KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The annual three-day grind known as the NFL Draft concluded Saturday evening, and the results apparently have the Chiefs in a good mood.
“Right now, we feel pretty good about where we are at this stage,” general manager John Dorsey said during Saturday night’s post-draft press conference. “I think any time that you have the chance to add the quality of players that we added through this draft class, I feel pretty good here now.”
Dorsey addressed the media flanked by two men who oversee the scouting department: Chris Ballard, director of pro personnel, and Marvin Allen, director of college scouting.
But while the draft is over, that doesn’t mean there’s no more work for the men behind the scenes.
“For the staff,” Allen said, “this is more or less like the Super Bowl for us. Guys last night were huddling up, talking about how excited they were the last few days. We continue the process, and that was kind of take a breath for a day and let’s move on.”
Ballard agreed, adding praise for the scouts who spend countless hours on the road checking out leads and discovering players.
“Our area scouts and our pro staff,” Ballard said, “they are outstanding. They are the eyes and ears of this organization … I can’t speak highly enough of their work and the diligence they put in.”
The staff collaboration led to the general manager’s public gratitude.
“I can’t thank them enough for all of their tireless work and help in identifying some of the finer players I think we got in this year’s draft,” Dorsey said. “I want to thank the college scouts and the coaches for all that they have done because this is a collective effort with all of us here in this organization.”
So with the 2014 draft officially in the books, here’s an overview of the Chiefs’ draft picks, which includes two players for defense and four players for offense:
Ford joins the Chiefs as an All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection last season. He finished his career at Auburn appearing in 52 games (20 starts), and totaling 93 tackles (59 solo) and 20.5 sacks.
“This guy is a good football player,” Dorsey said of Ford during Thursday’s post-draft press conference. “He has a unique ability to rush the passer. I think in today’s National Football League and the way the game has begun to increase in speed, what this does is it gives you another component at the pass rushing position.”
The selection of Ford bolsters depth on the edge. But more importantly, he effectively addresses the power outage down the stretch in the sacks department last season with starters Justin Houston and Tamba Hali nursing injuries.
While a lot focus falls on the back end of coverage, the Chiefs’ inability to consistently get to the quarterback in the second half of the season exposed the free safeties.
Consider this from the disastrous collapse in the playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts:
Houston recorded a second-quarter sack of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck shortly before the half. But with the Colts down 38-10 in the third quarter and mounting a furious second-half comeback in obvious pass mode, Luck went untouched.
Long-term, Ford also makes sense given Hali turning 31 in November and Houston entering the final year of his contract.
The sting of how the season ended likely contributed to another selection on the defensive side of the ball.
Gaines’ 4.38 40-yard dash time provides much-needed coverage speed, and he has experience in the Chiefs’ defensive press-man scheme, having played it at Rice.
“We pretty much played press‐man all the time,” Gaines said during Friday’s media conference call. “I’m really confident in it.”
The Chiefs under Dorsey and coach Andy Reid are about enhancing competition at every position.
Despite playing cornerback, there’s potential versatility with Gaines if the Chiefs decide to give him a shot at free safety where veteran Husain Abdullah and second-year pro Sanders Commings are set to battle.
Thomas is an accomplished receiver with 113 catches for 1,296 yards and 15 touchdowns and will see time as a slot receiver. Additionally, Thomas joins the Chiefs holding school records in kickoff return yards (1,885) and punt return average (17.13).
The Chiefs special teams set an NFL single-season record for highest kickoff return average with 29.9 yards in 2013, but last season’s punt returner Dexter McCluster and kickoff returner Quintin Demps left via free agency.
Thomas will be used on offense, but should excel in special teams coordinator Dave Toub’s scheme, a point reinforced by the Chiefs director of pro personnel.
“Let’s don’t underestimate what he’s been able to do in his career with unique talents at returner,” Ballard said of Toub during the Chiefs post-draft press conference. “He did it in Chicago, I was with him.
“I watched him take four guys and all were very good players and then he came in here and what he did with Dexter McCluster and our kickoff returners. So we’ve got some unique staff here to take advantage of his (Thomas) unique skillset.”
Murray joins the Chiefs as the SEC record holder in career completions (921), passing yards (13,166), touchdown passes (121) and total offense (13,562).
But his selection shouldn’t be viewed as an indication of how ongoing contract extension talks are going with incumbent starter Alex Smith, Dorsey said Saturday night.
“What it is an indication of is he was there,” Dorsey said. “We had a shot to get him, why not take a shot to try and take this guy to better your team and add quality depth to your roster? That’s what that gives you.”
Still, Murray’s presence means there will be competition at the quarterback position, likely for the team’s No. 3 spot. The Chiefs now have four on the roster: Smith, Murray, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.
Fulton provides an option to consider at right guard, a position in flux with the free-agent departures of Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah. The former Tennessee Volunteer had 40 college starts at right guard.
The Chiefs pick up a developmental player with upside in Duvernay-Tardif, who caught the team’s eye at the East-West Shrine Game. Expect the former Canadian college player to get a hard look when considering the team’s current depth at left and right tackle behind starters Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson.