Chiefs seeking sleepers, as usual


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Jan 22, 2006
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Chiefs seeking sleepers, as usual
Apr 11, 2006, 5:02:33 AM by Jonathan Rand - FAQ

When it comes to the first round of the draft on April 29, Chiefs fans once again will feel like mice on a treadmill. The Chiefs pick 20th, a reminder of another season with not enough wins for a satisfying conclusion but too many wins for a top 10 pick.

Yet, history tells us that a steady diet of top 10 picks is not a sign of a healthy franchise. The Chiefs had seven top 10 picks from 1977-1988 while making the playoffs only once. They’ve had only two top 10 picks since Carl Peterson took over the front office in 1989 and have made the playoffs eight times, though just once since 1997.

The Chiefs used the fourth overall pick in 1989 to draft linebacker Derrick Thomas and the sixth pick in 2002 for defensive tackle Ryan Sims. The Chiefs hit the bull’s eye with Thomas, but not with Sims.

It seems odd that a team could miss the playoffs seven times in the last eight years, yet consistently get mid- to late-round picks in the first round. But the Chiefs haven’t stumbled badly enough to wind up in the top 10 on draft day. Frankly, they wouldn’t want to be there, anyway.

Teams drafting in the top 10 are seldom one blue-chipper away from the Super Bowl. This is the draft day order of the top 10 selections: Houston, New Orleans, Tennessee, New York Jets, Green Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Buffalo, Detroit, and Arizona.

These teams fall into three categories:

Perennial losers who can’t seem to get it right, no matter how many high picks they get. These are the Texans, Lions and Cardinals.

Playoff teams of recent years that succumbed to a salary cap meltdown, free agency losses, key retirements, a misguided coaching change or key injuries: The Titans, Jets, Packers, 49ers and Raiders belong here.

Teams that kept finishing around .500 and hoped they were on the verge of breaking through, only to find themselves breaking down. These are the Saints and Bills.

While it may seem crass to knock a team that’s existed only four years, there’s no way the Texans, 2-14 in 2005, should have so many holes after having three top 10 picks and five first-round picks overall. Given stable ownership and a proven general manager, Charley Casserly, their regression is puzzling.

The annual woes of the Cardinals and Lions are easier to understand. They’ve been messing up in the draft since most of us can remember.

The Cards’ haplessness in the draft was legendary in St. Louis, and it’s continued in Arizona. They’ve been in the top 10 for 10 of their 15 first-round picks since 1993, and have made the playoffs only once.

The Lions have drafted in the top 10 each of the past four years, but haven’t won more than six games since 2000.

Such prolonged losing is surprising because you’d think that in the free agency era, a couple of high draft picks could change anyone’s luck. Yet a team like the Indianapolis Colts, which went from a doormat to a perennial playoff team by drafting quarterback Peyton Manning and running back Edgerrin James in successive years, is the exception rather than the rule.

The Chiefs, as usual, will be searching for another sleeper pick. They were able last year to get a top 10-caliber pick, linebacker Derrick Johnson, at No. 15. But they will be harder pressed to pull that trick off again at No. 20. Then again, they picked Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson with the 27th pick in 2003.

This draft’s especially important for the Chiefs because they’ve made it clear they won’t be big players in free agency, and they need to inject more youth in their roster. That means drafting players who’ll be making less of a splash in April than in December.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.
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