Will Eric Berry ever live up to his potential?
*Apologies for not getting this out sooner, I am just now getting out of my Thanksgiving food coma. There may have been some computer problems too, but the food coma issue was definitely the main issue. If anybody didn’t get a chance to read the first part of this series (which reviewed the 2009 NFL Draft) you can see it here.
When we last left our hero Scott Pioli, he had turned the ’09 draft into a below-average defensive end (Tyson Jackson) and an above-average kicker (Ryan Succop). That kind of return on the number three overall pick only seems good to Matt Millen. The 2009 NFL Draft was not an easy one to navigate, though. Of the top seven picks, Matt Stafford is arguably the only one who has lived up to expectations. This doesn’t excuse Pioli from guiding his ship into the rocks in nearly every round, but it does show the waters weren’t exactly calm. The misses in the next year were more inexcusable.
The 2010 NFL Draft offered Scott Pioli another chance at redemption. Picking fifth overall, the Chiefs looked to add an impact player. In the buildup to the draft, Eric Berry was projected to be the best player available. Then the rumor surfaced that Pioli did not believe in taking safeties that early. After that, a school of thought that new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis would lobby for Jimmy Clausen and Jimmy Clausen’s hair to be selected emerged. Still, the majority of analysts had the Chiefs taking a tackle (Russell Okung of Oklahoma State or Bryan Bulaga of Iowa) or safety Eric Berry by draft day.
How will Eric Berry's career end up?
Round 1 (5) Eric Berry
When I was in college I once took a Women’s Studies class. The idea was to meet girls, and I met one on the first day. I felt so confident, I told my friends after the first day of class that we’d be dating within three classes. My called shot worked, and I was taking her out the next weekend. I planned an excellent date, and we had tons of fun.
Within a couple of weeks we weren’t even speaking anymore. Never had an argument or said a cross word to one another or anything. It just didn’t work out. That’s the moral of the story with this draft pick. Eric Berry was the right move. He was a two-time SEC defensive player of the year out of the University of Tennessee.
As a rookie, he was brilliant as a run stopper and showed flashes in coverage. The Ed Reed comparisons he received coming out of college didn’t look out of line.
Berry’s downfall began with Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills diving at his knees on a block (Berry tore his ACL on the play). He missed all of last year and has been a shell of himself this year. Maybe he is still hurt, or maybe he lost his burst. Maybe he just is hesitant to put pressure on his newly repaired knee. Eric Berry has been a disappointment this year…but Scott Pioli made all the right moves.
Who They Could Have Had
Russell Okung and Bryan Bulaga are the names that jump out, although both have their warts. Okung had struggled in his first few seasons in the league, but has seen the light in year three. Bulaga got off to a better start, but has struggled to stay healthy. Both represent an upgrade over the corpse of Eric Berry that has shown up to play this season. Perhaps a cameo on The Walking Dead will be in order if he doesn’t turn things around… the zombies might have more range in coverage, though.
Round 2 (36) Dexter McCluster
Dexter McCluster is the movie you want to see, because it has all the things you like in it and you know it will be great…except when you go see it, the end product just doesn’t feel right (okay so he’s I am Legend).
Drafted as a running back/wide receiver/ kick returner out of Ole Miss, McCluster was supposed to give Matt Cassel and the Chiefs offense a shot of explosiveness. He possessed blistering speed, and was deadly in open space. He could run and cut so fast, his shoe could not keep up.
Unfortunately, McCluster has yet to find his niche. He is on track to catch about 50-55 passes this year, but ultimately he is not an impact player. Who would have ever thought that a 5’6" guy who is a poor route runner would not be a star? Scott Pioli makes the big bucks for a reason…some reason.
Who They Could Have Had
The big story in the second round of this draft was Jimmy Clausen slipping. When he was there at pick 36, many thought the Chiefs would and could pull the trigger (including yours truly). The good news on Jimmy Clausen’s NFL career: He likely would be the Chiefs starting quarterback right now. The bad news: He wouldn’t be the Panthers starter over Derek Anderson.
The real gem the Chiefs missed out on here was Rob Gronkowski. They would take another tight end in the next round, but the Patriots snatched up Gronkowski at pick 42. Did Belichick say no tradesy-backsies? Scott Pioli should look into this.
Round 2 (50) Javier Arenas
What does an NFL team need after a 4-12 season? A nickel corner and kick returner, of course.
In a puzzling move the Chiefs grabbed Arenas, a cornerback out of Alabama, with their other second round pick. The pick was a bit of a surprise since they had just drafted another return man in McCluster, and Arenas lacked the size and cover skills of a starting corner.
Arenas has failed not only to live up to his draft position, but also to his pre-draft scouting report. Before the release of Stanford Routt (when he was used as the teams primary nickel back), quarterbacks were completing 70 percent of their passes against him to the tune of a 130 quarterback rating against. So much for being projected as a solid nickel corner.
He has also failed to be electric as a kick returner (35-yard career long and zero return touchdowns in his career). Beyond that, Arenas has been a pleasant surprise…of course, besides not being funny, Jimmy Fallon is a great comedian.
Who They Could Have Had
Brandon Spikes, Ben Tate and Terrance Cody all would have been more acceptable picks here. Spikes is a great run stopping middle linebacker for the Patriots. Tate is probably the best backup running back in the league, and maybe even the best pure runner in Houston. Cody would have filled a hole so that Kansas City would not have been forced to draft on need in the 2012 Draft.
All of them might be a better nickel corner than Javier Arenas.
The first two rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft were a combination of bad luck and overdrafts which went poorly for Scott Pioli. None of the players have performed at an extremely high level in this 2012 season, and the lack of impact players continues to show.
The later rounds of the draft did prove a bit kinder to Pioli and will be reviewed in the next segment. Stay tuned and keep an eye out later in the week, or early next week, to see the review on the rest of Pioli’s draft and its impact on the team today.