Without a doubt, the driving force behind the nine players selected by the Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft was need.
All but a small handful of players that come into the league through the draft must be developed once they join a team. Teams often label some of their selections as developmental picks. That’s NFL code for “we aren’t sure if he can play in this league any time soon.”
The Chiefs were not using those words either publicly or privately with their 2015 draft class. If first-round choice Marcus Peters isn’t the starter at left cornerback for the opener it will be a major disappointment for G.M. John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid. Should second-round center Mitch Morse not be the opening-game snapper, there will be concern in the building. If third-round wide receiver Chris Conley does not get the second most offensive snaps at the position behind Jeremy Maclin, then the Chiefs will not be happy.
Fourth-round linebacker Ramik Wilson or fifth-round backer D.J. Alexander – one of them needs to get the snaps next to Derrick Johnson. In the little picture, the Chiefs hope D.J. comes back from his ruptured Achilles and can play to the level expected of him. In the big picture, this season will be Johnson’s last as a starter – the Chiefs must have a player ready to fill that spot for 2016. If Wilson and Alexander do not get significant playing time in the coming season then the team has failed in preparing for the future. That’s why the future is now.
Of course there’s only so much future an ordinary team can prepare for in the NFL. Make no mistake the Chiefs have been less than ordinary for most of the last eight years. New England, Seattle, Green Bay, Pittsburgh – those teams can afford to wait for a year or two longer to see if their 2015 draft pans out.
Not the Chiefs this year – they need to know when the calendar turns from ’15 to ’16 just what they have with this group.
They did not get that from the first two draft classes produced by Dorsey and Reid. In 2013, six of the eight players got on the field, but combined they saw 1,168 snaps on offense and defense, or 13.1 percent of the possible snaps in that regular season. Just three of those players were on the field last season with one starter in Eric Fisher at left tackle.
The six players drafted in 2014 played in 1,712 snaps on offense and defense, or 27.2 percent. Only sixth-round choice Zach Fulton became a starter, opening at right guard.
That’s 14 draft picks with only two starters and a third coming in 2015 in tight end Travis Kelce. That’s 21 percent reaching starter status from two draft classes.
The Chiefs will need a far better percentage with the class of ’15. They need four of their nine picks either in the starting lineup or on the cusp of pushing aside the starter.
Dorsey and Reid are self-driven football men. But they can’t ignore the fact that the man that hired them has been running the club for eight seasons, and Clark Hunt has employed three general managers and four head coaches in that time. He’s proven he has limited patience.
For the class of ’15 to immediately contribute, Reid and his coaching staff must get these nine players ready in quick fashion. They may have to take some chances and allow young guys more opportunities to get their mistakes behind them. They did that with Fulton last year, but as we found out they didn’t have better options on the roster.
Unless Phillip Gaines or Jamell Fleming makes major improvement from what they showed last year, then nothing stands in front of Peters becoming the starter at left corner. Morse will compete with Eric Kush who has 73 offensive plays in the NFL over his two seasons. Even though he did not play center, Morse had two seasons as a starter at tackle in the SEC.
There is nobody currently on the Chiefs roster that should stand in Conley’s way of being the No. 2 receiver. At inside linebacker if Johnson can play, then Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson are the only established players standing ahead of Wilson or Alexander getting playing time.
The future is now for the 2015 Chiefs draft class.