The fine folks at the Fanball Sports Network — where I am a contributor — are conducting their first annual NFL Mock Draft. Unlike many mocks out there, these picks are being made by the people that cover the teams on a daily basis and know each franchise inside and out.
I have been asked to make the selection for the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 5 and will try not to do them justice with their third top five pick in as many years. But first, let me set the scene with the first four choices.
1. St. Louis Rams – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
2. Detroit Lions – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
4. Washington Redskins – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
In this situation, the three players the Chiefs could most use: Suh, Berry and Okung are all off the board, which would set the stage for the draft to really blow up.
Obviously any team looking for a quarterback and are hot after Sam Bradford would have to deal with Kansas City in order to prevent the Seattle Seahawks from taking the Oklahoma signal caller.
If Scott Pioli is looking at a board without the above four players and isn’t presented with a trade offer that moves him, he can stay safe with OTs Anthony Davis and Bryan Bulaga, LB Rolando McClain or take the high-risk high-reward playmaker in WR Dez Bryant.
But in my mind there is a player that is both safe and a big time playmaker.
With the fifth pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select:
Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Currently, most experts are projecting Haden to fall anywhere between 7-15 but the same was being said of last year’s No. 1 pick Tyson Jackson out of LSU. Once the Chiefs — and the rest of the league — get a chance to get a good look at the Gators best defender (sorry, Carlos Dunlap) at the combine and then Florida’s pro day, you will see Haden skyrocket up draft boards.
I have heard all of the arguments against taking any cornerback this high, especially when it isn’t nearly one of the Chiefs biggest needs.
Yes, the offensive line needs to be upgraded, but they showed late in the season — thanks in large part to Jamaal Charles — that they can get the job done adequately. The defense, on the other hand, was constantly giving up big plays right until the final weeks of the regular season. Pairing Haden with Brandon Flowers would immediately allow new defensive coordinator to blitz without worrying about the Miles Austin’s of the world from taking a simple 10 yard pass to the house.
The same with wide receiver. For Matt Cassel to take a few more steps forward, he has to have receivers that will not only catch the ball but actually do something with it. No one can deny that Bryant has immense talent and could be a huge player in this league. But you also shouldn’t overlook that he hasn’t played any sort of competitive football since September when he was suspended by Oklahoma State. You are always taking a huge gamble with college players coming off that long of a layoff.
It’s true that in the past three years a cornerback has not been drafted higher than 11th (2008, Leodis McKelvin) and outside of Haden there isn’t another player currently worth a Top 15 pick. I would argue that when you have a talent so far and away better than the rest it doesn’t matter where they historically are selected.
In 2007, the New York Jets traded up in the first round to take Darrelle Revis. If there was a re-draft right now, is there any way Revis slips out of the top 5? Revis has more than proven himself his first two years in the NFL, but I fully expect Haden to equal all of Revis’ pro day numbers, including a chance at a sub 4.4 40 yard dash. And if you watched Florida play at all this year, you saw a lot of Revis in Haden.
Revis comparisons aside, the Kansas City Chiefs would be getting one of the most complete packages in the draft. Unlike many top shelf cover corners, Haden isn’t afraid to get dirty. He is superior in run support and has been known to deliver his fair share of big hits and was one of the best blitzing corners in college football. Oh, and he was only the first true freshman cornerback in 101 years of Florida Gators football to start on opening day, a job he never relinquished in three years.
Above all else it’s important to remember that it is extremely rare a team ever has a chance to sign an elite corner on the open market. On the very off chance you do get a shot at a true shutdown corner, you have to open up the checkbook and outbid 15-20 other teams falling over themselves trying to find that one guy that will close off half the field.