With Scouting Combine Officially Over, What Should Chiefs Do with Top Pick?

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystFebruary 27, 2013

The Chiefs should take a leap of faith and select Geno Smith No. 1 overall.
The Chiefs should take a leap of faith and select Geno Smith No. 1 overall.Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs are probably getting a lot closer to deciding what to do with the first overall pick in April’s 2013 NFL draft. The draft board was put together before the combine, just not finalized. Now that John Dorsey and Andy Reid have had a chance to meet with these players, they will start to write in pen and not pencil.

At some point prior to the start of free agency, the Chiefs are probably going to land on which player to take with the first pick. They might have a good idea now, but aren’t telling. The only thing the Chiefs might give away early is who they might not pick No.1 overall.

With the combine officially over, it’s time to determine what the Chiefs should do with the first pick. The verdict: draft Geno Smith.

That doesn’t mean the Chiefs will draft Smith. If the rumors are true and the Chiefs trade for Alex Smith, they probably won’t.  

Dorsey has hammered home the point about drafting the best player available. It’s the Packer way. Dorsey’s old friend and counterpart Reggie McKenzie subscribes to the same methodology in Oakland. The overriding example given is when the Packers selected Aaron Rodgers when Brett Favre was still the starter.

Drafting for need is unpopular, probably because fans think that drafting for need means a team is going to take an inferior talent just so they can check a box. That’s not really how it works, but that’s the perception. Drafting the best player available seems straightforward, but it's far from it.

It’s much easier to draft the best player available in the later rounds, when certain players on the board rise above the rest. In a draft lacking a clear-cut No. 1 player, though, there is no such thing as a best player available. It wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that 10 players could have the same grade at the top of the first round.

The Chiefs will have to find some way to separate the players from each other. Since the process is subjective, the team is going to build their bias into the way that they separate the players. This same bias is going to apply to separating prospects based on the feeling the Chiefs get in the interview room.

According to Gary Peterson of the Contra Costa Times (via The New York Times), the 49ers drafted Alex Smith ahead of Rodgers because of personality more than anything.

“(Mike) Nolan was no-nonsense, a strong personality who didn’t like to be challenged. He met with both Rodgers and Smith before the draft. He caught a whiff of attitude from Rodgers, and that was that. Smith was chosen based on personality. He is cerebral, introspective, with a distaste for confrontation.”

Funny, because Matt Barkley said he learned a valuable lesson from Peyton Manning last July. “Sometimes, you have to be dick,” Barkley said (via Peter King, Sports Illustrated). The 49ers learned a valuable lesson that the Chiefs would be wise not to repeat. Sometimes, interviews are not a great way to separate similarly graded prospects.  

The difference between Geno Smith and the other top prospects is wafer thin. NFL.com grades players on a scale from 20-100, Chance Warmack is a 95.9 and Smith is a 91.0. You could even make the case that Smith is the best player available simply because quarterbacks are more valuable than any other position, if you were so inclined. 

Something is going to have to separate these players from each other on the board. "Need" might be a horrible evaluator of talent, but it is one heck of differentiator.  You can go back and examine the way the Packers drafted when Dorsey was with the team. It’s pretty hard to tell that the team drafted the best player available.

A brief history lesson: In 2008, the Packers had just 27 sacks and gave up 4.6 yards per carry. In 2009, the team drafted B.J. Raji and traded up to draft Clay Matthews III in the first round.

In 2009, the Packers gave up the most sacks in the NFL. In 2010, they drafted Bryan Bulaga in the first round.

In 2010, the Packers won the Super Bowl with a 34-year-old left tackle Chad Clifton. In 2011, the Packers drafted Derek Sherrod.

In 2011, the Packers had just 29 sacks. In 2012, the Packers drafted Nick Perry in the first round.

If you are naïve enough to believe that the best players available just so happened to fit the Packers’ biggest needs in four consecutive years, than I’ve got some ocean-front property to sell you in Nevada. Plus, all indications are that Dorsey isn’t going to drastically depart from what he knows.

“There is only one way I have ever known, and that is the process that we have done in Green Bay in the past. I think each individual who has taken that process, tweaks it to their own strengths and weaknesses. We are going to implement that process with how we acquire players. I think that model speaks for itself over the 20 years that they have implemented that plan,” Dorsey said at the combine this week. (via ESPN Milwaukee).

The pick should be Geno Smith, because the Chiefs need him and he’s not that far off of being the best player available. When it’s all said and done, Geno can still be the best overall player to come out of this draft. If he’s a first-round quarterback, it doesn’t really matter if he goes No. 1 overall or No. 15 overall.

Alex Smith isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback for the Chiefs. I'm skeptical that Smith is even a short-term answer for the Chiefs.  It’s certainly not worth giving up a draft pick to obtain Smith’s $10.725 million salary either way.

Keep in mind that the Dolphins went through a debate very similar to the one the Chiefs are having and they ended up with Jake Long instead of Matt Ryan. It worked out for a year, but quickly went sour.

A defensive tackle doesn’t provide the kind of impact you would expect from a No. 1 overall pick unless they are once-in-a-decade prospects. The Chiefs also don’t have any place to put another 3-4 outside linebacker. The Chiefs could let Branden Albert leave in free agency and replace him with Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher, but that’s a waste of a perfectly good No. 1 pick.

The only thing that makes sense for the Chiefs is to draft Smith. He might not be the best quarterback prospect, but he’s a good prospect. Smith solidified himself at the combine, testing better than any of the other players at the position and throwing well. There’s also nothing in Dorsey’s history that suggests he’d be truly averse to filling the team’s biggest need.

The Chiefs should draft Geno Smith. The only question that remains: will they?