New Faces, Fresh Expectations

Posted May 22, 2011

What should fans realistically expect from each of the Chiefs nine draft picks in 2011?

What are reasonable expectations for Jonathan Baldwin’s rookie production?

Is Tony Moeaki’s 47-catch, 556-yard rookie season a decent barometer, or are you expecting more?

800 yards?

1,000 yards?

Take the ongoing NFL labor situation, and the cram session that rookies will face when the league year begins, out of the equation. That factor can’t be ignored, but it’s a topic for another day.

With all labor factors and potential contract issues aside, what are reasonable first-year expectations for each of Kansas City’s nine new draft picks? It’s a good question and no two situations are the same, but history can help define a reasonable outlook.

The Chiefs have had a number of successful, and unsuccessful, draft picks over the last five years. Each of those players has developed a recent floor and ceiling for each selection.

First and second rounders obviously have a much higher first-year floor than late-round selections. At the same time, the Chiefs have seen seventh-rounders perform better than first-rounders as rookie players.

Below, you’ll find every pick the Chiefs have made over the last five years, sorted by round. Within each group, the most productive and least productive performers are defined based solely off statistical production as rookies. Future production isn’t taken into account; just first-year contribution.

We’ll also take a brief look at the roster scenario each of Kansas City’s nine draft picks are walking into.

WR Jonathan Baldwin (1st Round Pick)

Last Five Years, 1st round picks: Eric Berry (2010), Tyson Jackson (2009), Glenn Dorsey (2008), Dwayne Bowe (2007), Tamba Hali (2006)

Most productive rookie season: Eric Berry

Berry seized his opportunity to see early play-time and opened all 16 games for the Chiefs. He earned NFL All-Rookie honors from Pro Football Weekly/PWFA and The Sporting News after leading the Chiefs with four INTs and finishing second on the team with 126 tackles.

Named a Pro Bowl starter (though he didn’t actually start the game), Berry became the first Chiefs rookie to earn a Pro Bowl invite since Derrick Thomas did so following the 1989 season.

Least productive rookie season: Tyson Jackson

Jackson appeared in all 16 games with 14 starts at left defensive end to finish his rookie season with 31 tackles and four QB pressures. He was named to the Pro Football Weekly/PFWA All-Rookie Team.

Baldwin’s rookie opportunity: High

The wide receiver position opposite Pro Bowler Dwayne Bowe is ripe for the taking and Baldwin will have plenty of opportunities to win the job. The Chiefs shuffled the second wide receiver position throughout the season, seeing undrafted free agent Verran Tucker, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster and Terrance Copper all make starts.

Kevin Curtis, who had been on the roster less than a week, received plenty of work in the Chiefs playoff game vs. Baltimore.

OL Rodney Hudson (2nd Round Pick)

Last Five Years, 2nd round picks: Dexter McCluster (2010), Javier Arenas (2010), Brandon Flowers (2008), Turk McBride (2007), Bernard Pollard (2006)

Most productive rookie season: Brandon Flowers

Flowers played in 14 games with 13 starts at cornerback to finish fourth on the squad with 78 tackles. He was named to the Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie Team and also returned an INT 91 yards for a TD.

Least productive rookie season: Bernard Pollard

Pollard wasn’t much more than a special teams player as a rookie, but performed well for those units. Defensively, Pollard logged just one tackle, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Hudson’s rookie opportunity: High

All eyes are on the center position. It’s where Hudson is expected to begin his NFL career and it’s where the entire Chiefs depth chart from last season is currently without a contract for 2011 - Casey Wiegmann and Rudy Niswanger.

OLB Justin Houston (3rd Round Pick)

Last five years, 3rd round picks: Jon Asamoah (2010), Tony Moeaki (2010), Alex Magee (2009), Jamaal Charles (2008), Brad Cottam (2008), DaJuan Morgan (2008), Tank Tyler (2007), Brodie Croyle (2006)

Most productive rookie season: Tony Moeaki

Moeaki started 15 games at tight end and broke Tony Gonzalez’s Chiefs rookie record for receptions by a tight end. He’d finish the year with 47 catches for 556 yards and three TDs. Those 47 grabs ranked second among NFL rookie tight ends.

Least productive rookie season: Brodie Croyle

Croyle spent his rookie season as a backup quarterback behind veterans Trent Green and Damon Huard. He was able to connect on three of seven passes for 23 yards with two INTs in mop-up duty.

Houston’s rookie opportunity: Moderate

Tamba Hali, who led the AFC in sacks last season, returns for 2011 and Andy Studebaker will also be back. Mike Vrabel’s future is yet to be determined, but there is opportunity for Houston even if Vrabel returns.

In addition to playing outside linebacker, Houston would also be a candidate as a rush end when the Chiefs go with four-man fronts.

DL Allen Bailey (3rd Round Pick)

3rd round pick – see above for historic comparisons

Bailey’s rookie opportunity: Moderate

Regardless of the position, Bailey’s versatility should increase his opportunity to see playing time in 2011. He’s currently projected as an inside rusher in sub-package sets, but could see a bigger role with early productivity.

CB Jalil Brown (4th Round Pick)

Last five years, 4th round picks: Donald Washington (2009), Will Franklin (2008)

Most productive rookie season: Will Franklin

Franklin played in 13 games, starting one, and totaled seven receptions for 83 yards. He also returned one kickoff for 16 yards.

Least productive rookie season: Donald Washington

Washington played in eight games on special teams and appeared in three contests on defense. He finished his rookie year with three tackles.

Brown’s rookie opportunity: Moderate

Brown’s opportunity looks like it will come on special teams and as a sub-package player. He’ll have competition with numerous defensive backs for positions within nickel and dime sets, but he’s already a leading candidate to be one of the Chiefs core special teams players.

QB Ricky Stanzi (5th Round Pick)

Last five years, 5th round picks: Kendrick Lewis (2010), Cameron Sheffield (2010), Colin Brown (2009), Brandon Carr (2008), Kolby Smith (2007), Justin Medlock (2007), Marcus Maxey (2006)

Most productive rookie season: Brandon Carr

Carr capitalized on an early-season injury to veteran starter Patrick Surtain and has been in the starting lineup ever since. He started all 16 games as a rookie, opening 14 at cornerback and two at nickel. He’d go on to rank fifth on the team with 77 tackles and also notched two INTs.

Carr became the Chiefs first rookie cornerback to start all 16 games since Kevin Ross did it in 1984.

Least productive rookie season: Justin Medlock

Brown and Sheffield both missed their entire rookie seasons due to injury, but at they at least stayed on the roster for the remainder of the year. Medlock was cut after his first NFL appearance.

Stanzi’s rookie opportunity: Low

Matt Cassel is the starter. Barring injury, Stanzi will spend his first NFL season developing as a reserve quarterback.

OLB Gabe Miller (5th Round Pick)

5th round pick – see above for historic comparisons

Miller’s rookie opportunity: Low

Chiefs GM Scott Pioli referred to Miller as a “developmental outside linebacker” during draft weekend. He’s a former defensive end who will have to learn a new position. It will be interesting to see Miller’s learning curve and if he eventually becomes a two-way player.

Miller began his collegiate career as a tight end.

DT Jerrell Powe (6th Round Pick)

Last five years, 6th round picks: Quinten Lawrence (2009), Barry Richardson (2008), Kevin Robinson (2008), Herb Taylor (2007), Tre Stallings (2006), Jeff Webb (2006)

Most productive rookie season: Quinten Lawrence

Lawrence played on special teams in six games and on offensive in five contests, making one start a receiver. He finished the year with one catch for nine yards and added two rushes for 42 yards. Lawrence also spent time as the Chiefs primary kickoff returner and totaled 16 returns for 317 yards.

Least productive rookie season: Tre Stallings

Stallings spent the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad and did not appear in a game.

Powe’s rookie opportunity: High

The Chiefs likely aren’t done addressing the nose tackle position, but Powe is one of only two pure nose tackles currently under contract. Even if Ron Edwards is brought back, or another player is added, Powe should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.

DT Shane Bannon (7th Round Pick)

Last five years, 7th round picks: Ryan Succop (2009), Brian Johnston (2008), Michael Merritt (2008), Michael Allan (2007), Jarrad Page (2006)

Most productive rookie season: Ryan Succop

Succop was named to the Pro Football Weekly/PFWA All-Rookie Team and was voted by his teammates as the Chiefs 2009 Mack Lee Hill Award winner (Rookie of the Year). He converted 86.21 percent of his FGs (21 of 29) to tie the highest make percentage by a rookie since the NFL-AFL merger. Succop also established a Chiefs rookie record with 25 made FGs, passing Pro Football Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud’s mark of 21 set in 1967.

Least productive rookie season: Michael Merritt

Merritt missed all of the preseason with a leg injury and began the year on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. When he was activated to the 53-man roster, he never played and was released the following offseason.

Bannon’s rookie opportunity: High

Both Mike Cox and Tim Castille are currently without contracts for 2011 and Bannon should be in the thick of the competition at fullback. Displaying the ability to play special teams could help his cause in making the 53-man roster.

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