Thanks to last year's trade for quarterback Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs will have just one of the top 86 picks when the draft rolls around in May. The Chiefs still have their first-round pick, No. 23 overall, but sent their second-round choice to the San Francisco 49ers as part of the deal that brought Smith.
So in a draft that many league scouts are calling the deepest in years, the Chiefs will get just one of the top 86 players, in theory at least. Though it's a situation of their own doing since they agreed to the Smith trade, it's still not a predicament that chairman Clark Hunt, general manager John Dorsey or coach Andy Reid want to be in. They believe in building through the draft.
That's why fans who want the Chiefs to trade up far enough to allow them to draft, say, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, are bound to be disappointed. The Chiefs may not have enough premium picks to allow them to make that trade. Even if they do, it would in effect make this a one-player draft for the Chiefs. They'd have to give up enough of their top picks that the likelihood is slim of the Chiefs getting another solid player through the draft this year.
Maybe that's not such a bad thing if Watkins turns out to be a star. But what if he gets hurt, or is otherwise a bust? Then the Chiefs have been set back for years. So if you're in favor of a trade like that and it eventually doesn't work out, you'd better be ready to accept the down seasons that inevitably come with a zero draft. If you're wondering why the Chiefs of the late 2000s were so lousy, look at their drafts in some of the preceding years.
The bold moves always get the headlines, but the draft is about playing the percentages. The teams that generally do the best in the draft are the ones with the most picks. They -- like all teams -- make their share of mistakes but still have the numbers to make it a productive draft.
Look at the Chiefs' 2008 draft, their best in years. They had two picks in the first round and six in the first three rounds. Their top pick that year, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, never became the player the Chiefs hoped. That didn't kill the Chiefs, because with two of those extra picks in the early rounds they were able to draft tackle Branden Albert and running back Jamaal Charles. The picks used to draft those players, by the way, were obtained in the trade that sent defensive end Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings. The Chiefs also drafted cornerback Brandon Flowers in the second round that year.
That's why a trade down for the Chiefs makes more sense than a trade up. They need more of this draft's top 86 players, and it's more than just a blind guess that Hunt, Dorsey and Reid agree.