KANSAS CITY — This is John Dorsey’s first draft as a general manager of the Chiefs, but it’s not his first time building a roster. His mentors, Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren and Ted Thompson, never undersold the importance of building around a winning quarterback.
Dorsey knows Alex Smith well, and he openly said the 2013 QB class lacked a surefire first-round prospect.
Dorsey was the lead college evaluator in Green Bay in 2005 when the Packers landed Aaron Rodgers 24th out of Cal. Smith, a spread-offense projection from Utah, went No. 1 overall. The Packers closely evaluated and scrutinzed both players, and Dorsey got reacquainted with Smith’s game film in the past month as he and new coach Andy Reid formulated their plan for reviving a Chiefs team that went 2-14 last season.
When it came teeth-cutting time in the GM chair, Dorsey did what he has been taught to do: He landed the best player available.
Quibble if you will over Smith’s value — sure No. 34 is a steep price, but what were Kansas City’s alternatives? Dorsey knows Matt Flynn (available via trade from Seattle) might not be a major upgrade over Matt Cassel. Reid knows from experience the growing pains that come with starting rookie quarterbacks (Donovan McNabb, Nick Foles).
In Smith’s last 26 regular-season starts, he’s 20-5-1 with a 32-to-10 TD-to-INT ratio. His mobility is an asset, and Reid’s background as an offensive lineman and admirer or investing picks at that position should befriend him to Smith. If there’s one worry about Smith, it’s that he went too safe under Jim Harbaugh’s sharp, watchful eye. He was sacked 68 times in the past two seasons, more than two-and-a-half times per game.
With the 34th pick to be shipped to the 49ers in return for Smith, the Chiefs wouldn’t have found a franchise quarterback. They could be looking at a risk-reward type, EJ Manuel (FSU), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Ryan Nassib (Syracuse).
Had they kept that pick and gone quarterback at No. 1 — even with experienced seniors Geno Smith or Matt Barkley the likely options — it’s no sure thing Smith, Barkley and whatever player is available at No. 34 would be a first-year starter.
They chose Smith, the best available, and kept the top overall pick with options to deal back in the first round and land a prime left tackle who can start as a rookie. Depending on who you ask, Eric Fisher (Central Michigan), Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) and Lane Johnson (Oklahoma) all are worthy of top tackle billing.
By trading pick No. 34 in 2013, a 2014 second-round pick along with another conditional pick in 2014 for Smith, Dorsey and Reid are virtually guaranteed of having two new starters to lead what they hope is a rapid turnaround.