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C-Mac
04-05-2007, 09:08 PM
RAND: A long-term strategy
Apr 05, 2007, 2:53:47 AM by Jonathan Rand - FAQ


For those of you lamenting the Chiefs’ 23rd spot in the first round of the April 28-29 draft, you should take some solace from savvy Wall Street investors.

They’ll tell you that, providing you don’t buy into a company that goes bankrupt, it doesn’t matter what stock you buy as much as how you manage it. One person buys a stock in a solid company but panics and unloads it at the first serious dip. Another person holds the same stock, watches it multiply over the years and makes a fat profit or passes it on to the kids.

While everybody would like to get a piece of that hot stock that doubles in a year, realists are delighted to hold an investment that can double in five years.

The same lesson applies to the NFL draft. Every team would love to grab one of the top five picks each year but that’s not realistic unless that team keeps losing a dozen or so games. Teams know that if they draft intelligently, they’ll get at least their fair share of players who can help them win – providing they match them with the right coaching staff in the right system in a stable atmosphere.

The Chiefs in the past 10 drafts have picked in the first half of the first round only four times and the top 10 just once. They’ve made the playoffs just three times over that stretch but nobody around Arrowhead would blame the playoff misses on the Chiefs’ position in the draft.

Admittedly, the Chiefs have been on fire when picking between 13th and 15th spots, where since 1997 they’ve drafted tight end Tony Gonzalez, tackle John Tait and linebacker Derrick Johnson. But defensive tackle Ryan Sims, the sixth overall pick in 2002, may have a hard time making the team this summer.

One of the Chiefs’ most inspired picks ever, Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson, fell to the 27th spot in 2003. That was the Chiefs’ lowest first-round pick since they drafted tackle Victor Riley in 1998. They didn’t have first-round picks in 2001 and 2004.

The Chiefs’ best overall draft in a decade came last year, even though they picked 20th. They acquired a starting defensive end, Tamba Hali and promising safeties Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page. Wide receiver Jeff Webb and quarterback Brodie Croyle could put the icing on that cake.

Draftniks place too much emphasis on the success of first-round picks. A successful 2006 draft was especially important for the Chiefs because in previous years they’d had too many misses in the second through fourth rounds. Then they tried to compensate for the consequent holes on the roster by signing veteran free agents who too often haven’t panned out.

Having four head coaches during the past decade hasn’t maximized the benefit of Chiefs drafts, either. Players drafted for one system often become obsolete in another. Kris Wilson, picked in the second round of 2004 to become a big-play tight end in Dick Vermeil’s passing offense, wouldn’t be nearly as vital to Herm Edwards’ offense even if he’d stayed healthy.

Former Cowboys director of player personnel Gil Brandt points out on nfl.com that owning top-10 picks isn’t necessarily the road to the Super Bowl. Over the past decade, the Cardinals have had eight top-10 picks and the Lions have had seven. The Cardinals have one playoff berth, in 1998, and the Lions have two, most recently in 1999, during that stretch.

The Patriots, Steelers and Colts between them have had only four top-10 picks over the past decade. Yet they combine for 17 playoff berths over that stretch and have won five of the past six Super Bowls.

They haven’t gotten rich buying the hot stocks. Though the Colts got quarterback Peyton Manning with the first overall pick, the Patriots drafted Tom Brady, another quarterback headed for the Hall of Fame, in the sixth round. All three of these teams have been smart, sound and stable and have made the most of their draft opportunities.

Because all three live in the AFC, it becomes all the more crucial for the Chiefs to choose and invest wisely when making their picks at the end of the month.