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Was the Chiefs draft uncharacteristic?

By Matt Bowen

Does Pioli Draft On Character?
The Kansas City Chiefs and new General Manager Scott Pioli went through their first draft together last month with mixed reviews. Now, we are hearing some rumblings that the Chiefs have drafted some players with character issues. Today we take a look at some of Pioli’s draft picks and decide if he is drafting for wins over character.

Character Counts?

Look, we all know that character is a big word that is thrown around the NFL these days. Fans question it and the media runs with it—while the teams involved talk about it from a distance.

Does it matter? In my opinion, yes and no. Do you draft a guy that can help your team win, knowing that he brings with him some extra luggage that could lead to future issues as a professional athlete? Or, do you just bypass the player all together, not taking the time or the effort to sweep his background under the rug? And what about work ethic? Is this something that can be cured at the NFL Level?

Hey, I know as well as anybody that you have to roll the dice on some players in this league to win, and like I have said before the NFL is the business of winning.

But, are the Chiefs and Pioli—the same guy who came from New England where character never seemed to deter that franchise—falling under the spell that character is not a concern in the NFL when it comes to winning? Or, does Pioli know more than we do after I talked to some people around the league about some issues in his current draft class?

That is the question for us today, and something that our own Michael Lombardi wrote about yesterday in his Sunday column when discussing the Chiefs recent draft class—and the character issues that are coming along for the ride.

The Draft

Drafts are unknowns, and that is why we don’t hand out ludicrous draft grades here at the NFP in the spring. Nobody knows who is going to play well as a pro, or who is going to flop once they put that NFL jersey on.

And, that is why I am not talking today about Tyson Jackson going No. 3 overall to the Chiefs. Was it a reach? Who knows, and if we want to go there, then count every single one of the top ten picks as a reach—because we don’t know if they will ever be able to produce in this league.

But, we can speculate on character as it applies to the draft. Yes, I agree that the Chiefs and Pioli shouldn’t be compared with the Bengals when it comes to their current draft class—yet—but there are some names in front of me today that at least make me wonder.

Our own NFP Draft Expert, Wes Bunting shared his notes with me on four draft picks in KC that have me scratching my head today.

Jake O’Connell, TE Miami (Ohio)- Blessed athlete that never took to coaching and never developed as a big time threat. 6-3, 250 with 4.5 speed, but never real productive and lacked technique and polish. Always relied on his athletic ability and never put in the work on the practice field.

Javriss Williams, RB, Tenn. St- Refused to sit at a big time school, elected to go to a small school and play right away. Rubbed some people the wrong way on the recruiting trail, but is said to be a “good guy” from the coaching staff.

Quinten Lawrence, WR, McNeese St- Injury concern, has had trouble staying healthy. Has a track body. Has had trouble adding bulk to his frame over the years. Questionable work ethic in the weight room, is only 6-0, 183 and is said to have simply packed it in after his ankle injury his senior year to get ready for the pros.

Donald Washington, DB, Ohio State- Was suspended the first two games of the 2008 season for violating team rules at Ohio State.

Character issues and work ethic in a Scott Pioli draft? Like me, many of the people I talk to in NFL circles are asking the same thing: What is the theory behind drafting these players that most clubs would shy away from?

Does it matter on the field?

Not really—until those character issues become a major issue that prevents these players from performing on Sundays.

We all know there are plenty of prospects that come into this league with some backgrounds that are eye opening to say the least, but at the end of the day, they are still very good football players. And I agree that this is a discussion that probably has no clear ending in site, because what do you sacrifice for the betterment of the public eye? Wins? Not at this level, folks.

But, it still makes us think when discussing Pioli, because this is not something we are accustomed with when discussing his past as a personnel executive.

I don’t remember an instance in New England when Pioli took a player that has some red flags attached to his name. Yes, you can tell me all you want about the Patriots signing Randy Moss as a free agent after he flamed out in Oakland, but I know for a fact that Moss was told to play by the Patriots’ rules or he was gone.

Maybe that is what Pioli is doing in Kansas City. Or, maybe he is drafting to win—and that’s it. Because at the end of the day that will be the deciding factor when we judge his first season in Kansas City.

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