Scott Pioli Not A Fan Of Drafting Safties Early

SI’s Peter King took to his MMQB column to attack the idea of taking Eric Berry (or any safety) in the top 10.  In it he has a very interesting conversation between Scott Pioli and one of his former New England peers.

Berry looks like a top-10 pick, but the team that takes him is going to be picking against history.  Of the four top-10 safeties this decade, none has had franchise-player impact: Sean Taylor (Washington, fifth overall, 2004), Michael Huff (Oakland, seventh, 2006), Donte Whitner (Buffalo, eighth, 2006), LaRon Landry (Washington, sixth, 2007).  Taylor might have had franchise-player impact if he had not been gunned down three-and-a-half years into his career.  But overall, the position justifies the caution lots of teams are taking with it.

Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff calls the safety-at-the-top-of-the-draft debate a conundrum.  “It’s been on my mind a lot lately,” he said, “and I realize I’m speaking out of both sides of my mouth here, but Berry’s a really good player.  It’s been on my mind quite a bit recently.  You want the good hitter with hip movement, able to turn and run, but then reality sets in.  I was talking to [Kansas City GM] Scott Pioli about Berry, and I said, ‘Scott, this guy’s your pick.’  And he said, ‘You know how I feel about safeties that early.’  And I understand.”

I’m not saying Berry won’t be a great player.  Maybe he’ll be Ed Reed.  Maybe he’ll know when to dish out the big hit and when to steer a player instead of seek and destroy.  But the odds of him being great for a long time — as opposed to the physical longevity of a tackle or defensive lineman or quarterback not subject to as many high-speed collisions — are pretty long, based on history.

Definitely some good food for thought as we prepare for the draft over the next month.

Pioli having an all-in-good-fun talk with an old buddy about the current crop of draft eligible players isn’t going to convince me or anyone else that the Chiefs will refuse to take a safety in the top 5.  I feel confident saying that Berry on opening day 2010 will already be better player than any of the safeties taken in the top 10 this decade.

What King fails to mention is that Ed Reed didn’t miss one single game the first 8 and a half years of his career.  It wasn’t until this past season he missed week’s 13-16.  But I’m sure the Chiefs feel better about the fact that they took Ryan Sims and his “physical longevity” in the 2002 draft instead of Reed.

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