Year two of the Scott Pioli era began much the same as year one. The Chiefs again found themselves with a top five pick and plenty of holes that needed filling. Pioli seems to be building the Chiefs in the image of head coach Todd Haley with a tough, no nonsense approach that values consistency in play over upside potential. Picking in the top five, however, gave the team the option of adding a player that has both upside and focus. Brent Foshee grades out the Chiefs draft effort.
The Chiefs had to be happy that Eric Berry, rated by many as the best player in the draft, fell in their laps. An exciting playmaker that delivers big hits, Berry makes plays from sideline to sideline, and never takes a down off. He’s the best safety prospect to come out of college in years. Fully capable of lining up as a cornerback, zone or short coverage situations, Berry will be able to make an impact as a rookie and should be a perennial All Pro for the team over the course of the next decade. Berry also offers the Chiefs a face for the franchise, something rarely seen from a safety.
Kansas City made Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster their second choice at the top of the second round. McCluster is a small-bodied skill player adept at catching passes as well as serving as a return specialist. The Chiefs are expected to turn McCluster into a slot receiver so that they can get him the ball without exposing his diminutive frame to a great deal of contact. In the open field McCluster can be dangerous.
Despite the selection of a defensive back with their first choice and a return specialist in round two, the Chiefs chose Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas at pick number 50. Arenas, like McCluster, is a small bodied player that makes up for his lack of size with his propensity for explosiveness. Considered by many to be the best punt return specialist in the draft, it looks like the Chiefs plan to use him as a nickel cornerback playing over the slot receiver. Arenas is fast and quick inside 15 yards, displaying the ability to change direction immediately while remaining balanced. Though short he does show the ability to get a good jump on the ball and is feisty defending the pass. Should Arenas see action as a punt returner his impact will grow tremendously.
After adding Ryan Lilja in free agency the team continued to reshape its interior offensive line by adding Jon Asamoah a round later. A physical player who is best in a small area, Asamoah will benefit from a year in an NFL off-season program. With Brian Waters and Lilja slated to start ahead of him, Asamoah is in a position to add some more muscle mass, and possibly work on his mechanics, before being asked to play meaningful snaps. Asamoah is adept at both run and pass blocking but does have trouble blocking on the move or in the open field. A season of NFL coaching and conditioning without the pressure of being a starter should be enough to prepare him for a long career as a good NFL starting guard.
To date tight end Tony Moeaki has been a one trick pony. An excellent receiver who displays good hands, Moeaki ran better at the combine than many expected. He lacks great growth potential and never figures to be much of a force as a blocker but as a pass catching tight end, he has the potential to be productive. He was, by all accounts, the most dominant rookie at the teams post draft OTA. Along with McCluster, Moeaki gives quarterback Matt Cassel another option in the passing game, which should help the Chiefs gain some offensive balance moving forward.
Kendrick Lewis is another player with less than stellar size that overcomes his physical limitations with hustle and ferocity. The former Ole Miss safety is solid if unspectacular in coverage. Limited athletically, Lewis is able to stay in position and fights to make plays when the opportunity presents itself. Though he is unlikely to challenge for a starting job anytime soon he is the kind of player that will work hard every time he steps onto the field. Lewis does project as a very good contributor on special teams.
Cameron Sheffield was the Chiefs final pick. An outstanding collegiate defensive end, Sheffield projects to outside linebacker in the Chiefs system. Another player who is small for his position, Sheffield, like the other Chiefs selections, displays a high motor, which serves him well. He will need to learn to do a better job getting off of blocks but he clearly has a nose for the ball and is very adept at sacking the quarterback.
Grade: (C+) Eric Berry alone is enough to give the Chiefs a passing grade. What I really like about this draft is that the team clearly went after players that other teams shied away from due to size limitations. No fewer than six of their picks, and arguably their first choice as well, are considered small for their position. Each one is also considered to be an explosive athlete, a high effort player, or both. The Chiefs didn’t qualify for the playoffs with this draft but they are a year closer and can field a team in 2010 that has much more athletic ability than their 2009 squad.