Had Cleveland not moved ahead of Kansas City, might Johnny Manziel have been wearing a Chiefs hat when he did this?
Frank Franklin II/AP
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The grades are in, and … well, the grades are in.
With only six picks over three days, and none in Round 2, the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2014 NFL Draft haul was probably never going to be the darling of the pundits. And sure enough, it wasn’t, generally drawing Cs and Bs from the national draftniks.
Reaction across social media from fans was all over the map, too. Tweeters hissed at the selection of outside linebacker/rush end Dee Ford in the first round, even though it provided smart insurance and another pass rusher, then turned around and praised cornerback Phillip Gaines, even though only Kansas Jayhawk fans had probably ever see him play, and then only briefly.
If there WAS a consensus, excitement-wise, it came on Day 3, when the drafting of Oregon burner De’Anthony Thomas — who almost everybody had seen in a highlight at some point — in Round 4 was a clear patch, if not an improvement, over the free-agent loss of Dexter McCluster. With a speedster, a quarterback, a guard and a doctor — a future doctor, anyway — added to the roster Saturday, general manager John Dorsey’s late-round selections might’ve been more interesting than what he pulled off on Day 1 and 2. And yet …
THREE LINGERING QUESTIONS FROM THE CHIEFS’ 2014 NFL DRAFT HAUL
:03 … HOW CLOSE REALLY WAS THE BRAIN TRUST TO DRAFTING JOHNNY MANZIEL WITH PICK NO. 23?
The phone was ringing in the Chiefs’ war room. That much, we know.
"Probably for (Manziel), the kid that went before us," coach Andy Reid said. "They don’t tell you exactly who they want, but the phones were ringing at that time. I’m sure they were working both us and Philadelphia. That’s how it went."
In the end, Cleveland was able to work out a swap with the Eagles that gave them Philly’s pick at No. 22. Whether that was because Reid was serious about nabbing Johnny Football — or any signal-caller, as had been reported in the days immediately leading up to the draft — or whether the whole thing was just a stratagem to try and get out of the pick, we may never know for certain.
When asked if quarterback was, indeed, on the agenda at 23 — or earlier — Reid replied:
"That’s not true. When you’re sitting at the 23rd pick, you’re looking at everybody. Absolutely, we check the quarterbacks out, but by no means was it about) Alex’s play or (his) contract or anything else. That had nothing to do with it. We looked at every position across the board. That’s how we went."
Dorsey said later that the Chiefs "were probably talking to about six teams" when the Browns jumped ahead of them, rendering the point moot.
Reid was asked about it twice late Thursday night and played it coy — deadpan coy, as only Reid can — both times.
"I would’ve called you first to make sure it (was) OK," Reid said with a smirk. "He’s a heck of a football player."
:02 … IS TAKING AARON MURRAY A GOOD SIGN OR BAD SIGN FOR THE FUTURE OF ALEX SMITH IN KC?
It’s the impasse that won’t go away, and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Smith’s current deal still expires at the end of the 2014 season, and the Chiefs are still in a bit of a belt-tightening mode, cap-wise. President Clark Hunt said Friday afternoon that he hoped an extension for his signal-caller could yet be worked out. The next day, the Chiefs added Murray to the fold.
As messages go, it’s understandable to feel that one might have been a bit … mixed.
"No," Dorsey said Saturday when asked if the two were somehow related. "What it is is, an indication of, he was there, you had a shot to get him, why not take a shot and try to get this guy and better your team and add quality depth to your roster. That’s what that gives you."
It also gives you, potentially, a crazy competition for the No. 3 quarterbacking slot, assuming Murray’s knee is up to snuff by July. The Chiefs signed Tyler Bray out of Tennessee as an unrestricted free agent last year at this time and kept him on the roster as a long-term project behind backup Chase Daniel.
But Daniel is out of contract after 2015, and his size (6-foot-0-ish) and skill-set (smart, poised, accurate, savvy) are very similar to what Murray is expected to bring to the table.
"Competition," Dorsey said, "brings out the best in every athlete."
:01 … WHAT ABOUT WIDE RECEIVER?
Going in to Thursday night, the Chiefs’ two biggest question marks were starting free safety and No. 2 receiver. And, Monday morning, they’re still the two biggest question marks.
With safety, the addition of ex-Rice cornerback Gaines brings another tall, fast cover man into the fold — and could mean more nickel work or even safety action for someone such as veteran corner Brandon Flowers, who was used as something of a slot-receiver specialist for much of last fall. Dorsey likes tall defensive backs who can run; Flowers is 5-10, while strong safety Eric Berry is 6-0.
But if you’re putting together a depth chart to start the week, it still would have Dwayne Bowe on one side of the line of scrimmage and Donnie Avery at the other.
"It’s not over yet," Dorsey said. "There are still some things going on, and you’ve still got training camp and there are still opportunities to acquire those types of players that you’re looking at — if, in fact, you want to go in that direction."
Dorsey did address the inside wideout/return role that McCluster excelled in last autumn by drafting Thomas, who could play at tailback, line up out wide or work in the slot. But the Chiefs went with defense with Gaines at No. 87 rather than go for another big wideout to complement (or even replace) Bowe on the outside.
Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief, a 6-2 target, was still on the board for the Chiefs late in the third round, and wound up being selected by the Colts at pick No. 90. Of all the curious moves in a curious weekend, passing on Moncrief could be the one regarded as a stroke of genius — or the one that winds up biting Dorsey squarely on the backside.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.