It might just be the typical pre-draft pump fake, all being spewed by coaches and executives trying to dupe each other in the lead up to the NFL Draft.
But in recent weeks, it appears the talk of the teams at the top of the draft passing on top quarterbacks has intensified to the point the Chiefs may need to be prepared for at least one of them to fall to the No. 23 pick in the first round.
During a conference call on Thursday, NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah says it's unclear where Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, UCF's Blake Bortles,Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Fresno State’s Derek Carr will go this year.
“That draft with (Christian) Ponder and (Blaine) Gabbert and (Jake) Locker, I think that kind of scared some teams (into) saying, ‘Hey, let's stay true to our board; while we need a quarterback, let's not force it,’” Jeremiah said.
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By passing on the top quarterbacks, teams at the top of the draft would be duplicating the formula of Seattle and San Francisco, which have managed to build strong rosters around talented (and cheap) non-first-round quarterbacks. However, by taking a quarterback later in the first round, the Chiefs could essentially do the same thing.
The Chiefs have made it known that they would like to extend Alex Smith, who fared well in his first season under coach Andy Reid. At only 29 years old, he still has plenty of good football left in him. However, his contract runs out after the 2014 season, and extending him will require a big-money commitment, even if it's only for a few years.
Considering the Chiefs' well-documented cap woes this offseason, not to mention the looming specter of outside linebacker Justin Houston’s lucrative deal, it’s certainly worth noting that the team can save a boatload of money over the next few seasons by drafting Smith's replacement in the first round this year (on a cheap five-year rookie deal), letting him sit a year or two and handing him the gig when ready.
However, there’s just one small problem with that line of thinking — the Chiefs have already invested significant capital (two second-round picks) in Smith.
“Usually teams kind of swing for the fences, sort of speak, in the first round,” said CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang. “They go for those elite athletes, the Dontari Poe-kind of guys that have incredible upside. Then you go with safer players that fill a hole in the second or third round.
“Given the Chiefs already filled that (quarterback) hole with the trade of their second-round pick for Alex Smith and no longer have that pick, you kind of have to kind of temper your expectations of that first-round pick. You can't go for the home run, you've got to hit a good, solid single or double and make sure that first-round pick is gonna be able to come in and play immediately.”
That's why Rang said it might be more likely the Chiefs take a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds, someone who will come cheaper than a first-round quarterback (albeit for only four years, not five). What’s more, Rang said there are several lower-rated prospects — such as San Jose State's David Fales, Georgia's Aaron Murray and South Carolina's Connor Shaw — who fit Reid's offense.
History suggests it might be time for Reid to take a quarterback. During his 14-year run in Philadelphia, the Eagles took six quarterbacks — roughly one every other year or so. In his first draft with the Chiefs last year, he didn't take one (though he did sign undrafted free agent Tyler Bray).
At this year's combine, Reid was asked if it was important to always find a young quarterback to develop on a year-to-year basis.
“Yeah, there's no other position on the field that knows more than that position,” Reid said. “It comes with the territory there, playing that position. They've got to know everything backward and forward and have the confidence to utilize all of it within a split second. That takes time. It takes time to learn the offense, it takes time to develop all the things we ask them to do.”
So rather than dwell on whether if the Chiefs will find another developmental quarterback to compete with Bray and fellow backup Chase Daniel, perhaps the better question is when will they take one. Only Reid and general manager John Dorsey know for sure, though Dorsey made it clear at the combine that his belief in the best-player-available model applies to all positions, especially in the first round.
“When you build through the draft, discipline is so critical because you have to take the best player available,” Dorsey said. “You're not thinking instantaneously, but you're also thinking two years, three years down the road.”