Less than two weeks to go until the 2011 NFL Draft, crunch time has arrived inside the Chiefs draft room.
Time is of the essence when it comes to finalizing draft day strategy, dwindling opportunity to make major moves on the “big board.”
“We’ve been in some very interesting meetings, some very spirited meetings, in terms of the group of people at this point in the process,” GM Scott Pioli said. “This is now the time, the last couple of days and possibly the last week, where coaches are coming in off the road. We’ve worked a lot of players out, spent time with a lot of players individually, to get more insight.”
With those road trips and in-house visits comes intense debate. Coaches and scouts each give their take on individual players and those opinions don’t always align. It’s Pioli’s job to dissect each report and make the best decision for the future of the franchise.
As the clock ticks, sense of urgency heightens.
“All of the scouts that we hire and develop within our program, we want to make sure that they disagree,” Pioli explained. “Not for the sake of just disagreeing, but we want them to have their own opinions. They understand that it’s a healthy thing to disagree and the same goes for our coaches.
“We encourage (debate) just by doing it and there’s never a feeling of intimidation or shouting people down. I’ve seen and heard of places where there are disagreements and they’ll throw (conflicting) opinions out the window or talk a person down. There is no component of disrespect in our meetings. We encourage (disagreement) because we have a nice mix of older coaches and scouts with younger coaches and scouts.”
Increased familiarity has also allowed the debate process to evolve.
Though Pioli is entering his third draft as Chiefs General Manager, it’s really just the second go-around for the scouting department as a whole. Pioli was hired in January of 2009, but many members of the Chiefs scouting and personnel departments didn’t arrive until after the 2009 draft.
“It’s an exciting time,” Chiefs Director of College Scouting Phil Emery said. “As you get closer and closer, your focus narrows in on a certain group of players and you spend a lot of time talking to all of the people around the players that you have a sincere interest in.
“The coaches have been brought into the process at this point, so it’s very good to hear their opinions and get a feel for the players that they’re excited to coach.”
Now is a time of listening for lead decision makers like Pioli and Emery. Head Coach Todd Haley occupies a major role in the Chiefs draft day efforts as well. The three, with assistant GM Joel Collier added to the mix, haven’t seen much time outside the draft room in recent weeks.
“The internal discussions include agreements and disagreements on player ability, athleticism and production,” explained Pioli. “Believe it not, you can disagree when it comes to production – whether the block was a good block or whether the player played off the block well enough.
“There have been plenty of times where I get presented evidence by the coaches or scouts that I didn’t previously have, or Todd and I haven’t done a thorough enough job on. We then get convinced to go back and do more work on the player.”
That’s where the Chiefs sit, just 13 days separated from the beginning of this year’s draft.
They’ll use the upcoming weekend to grind things down even further. Part of that process includes comparing position rankings with each position coach. While the scouting department keeps overall player rankings, each assistant coach is asked to individually rank the players inside his position group.
“Right now, this is an important time for us to listen and not try to talk coaches out of ideas,” Pioli said.
The entire process is one of checks and balances aimed at eliminating previous mistakes.
“I know what some of my limitations are as an evaluator and some of the mistakes that I have made in the past as an evaluator,” Pioli said. “You have to not only think about yourself on that, but think about the people who are providing the information and the evaluation.
“You put that information into the mix to understand where things might be so you don’t make the same mistake again.”