Kansas City, Mo. Two days into the three-day NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs have become quicker and more athletic and probably quite a bit better at returning kicks.
They’re also better led. Everybody the Chiefs took with their first five picks were known as leaders on their college teams.
“One of the things we set about to accomplish when we took this team over,” second-year general manager Scott Pioli said Friday, “was to improve our team speed. We became a faster football team today. Along with team speed ... all four guys we drafted today and the player we drafted yesterday happened to be captains at the school they played at.”
The Chiefs surprised most of their fans with their first pick of the second round on Friday, taking the versatile Dexter McCluster, who made plays as both a wide receiver and running back at Ole Miss. Then with the 50th pick overall, the Chiefs used the second-round choice they got from Atlanta for tight end Tony Gonzalez and collected Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas.
In the third round, the Chiefs finally addressed their offensive line and went for Illinois guard Jon Asamoah, giving them two offensive and two defensive players with their first four picks. Late in the third round, the Chiefs made a trade with Houston and took tight end Tony Moeaki of Iowa, who had 59 catches for 975 yards and nine touchdowns in his career.
In Thursday’s first round, K.C. went with their fans’ favorite and drafted Eric Berry, a Tennessee safety who should take care of the single-most pressing need for a team that’s won only 10 games in the past three years.
Still unaddressed, however, are several other needs for a franchise that’s won only 10 games in three years, including linebacker, and nose tackle for the 3-4 defense. And barring more trades, the Chiefs will have only two picks today. They gave up their fourth-round selection and one of their three fifth-round positions to move up and take Moeaki.
Although McCluster was listed by Southeastern Conference coaches as all-league at running back and wide receiver, the Chiefs said moments after drafting him that the 5-foot-8, 165-pounder would be known strictly as a pass-catcher. And that makes sense. With Jamaal Charles and newcomer Thomas Jones, they’ll go into camp with two returning 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in their history.
McCluster and Arenas will probably both get a look at returning kicks, something McCluster did as a freshman and Arenas excelled at throughout his career at Alabama.
While going 4-12 last year, the Chiefs ranked 27th in punt returns with an average of less than 7 yards per attempt and 25th in kickoff returns, averaging 21.6 yards.
The 5-foot-8, 197-pound Arenas had 125 punt returns for 1,752 yards at Alabama, the second-best in major college history. His seven touchdown punt returns set the Southeastern Conference record.
“I’m just ready to come in and compete,” said Arenas. “Wherever they put me, whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do. What I’m best at I think is competing. I just like to go out there and have fun.”
McCluster, at 5-8, 165 pounds, is about the same size as Dante Hall, the Chiefs’ star kick returner of several years ago. An all-around offensive threat, McCluster started 17 games at flanker, six at halftime, four at slot back and one at split end.
“My role I think will be whatever coach Todd Haley wants me to be,” he said. “Slot receiver, running back, kickoff or punt returns. It’s up to the big guy.”
Pioli, whose first draft last year has been criticized, said flatly he is very pleased with how the 2010 draft has gone.
“Going back to the football character thing and what we’re looking for, we feel these guys all fit into the mold of the type of player that we’re looking for. All very different individuals but four guys who are certainly the type of player big-picture that we’re looking for.”