 39 yards this past season.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to Follow him at

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