Re-Drafting the Kansas City Chiefs' 2013 Draft
Last offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs were entering the 2013 NFL draft as a remodeled and rebranded enigma. Now, with a year in the history books, let's assume the role of armchair architect and indulge in a round (or in this case, six) of revisionist history.
The three days saw John Dorsey authoring an eight-pack of picks, including the coveted No. 1 (overall) selection that ultimately enlisted Eric Fisher.
However, a plague of injuries marred the class, infiltrating Kansas City's crop of youngsters throughout the preseason and persistently haunting it well into Wild Card Weekend.
All things considered, if the following class was filed into Arrowhead's archives, a playoff run would've graduated from an afterthought to an aftereffect.
Revisiting the Chiefs' 2013 Class
For small-school tackle Eric Fisher, the path to the pros entailed its share of figurative bumps and literal bruises along the way, as he—enduring a sizable talent leap, position change and unremitting injuries (two of which required offseason surgery, per the man himself)—struggled out of the gate.
However, he began to acclimate throughout the latter half of the season, allowing just one sack (subscription required) in his final five (regular season) games.
Knile Davis looked more like the 2010 Heisman hopeful who averaged 6.5 yards per rush and tallied 14 touchdowns than the oft-injured, fumble-prone shell of himself that raised predraft flags. Fumbling-wise, ghosts of gridiron past periodically haunted him, and a fractured fibula (which didn't require surgery, per The Kansas City Star's Terez Paylor) sidelined his postseason aspirations.
Knile Davis did NOT need surgery. Reid says he’s healed and doing everything.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) April 21, 2014
Having said that, Davis provided the long-sought-after running back depth that has eluded Kansas City since the days of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. Being that a bulk of his touches were predictable garbage-time handoffs, his 3.5 yards per carry are misleading.
Davis is the lovechild of thunder and lightning; an athletic oddity who, when healthy, looks like he was crafted in a lab of goggle-strapped Madden enthusiasts. Kickoffs often laid the groundwork for a 100-yard talent showcase, as Davis' 32.1 yards per return (subscription required) ranked second among players with double-digit attempts.
The rookie campaigns of Travis Kelce and Sanders Commings—two vastly underrated selections—were limited to a combined three snaps, as season-long injuries (spot a trend?) also derailed their first-year hopes.
Nico Johnson, a two-down run-stuffer, performed fairly well during the preseason but saw sparse action from Week 1 onward. As a situational pass-rusher, seventh-rounder Mike Catapano showed flashes of promise, though few and far between.
Finally, fullback Braden Wilson was eventually released.
7th Round (No. 207 Overall): Nickell Robey, CB, USC
Kansas City's 2013 selection: Mike Catapano, 3-4 DE, Yale
In order for Catapano to drastically increase his playing time, he needs to a) focus on agility-oriented drills, or b) live in a life-sized gingerbread house with Jif as the glue and protein shakes as the tap water.
Catapano's frame resembles that of Tamba Hali, but if he transitions to outside linebacker, he needs to polish his lateral agility and prove he's not a liability in space. However, if he hopes to retain his patented four-point stance and remain a 3-4 defensive end, he desperately needs to pack on a minimum of 20 pounds.
Otherwise, Catapano's fate (in a 3-4) is cemented as a situational pass-rusher.
If someone asked what was in Nickell Robey's name, the immediate answer would be, "One too many 'Ls'."
Standing 5'7", 169 pounds, Robey is and always be a nickelback. That's not a pro nor con, just a reality.
He's incredibly light on his feet, and fluid hips allow him to change direction rather effortlessly. That combination, alongside above-average instincts, ensures that the diminutive defender will pester many a slot receiver for years to come.
Throughout 2013, Kansas City sorely lacked an inside corner, which forced Brandon Flowers to slide to the slot, while then-rookie Marcus Cooper (or in the worst-case scenario, Dunta Robinson) occupied the vacancy.
A top-tier slot defender is a necessity for any AFC West roster, especially Kansas City's.
If the past is indicative of the future, Robey is precisely that.
6th Round (No. 204 Overall): LaAdrian Waddle, OT, Texas Tech
Kansas City's 2013 selection: Braden Wilson, FB, Kansas State
Relative to his future's forecast, the signing of Joe Mays is anything but auspicious for Nico Johnson. However, stamping him as a lost cause would be rash.
On the other hand, you can brand Braden Wilson, whose NFL career (to this point, at least) consists of 16 preseason snaps.
LaAdrian Waddle, an undrafted offensive tackle from Texas Tech, debuted at the midseason point of 2013 and seized the opportunity.
Assessing Waddle's rise to rookie relevance, B/R's Dan Hope adds:
He proved to be a significant upgrade over Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox at right tackle, especially in pass protection, in which he allowed no sacks and just 25 pressures in 315 passing snaps. Though he only played 553 total snaps, his 7.9 cumulative PFF rating was the best among all rookie offensive tackles.
Not only could Waddle spell Donald Stephenson, but if the up-and-comer's 2014 performance mirrors that of a year prior, his consistency would anchor him as Kansas City's starting right tackle.
6th Round (No. 170 Overall): Tim Wright, TE, Rutgers
Kansas City's 2013 selection: Eric Kush, C, California (PA)
If Eric Kush hopes to secure any staying power at the pro level, he needs to lease his home and pitch a tent in the Chiefs' weight room.
He's a versatile center whose collegiate snaps were divided between each position on the offensive line, and he showcases rare agility for a 300-plus-pounder, particularly when pulling.
However, over the course of last (pre)season, Kush didn't flaunt enough upper- nor lower-body strength to drive defenders in the ground game. His pass protection also regressed when squaring off against distinctly powerful defensive tackles.
Timothy Wright is a converted wideout who was transformed into an undersized tight end. At 220 pounds, most of positional peers outweigh(ed) him by roughly 30 to 40 pounds.
To no surprise, he was routinely rag-dolled when aligned as an in-line blocker.
Conversely, he prospered when flexed out as a pass-catcher and, as the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman notes, etched a franchise record with five receiving touchdowns (as a tight end):
Leftover from Sunday: Bucs' Tim Wright broke the team's record for TDs by rookie tight end. Mark had been 3, by USF's Calvin Magee in 1985.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 16, 2013
If Kansas City inked Wright, it could release or trade Anthony Fasano, generating nearly $1 million ($906,250) in the process, while freeing up $8.75 million in cap space throughout the subsequent two seasons (2015 and 2016), according to Spotrac.
5th Round (No. 134 Overall): Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
Kansas City's 2013 selection: Sanders Commings, CB/S, Georgia
On film, Andre Ellington played like an early Day 2 selection, but for reasons unknown to common sense, he plummeted into the sixth round. (A meddlesome hamstring burdened his predraft workouts, yet he still recorded a 4.51 40 at an individual session.)
Nosediving to the middle of Day 3, Ellington will never regain the money he lost. However, if it's any consolation, his rookie stats humbled the egos of 31 GMs.
By the end of 2013, Ellington's 5.5 yards per carry led all ball-carriers (including quarterbacks) who cradled at least 25 percent of their team's rushing attempts.
When studying his game, four traits immediately catch one's eye: speed, balance, vision and patience.
Running behind blockers, Ellington doesn't press the issue—an impulsive habit shared by many NFL halfbacks, regardless of experience. He sets up his blocks, shields himself behind them and bursts past pursuers. When corralled, his athleticism and low center of gravity often result in him countering would-be tacklers' momentum and maintaining balance.
Also, while his pocket-sized stature triggers blocking concerns, he performed serviceably throughout last season.
He's a savvy, game-breaking runner—47.9 percent of his rushing yardage stemmed from 15-plus-yard attempts, which also topped the league—who is, relative to his position, wise beyond his years.
4th Round (No. 99): Sanders Commings, CB/S, Georgia
Kansas City's 2013 selection: Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama
This isn't a cop-out, I promise.
Scouring through the latter stages of the draft—Sanders Commings was drafted with the first pick of the fifth round—the fourth round didn't unearth many diamonds last year, and Johnson's lackluster progress led to the team signing another "Mike" (strong-side inside) linebacker in Joe Mays.
In terms of value, I personally thought that Commings was John Dorsey's best pick in the 2013 draft. His skill set drips with free safety potential, and he accrued a heap of experience as a press corner at Georgia.
Let's frame his potential into context.
Entering the 2010 draft, Eric Berry measured at 6'0", 211 pounds and ran a 4.47 40, while benching 19 reps (225 lbs).
At the 2013 combine, Commings measured at the same height, weighed five pounds heavier and clocked in with a 4.41 40-yard dash. At his pro day, Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reported that Commings benched 23 reps. (He was bested by Berry in both the vertical and broad jump, though.)
Sanders Commings/CB/Georgia completed 23 reps on bench...did not bench at combine due to minor labrum injury suffered at Senior Bowl..— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 21, 2013
Also, per Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel, Commings was formerly drafted into the MLB as a center fielder, which (to an extent) embodies similar responsibilities to those of a Cover 1 deep safety.
In other words, free safety isn't as glaring a void as (many) local critics suggest.
A broken collarbone reduced his first season to a meager three plays.
But in that brief debut, Commings' first professional snap ended with him tattooing Knowshon Moreno for a one-yard loss—the audible thud, per NFL Game Rewind (subscription required), prompting Cris Collinsworth to interrupt Michelle Tafoya with an emphatic "Oh!", later adding, "That is just a fantastic play coming off the edge. For a cornerback to knock a running back down that easily—that was strong."
The point? In three plays, Commings exhibited more promise than the bulk of prospects drafted after him.
He's an imposing, contact-craving defender with press-coverage skills and unique straight-line speed. He also displays keen awareness, as well as a knack for tracking passes in flight.
If Dorsey is trying to build a secondary akin to Seattle's, the selection of Commings is an ideal start.
3rd Round (No. 96 Overall): William Gholston, 3-4 OLB, Michigan State
Kansas City's 2013 selection: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
Davis stormed out of the gates in 2013, headlining head-turning plays early and often. As the season wore on, he gradually earned the coaching staff's trust, quietly curing his disconcerting fumbling habit (to a degree).
He's one of the most dynamic athletes in the league, touting speed that rivals Jamaal Charles and the strength of a small bulldozer. Davis' 40 time (4.37) ranked second among running backs at the 2013 combine, while his 31 bench press reps topped all halfbacks.
If he avoids the injury report and exorcises his fumbling demons, the Chiefs will have gotten a first-round talent at a third-round price.
But there were a number of mid- to late-round steals at Davis' position, which, in hindsight, would have afforded the team to bolster its linebacking corps.
William Gholston's length and athleticism make him a viable candidate to spell Tamba Hali at "Jack" linebacker.
When Hali and Houston were sidelined, Kansas City's pass rush abruptly vanished.
Gholston provides an edge-rushing threat, and he's also an underrated run-stopper. Furthermore, while he's no Justin Houston, he's agile enough to effectively cover the flat if need be.
3rd Round (No. 63 Overall): Keenan Allen, WR, California
Kansas City's 2013 selection: Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
Assuming he enters the 2014 season healthy, Kelce will prove to be a Week 1 difference-maker. As an ill-intentioned blocker and relatively athletic open-field steamroller, he can double as an in-line anchor or pass-catching flex option.
While Kelce didn't register a single regular-season snap in 2013, his long-term value still trumps his third-round selection. He's far and away the most talented tight end on Kansas City's roster.
That being said, there were a few third-rounders who looked the part of mid-round gems last season, four—Keenan Allen, Tyrann Mathieu, Larry Warford and Logan Ryan—of which offer much-needed depth at positions of need for the Chiefs.
Mathieu resurrected his career, becoming a playmaking slot corner and silencing critics along the way. He thrived in press coverage, toting the lateral agility, fearless physicality and top-tier ball skills that deemed him a college standout.
Warford, a hefty guard with deceptive quickness, served as a human road block. As the curtain closed on the regular season, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him (as well as Mathieu) as a top-five player at his respective position.
Keenan Allen isn't the fleet-footed vertical threat that Kansas City currently needs. He is, however, someone who could've (and would've) eventually replaced Dwayne Bowe, offloading No. 82's bloated contract in the process.
A knee injury and worrisome 4.71 40 time sent Allen's stock nosediving into the third round, but he ultimately performed like a five-year veteran last season.
He's precise route-runner (Exhibit A: breaking Sean Smith's ankles on a double-move shallow slant) with fail-safe hands, and while he isn't a burner, his open-field agility, upper-body strength and balance allow him to evade and/or shed would-be tackles in space.
1st Round (No. 1 Overall): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Kansas City's 2013 Selection: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
When NFL.com's Mike Mayock released his 2013 big board, he ranked Fisher as his top prospect of the class, noting, "When I put my Top 100 out there, he was the first name on the list, which tells you how strongly I feel about him. He's a Pro Bowl left tackle."
Can Fisher still become a perennial Pro Bowler? Absolutely. Months leading up to the draft, his meteoric rise was attributed to dominant offseason showings, including the Senior Bowl. No small-school tackle will battle a batch of assorted injuries, switch sides and overcome the aforementioned talent leap as a rookie.
Given the above circumstances, writing him off would be incredibly premature.
But for the sake of change, let's look at the other options at left tackle—the position that Kansas City had its sights set on (and justifiably so).
Before succumbing to a season-ending high-ankle fracture in Week 5, Luke Joeckel underwhelmed in his initial NFL outings. On average, he allowed a quarterback hurry every 25.5 snaps, which was slightly better than Fisher's 23.2 (to reiterate: Fisher was nagged by a shoulder injury, though).
Justin Pugh may have been the most consistent of the 2013 class. However, moving forward, less-than-ideal arm length is somewhat of a concern, and he doesn't hold a candle to Fisher's athleticism (who is three inches taller).
D.J. Fluker, who played right guard and tackle at Alabama, looked like the creme de la creme of the group until he transitioned to the left side. During the previously mentioned four-game span, his pass protection U-turned and sped southward.
That leaves Lane Johnson, who has longer arms—despite being smaller in stature—than Fisher and is more athletically inclined.
A former quarterback, Johnson struggled to find his feet throughout the first half of the season; starting in Week 9, the opposite held true.
At this point in his career, he's not as fundamentally sound as a handful of his classmates, but he's closing the distance at a rapid pace.
Johnson, who acquired left tackle experience at Oklahoma, owns a skill set that's tailored for Andy Reid's offense.
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