Red Zone

January 24, 2014

Kiper regrades the 2013 NFL Draft, plus more thoughts on Chiefs rookies

With the season drawing to a close, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper recently went back and regraded the 2013 NFL Draft. After assigning the Chiefs a “B” initially after the draft, he decided to downgrade them to a B-.

Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

With the season drawing to a close, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper recently went back and regraded the 2013 NFL Draft


After assigning the Chiefs a B initially after the draft, he decided to downgrade them to a B-.

His reasoning?

“If you just base it on production from the rookie class, this would be considered a pretty disappointing draft,” Kiper wrote. “But there’s more to it than that. The Chiefs’ single greatest need going into the 2013 offseason was to fix the QB situation, and while Alex Smith isn’t Joe Montana, it’s pretty clear they got the best return from a QB that came via the price of a draft pick. The trade with the 49ers now looks pretty good, and Smith was solid if not spectacular, and aided a huge turnaround.”

“After that? Well, there are questions. We knew (left tackle Eric) Fisher faced a tough transition, and simply moving to the right side isn’t some transitional cure. It showed. He was better late, but he didn’t play to the level of a top pick. (Running back Knile) Davis could be good, but can he hang onto the ball? Cornerback Marcus Cooper counts with the rookie class, and while he flashed well, he also got exposed badly when he faced better QBs. The Chiefs got a QB, and that helps the grade, but we still need another season or two to see what else they got.”

Good take by Kiper. Allow me to elaborate on what he wrote, plus add a few thoughts of my own regarding the Chiefs’ 2013 rookie class.

• Kiper was correct about Fisher’s performance, but the good news for the Chiefs is that it’s way too early to count him out. He had a rough season, but the staff was happy with the way he kept battling as he struggled with a troublesome shoulder, a new position and inconsistent technique. He needs to heal up this offseason, gain 15 pounds and come out in the preseason with an attitude. If he does not win the starting left tackle job in 2014, it is an indictment on him; he’s a player the Chiefs’ new regime simply cannot afford to let fail, and they will not let him get embarrassed. If that means keeping him at right tackle, then so be it.

That said, I’ve heard the team is pleased with development of Donald Stephenson, who served as Branden Albert’s backup at left tackle this season. If Fisher fails to deliver on his promise, it still be a blow to the franchise, but one that could be lessened by Stephenson’s presence.

• The team remains high on running back Knile Davis, who regained the coaches’ trust after his two-fumble performance against Indianapolis.

• There was a time last year when the Chiefs thought tight end might be their strongest position, and third-rounder Travis Kelce’s presence was a big part of that. The Chiefs will hope he’s healthier this year, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t try to fortify the position somewhat via free agency or the draft.

• Fourth-round linebacker Nico Johnson improved as the year went on, but rarely saw the field on defense. He needs to have a big offseason if he wants to make an impact in his second year.

• Don’t sleep on Sanders Commings. The fifth-rounder was banged up because of injuries, but the Chiefs remain high on his potential as a centerfield-type at free safety. He needs a big offseason but there are some with the team who wouldn’t be surprised if he earned the job.

• Sixth-round center Eric Kush needs to get stronger, but the Chiefs were happy with the effort he played with against San Diego. He played hard and showed really good athleticism in getting to the second level.

• Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton seems to like seventh-round defensive end Mike Catapano, who has some pass-rush skills. However, I find it really interesting he only played 17 snaps against a pass-happy San Diego team, while two bigger nose tackles ― Jerrell Powe and Jaye Howard ― each played more than double that amount.

• Tyler Bray really benefitted from being in the same quarterback room with Chase Daniel and Alex Smith, two smart guys who know what it takes to be a professional. He still has a lot of room to improve and the Chiefs will find some competition for him, but Bray remains in the mix to return as the No. 3 quarterback.

• Cooper still fits the mold of what the Chiefs are looking for in a cornerback; big, long and physical. He played well against Indianapolis after he was benched a few weeks earlier. That shows he has some mental toughness, which is a must at that position. If he can shore up his technique, it will go a long way toward helping him find the same form he did the first half of the season, when he emerged as perhaps the defense’s most pleasant surprise

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