Any immediate and definitive reaction to an NFL draft pick is always an overreaction, which means there is a whole mess of overreaction all across America right now. And in Kansas City, that overreaction mostly sounds like this:
The Chiefs used their first pick, 23rd overall, to take an outside linebacker from Auburn named Dee Ford and unwittingly let down a fan base hoping for something else.
Ford is a terrific pass rusher who comes at quarterbacks like a bullet, and the Chiefs need another pass rusher. They’ll need one even more after this season, when Tamba Hali will be a year older and Justin Houston will either be gone on a free agent contract or in Kansas City for much more money than the third-round contract he signed three years ago.
But for now, the pick is something like a buzzkill for a fan base that had momentarily been worked into a frenzy by the possibility of Johnny Manziel’s traveling circus coming to Kansas City (the Browns traded up and took him immediately before the Chiefs’ pick) and thought USC receiver Marqise Lee or Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard would’ve made for a fine consolation prize.
There is nothing in sports (and maybe outside of sports) where more is made of something people know less about than the NFL Draft. That includes fans and media (me very much included) and even NFL executives. Study after study have shown that the most successful teams in the draft tend to be the ones with the most picks, the way you have a better chance of winning the lottery the more tickets you buy.
But everyone has an opinion about it, and those opinions are stronger every year. That’s never been truer than this year, with the draft pushed back two weeks. And for whatever reason, a lot of Chiefs fans spent most of that time thinking about wide receivers.
None of this has anything to do with whether Ford will be a good player for the Chiefs, but it is a product of the growing accessibility of draft interest and motivationwhere everyone is Mike Mayock.
Draft winners and losers are not only labeled immediately, but now they are also increasingly celebrated and mocked immediately.
The Chiefs have a lot of holes on the roster, especially for a team good enough to rest its starters before a playoff game last year. So they could’ve used Lee, who sureseemed
like a good fit for Andy Reid’s offense. And they could’ve used Dennard, whose physical style and experience in press coverage is a mirror for what defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and general manager John Dorsey have shown themselves to favor.
But the only logical way to view these things is through the thought process of the men making the decisions, tinted yea or nay by whether you trust them.
After dragging the Chiefs from the civic embarrassment of 2012 to the playoffs in 2013 (the ending notwithstanding), Reid and Dorsey have the benefit of the doubt. Knowing a little about how they think, they probably would’ve preferred to trade out and stockpile more picks. By the randomness of the NFL draft, it was the pick ahead of them that became the prize.
Dorsey is a devout member of the Church of Best Player Available, and Reid often talks of building from the line of scrimmage out. So assuming Ford was at the top of the Chiefs’ board when the pick came up, the only delay was waiting to see if a too-good-to-refuse trade offer materialized.
The way Reid describes Ford, you hear a lot of similarities to Hali. Intelligence. Effort. Discipline. Reid used the term “energy giver,” and that’s always been something he and Dorsey have been attracted to. Actually, it’s one of the shared worldviews that drew them together in the first place. Behind the scenes, there is a genuine joy they were able to draft Ford.
So now comes the part where we all transition from pretending we know what’s going to happen in the draft, to pretending we know what’s going to happen with draft picks. What you think of this pick is basically a combination of how much you trust the Chiefs’ leadership and how deeply you bought into all the draft hype around other players.
The Chiefs have a lot of areas to improve. They need to think about those areas in both the short and long term. If there really is the depth of wide receivers that the cottage industry of draft analysis is projecting, then the Chiefs can address that need later.
For now, all we know is what we think of the Chiefs’ leadership and the thought process that will bring Ford to Kansas City. So far, so good.