Written By Brandon Spano
If you can take yourself back to March of this year, you can vividly remember an internet community full of mock drafts and college player rankings. Everybody was an expert and everybody knew what their team needed and who their team should draft.
For Chiefs fans, these mock draftís were full of linebackers and nose tackles with a kick returner sprinkled in for the later rounds. The players that the Chiefs currently had playing the front seven positions were looked at as busts, past their prime, or mediocre with a dash of upside.
The offensive lineman where either considered aging or one dimensional Even after the Chiefs went out and signed a not so new center and guard in Ryan Lilja and Casey Weigmann, the experts still said that the Chiefs needed a true left tackle and repeated that Branden Albert was playing out of position and was the Chiefs biggest liability.
The Chiefs front office might as well have looked at the national media and laughed in their face. They knew something that nobody else did. They did what they have been doing since day one. Creating an agenda and sticking to it no matter what anyone thinks about it.
Itís that kind of thought process that can make someone either look like a genius or get them thrown out of town with a career ending reputation like Matt Millen.
For Scott Pioli, this is looking like not only his best draft ever, but possibly the greatest draft in Chiefs history. Is it far fetched to say something like that when we are only half way through the rookie season of these players, but never before has a entire rookie class came in and contributed as mightily as these players have.
The Chiefs started out their dominant draft by selecting safety Eric Berry from Tennessee instead of tackle Russell Okung from Oklahoma State. So much for the immanent replacement of Branden Albert.
Pioli banked on Albert improving. He knew that the Chiefs weakest link the previous year was safety and thatís why he went against his usual conservative draft structure and picked Eric Berry with the fifth pick in the draft. Some people might question whether or not the Chiefs biggest need was a safety, but if you followed Todd Haleyís or Scott Pioliís interviews throughout the off season, you heard about the problems that they had in the defensive backfield and in some cases, the play of the front seven was almost blamed completely on the safety play.
The Chiefs didnít stop with Eric Berry. They selected another safety in the fifth round named Kendrick Lewis out of Mississippi. If you werenít convinced that safety was the Chiefs biggest need in 2009, the fact that both of these players are now starting should prove different. Kendrick Lewis has started along side Berry since day one.
Whatís funny is that these picks were looked at as building blocks to jump start an awful position group and have now turned into an exciting aspect of the Chiefs defense. The days of missed open field tackles have disappeared and outside of a few blown coverageís due to over commitment in the short game, the Chiefs have allowed very few big plays compared their previous defense a year ago.
Eric Berry, especially, has not only increased the speed of the Chiefs defense, but has been as strong in the run game as any Chiefs safety in the past decade. With four passes deflected and two interceptions in the past two weeks, Eric Berry is really coming on strong and is looking like a player that is only going to get better over time.
After last weeks team leading 10 tackle performance, Eric Berry now has 41 combined tackles and 31 solo tackles, ranking second among all other Chiefs defenders. Overall, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis have helped the Chiefs defense improve to 16th overall in yards allowed and 23rd in passing yards allowed. Thatís much better than last year and not too bad for a team that has played the top 5 passing attacks of Indianapolis and San Diego, and also the 9th ranked passing attack of Houston.
Another solid contributor of the defense has been second round pick Javier Arenas from Alabama. Arenas has played exclusively as the Chiefs starting nickel cornerback and has also been the teams main kick and punt returner. As a defender, Arenas has shown great speed and lock down ability, usually if not always making the tackle after his opponent receives a short pass. That is if he doesnít bat the ball down first.
Arenas has been seen blitzing off the edge, forcing an opposing QB to release the ball faster from time to time and like his rookie counterparts at safety, has been absolutely exceptional in the run game, rarely missing tackles when the runner gets to him.
As a returner, Arenas has been solid. Especially for a rookie. He has stepped in and took full responsibility for the majority of the Chiefs return game. The outcome is almost 10 yards per return during punts and just under 22 yards per return during kickoffs.
Considering that cornerback was looked as the Chiefs strong point, nobody other than the Chiefs front office thought that they would take a cornerback with one of their two second round picks, but like every other pick that they made, most people are thrilled by it now.
The other second round pick prior to Arenas was the Chiefs most controversial pick during this years draft. Most Chiefs fans and experts alike had them taking an instant impact big man on either side of the line. The Chiefs did the exact opposite and selected a 170 pound speedster who played running back at Ole Miss. As we all know now, this would be the fan favorite known as Dexter McCluster.
Dexter has arguably made the biggest impact out of all rookies on the team. He lines up often at running back, wide receiver, slot receiver, wild cat QB and has helped out in the punt and kick game as a returner.
As we saw on Sunday, the Chiefs offense is just not the same without him. He has created major match up problems with opposing linebackers and corners alike. He is one of those players that can end up with 3 catches for 22 yards in a game, but was responsible for almost the entire success of the offense because of the opposing defenseís need to contain him, allowing other players to succeed in the process.
McCluster is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and 10 yards per catch. In his last game against Jacksonville, he had a total of 9 touches for 69 yards. In other words, he is a first down waiting to happen. Just another rookie that is changing the face of this team immediately.
In stories like this, there are always unsung heroes or guys that have not been given the same opportunity as others. In this story that gentlemenís name is Jon Asamoah. The same Jon Asamoah that I said the Chiefs should draft about eight months ago.
Asamoah came into a tough situation with established veterans above him on the depth chart, but when starting right tackle Ryan Lilja went down a week ago, It was the third round pick from Illinois that stepped in to replace him. Replace him is a good term to use, because Asamoah was playing like he should ďreplaceĒ him.
Donít get me wrong either, Iím not saying that Ryan Lilja is no good. I think that he has played great. But Jon Asamoah was a beast against the Bills and looked like another Pioli draft pick that can seriously play some football. Iím sure the job is Liljaís when he comes back, but Asamoah certainly looks like the guard of the future.
If you were to pick out any other team in the league, I could write an article about their impact rookies and what they mean to their team. The article would have ended a long time ago though. I could focus on the two or maybe three starting rookies on that team and most of the article would be based on potential.
For me to be able to go through almost every single rookie drafted and legitimately go over how much of an impact they have had is unfathomable. Itís unreal. I have a hard time believing that the average fan really understands how special this is.
Itís almost as special as Tony Moeaki, the tight end from Iowa. I saved the best for last, of coarse. This guy is a human highlight reel. One handed catches and blindly keeping his toes in bounds are as normal to this guy, as putting your socks on are to you.
In my humble opinion, he is the teams most valuable rookie. He is the player that makes this thing tick. He comes up with big catch after big catch and almost makes Tony Gonzales wearing a Falcons uniform acceptable. Keep in mind, I did say ďalmost.Ē
Whatís funny about Moeaki is that his receiving skills are not even the best thing about him. If you show me 10 great running plays, Iíll show you 5 of them that wouldnít have happened without him. He dead honestly could be considered one of the best blocking tight ends in football, 8 games into his rookie season.
His upside is sick and scary. He is leading the entire team in receptions and came down with two huge catches in overtime to beat the Bills last Sunday. Talk about fourth round value.
I will soon release you from this mind numbing article, but before I go, I have to mention that 6 out of the 7 players drafted last April are suiting up and playing major roles at a very high level on Sundays. The only player who isnít is Cameron Sheffield, who is on IR because of a pre season neck injury. It is safe to say though, that Sheffield looked like a fierce pass rusher who was going to be able to play situational downs for the Chiefs this season.
Itís very normal for players to keep getting better after their rookie season. The fact that the Chiefs have six rookies that can get better than they are right now, is remarkable.
We might be witnessing the best Chiefs draft class of all time.