We just can't wait to rate the rookies


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Jan 22, 2006
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We just can't wait to rate the rookies
May 11, 2006, 4:33:14 AM by Jonathan Rand

Chiefs’ coaches will get to put their rookies on the field for the first time this weekend and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching these workouts, it’s that you can’t learn much.

In fact, you’ll usually learn more about a rookie from one regular-season game than from watching his entire spring and summer of workouts.

Sure, it’s fun to see what the Chiefs’ draftees look like once they’re all together in the same place. And it’s fun to form your own opinions about who looks like a player and who doesn’t. But looks can be, and often are, deceiving.

Remember, Chiefs scouts have been evaluating these players in person and on tape for the last few years and have worked them out since the end of the college season. If coaches, scouts and general managers really could learn all they need to know from watching workouts, nobody in the league would ever make a poor draft pick.

Smarter people than I have been fooled by what they see during drills. Former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, explaining the ill-fated decision to stick with the same defensive cast that allowed 38 points to the Colts in the 2003 playoffs, said that off-season practices led him to overrate the development of some returning defensive players.

Indeed, one day’s practice-field wonder may turn out to be the next day’s cut.

Nick Murphy, a late-season pickup in 2004, was punting the heck out of the ball in drills last year. Dustin Colquitt won the job.

Few quarterbacks ever look bad in drills because they’re not facing a pass rush and their receivers run free through the secondary. But the first few passes that rookie James Kilian threw in the 2005 preseason made it clear he wouldn’t be throwing for the Chiefs.

Joe Montana went through training camps with the Chiefs in 1993 and 1994. While he appeared efficient and in charge during drills, he didn’t do a whole lot to make you think you were watching the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

If you didn’t recognize tackle Willie Roaf, you’d never believe that bear of a man who limps through every training camp is headed for the Hall of Fame. For obvious athleticism, Roaf would be one of the last players to catch your eye.

Problem is, not all great athletes are great football players. Running a 40-yard dash and running a pass pattern in pads while a defender waits to clobber you are entirely different undertakings. Playing two-hand touch during drills is a much different ballgame from full-contact scrimmages or 60 minutes of mayhem on Sunday.

The Chiefs’ first-round pick, defensive end Tamba Hali, has been criticized for not having a sparkling 40-yard dash time. The only relevant element of Hali’s speed, however, is how fast he’ll look shedding a blocker and bearing down on a quarterback.

Fact is, we won’t be able to correctly evaluate these players for at least a couple of years. But when it’s been four and a half months since the Chiefs wrapped up last season, who can resist the temptation to start evaluating the rookies now? Correctly or not.

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