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Studs and Duds

More by Ed Fulda
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The NFL Combine in Indianapolis is finally over and I would expect that everyone is "up-to-here" with the steady stream of reports issued daily (or in some cases, hourly) about each player. The scouts, doctors, and reporters have poked, prodded, probed, timed, and measured each one of these prize steers at least a hundred times each. The players have been bombarded with physical, psychological, and intelligence tests. Now we know that DT Bobby Joe Bodacious of Psychotic State is 6-8, 345 lbs., runs a 40 in 4.1 seconds, and does 87 reps at 225 lbs. His IQ, however, barely makes it into the double digits. And that points out the problem with cold statistics; it's still a crapshoot whether you end up with a stud or a dud.

Injuries have certainly been a major reason why many high draft picks don't pan out. Several Chiefs number one picks (e.g., Percy Snow, Brian Jozwiak) had their careers terminated this way. You have to count these as dud picks, but injuries happen and there's no way to predict them.

Of greater concern are the players who are drafted high and turn out to be duds because they just can't perform on the field. Trezzelle Jenkins was a classic example of an impressive physical specimen that simply couldn't play football worth a hoot. Before you Raiders and Broncos fans start chuckling, let me remind you of wasted picks like Tommy Maddox, Marcus Nash, Bob Buczkowski, and Todd Marinovich. The Chargers have blown a few picks too (Ryan Leaf and Chris Mims easily come to mind). In fact, every team has at least a few skeletons to hide.

Years ago, teams could live with a few mistakes. Once players started drawing big paychecks and huge signing bonuses after the 1987 players strike, however, things started to change. Free agency has also forced teams to evaluate players quicker. Now a player had better justify his megabucks signing bonus right away - or at least before his prorated cap figure gets low enough for the team to cut him.

All that aside, I had intended to write about what I thought the Chiefs will do come draft day. I have to admit that I haven't a clue. The Chiefs need a wide receiver, a run-stuffing defensive lineman, a top cornerback, and now, with the release of Donnie Edwards, a linebacker. With the eighth pick in the draft, the Chiefs could easily plug the hole at either receiver or defensive tackle with a quality player. The top two cornerbacks will probably be gone unless KC moves up via a trade (not likely to happen). There is no linebacker available in this year's draft that is worthy of being picked number eight. Of course, the Chiefs could trade down, something the Chiefs rarely do, or trade away the number one choice for an established star (also something the team rarely does). It would appear that the Chiefs will stay where they are and will select either a wide receiver or a defensive tackle.

Unfortunately, KC has had little success in drafting stud WRs in the first round. In 1971, the Chiefs selected Houston receiver Elmo Wright. Other than being responsible for the end zone celebration dance, Elmo did next to nothing in his four seasons in KC. Anthony Hancock of Tennessee was the Chiefs' first pick in the 1982 draft. He also contributed next to nothing in his five-year stay. The jury is still out on the 2000 draft's top pick, Sylvester Morris. His rookie season started impressively, but his performance tailed off the last half of the year. Due to injury, he didn't play a down this past season.

KC has only drafted two defensive tackles in the first round (Buck Buchanan was drafted as a defensive end). Gene Trosch was taken in the 1967 draft. He missed the entire 1968 season due to injury. He came back to play in 1969, but was cut during training camp and out of football before the 1970 season began. In 1984, KC selected Bill Maas with the first of its two first round picks. Maas played for ten seasons in KC and was a solid contributor.

If one of the top cornerbacks slips a little, KC would do well to consider drafting him given the team's history. Jim Marsalis (1969), Gary Green (1977), and Dale Carter (1992) all turned in solid performances for KC - on the field anyway. A cornerback, however, is not going to solve the biggest problem the KC defense needs to address, which is stopping the run.

Regardless of who KC ultimately selects, you can bet that Vermeil and his coaching staff, Peterson, the scouting staff, and the entire player personnel department will be holding their breath until they determine if he's a stud

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