The Kansas City Chiefs drafted six players last weekend. They’re all very excited to join Chiefs Kingdom and are looking forward to getting to work. That’s all I know about these guys past their names, heights, weights, positions, and almae matres. Even in self-isolation, you will not get me to watch college football tape.
I have one formula for drafting in the NFL: Need + Name. It’s a formula I would use if I ever were to become a GM of a franchise (which, of course, I should. I would absolutely be better at it than at least 53% of active GMs).
This formula is very simple. First, you identify your team’s needs and hand them off to your underlings. Then, you take the list of players that have been scouted, vetted, and graded by your underlings and draft based on who among them has the Best Name Available. You don’t watch tape, you don’t attend the combine, you don’t even meet with the player.
“Best Name Available” is determined by a single criteria; Does the player’s name sound like his position?
This criteria may need some further breaking down. Need + Name began its life in 2012 exclusively for drafting a quarterback and saw enormous success. The theory is as follows; every great QB has a great QB Name. These names aren’t great QB Names because a QB’s greatness permanently seared an association with greatness to his name. They are great QB Names because fate ordained these athletes to be great QBs. Not all QBs with great QB Names fulfill their name’s promise, but all great QBs have a great QB Name. See? Simple.
As for what makes a great QB Name? It isn’t science. Advanced analytics need not enter here. This is only something you can feel. Joe Montana just sounds like a QB. Warren Moon. Brett Favre. Tom Brady. They all feel different, but somewhere in their auras flies a spiraling football. What I’m doing is art. I’m an artist.
Here are my highest graded QBs since 2012 based on this formula:
2012: Russell Wilson
2013: Geno Smith
2014: Teddy Bridgewater*
2015: Bryce Petty
2016: Jacoby Brissett
2017: Patrick Mahomes
2018: Baker Mayfield
2019: Will Grier
2020: Tua Tagovailoa
*Teddy Bridgewater has, to this day, the highest-graded QB name in this formula’s history.
Yes, a few misses there. But I would stack that list against any expert’s - from the loudest, sweatiest talking head Football Guys to the thickest of coke-bottle glasses analytic dweebs. My system has them either beat or matched.
This season, though, I thought I might expand the formula to all other positions. This puts me back in the experimentation phase, and no-doubt sets me up for possible incredible failure, but where is the fun when you don’t take a risk?
Expanding the formula to grade all prospects, not just QBs, is where the “need” in Need + Name became a greater necessity. If I am to grade the value of a team’s draft, it has to be contextualized around something past simply each players’ name.
Which brings us back to the Chiefs’ 2020 NFL Draft class. And it is one helluva name draft. It’s almost pristine based on names alone. Though remember, this formula is weighted toward need and the player’s name sounding like his position. You can both have an incredible name and a horrible name for a wide receiver.
Round 1, Pick 32: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Hyphenated names are always a plus almost regardless of position. It immediately gives the player a three-letter acronym nickname, which is a double plus for offensive skill position players. CEH doesn’t roll off the tongue as well as others, though. Clyde's full name is smooth and aesthetically pleasing, which can also fit for a running back. He will likely have to endure far too many Fresh Prince memes, but that’s the price you pay for having a top-tier RB Name.
Pick Grade: C
Round 2, Pick 63: LB Willie Gay, Jr., Mississippi State
A lot of Chiefs fans wanted Patrick Queen. Queen undeniably has a solid LB Name, but Willie Gay, Jr. has an excellent LB Name. The only thing keeping him from an A+ name grade is the Jr. Junior works at some positions, but it takes away the punchiness from the rest of his name. Willie Gay sounds like the cool, raw, authentic, underground artist who Patrick Queen stole all his gimmicks from, sanitizing them for pop stardom.
Pick Grade: A
Round 3, Pick 96: OT Lucas Niang, TCU
I’ve always liked offensive linemen with unassuming names. “Lucas” doesn’t sound like a massive, terrifying human whose job it is to shove around other massive, terrifying humans. That juxtaposition is wonderful to me. The Chiefs’ franchise, of course, has a high standard, with Will Shields owning the single greatest OL Name in the history of the NFL. But Lucas Niang is a punchy, solid name; two things you want your OL to be.
Pick Grade: B
Round 4, Pick 138: DB L’Jarius Sneed, Louisiana Tech
L’Jarius Sneed sounds like he could be from anywhere in the secondary. It’s definitely not a big boy lineman name. His last name being one letter from speed is a bit on the nose, but it does work for a DB. Sneed is just fun to say, and DB is one of the most fun position groups in football.
Pick Grade: B+
Round 5, Pick 177: DE Michael Danna, Michigan
You can have a simple name along the defensive line and have it work in your favor. Frank Clark and Chris Jones, for instance, both work. Having one syllable each for your first and last name brings that punch you want in your linemen. Clark especially, given they both end with that hard K sound. Chris Jones, on the other hand, has that everyman tough-guy name like Steve Austin, who he borrows his nickname from. Michael Danna, though, sounds like he does your taxes or manages your local bank.
Pick Grade: D+
Round 7, Pick 237: CB Thakarius “BoPete” Keyes, Tulane
Holy moly, this has to be THE name of the 2020 draft, and the Chiefs got him with the 237th pick. He apparently goes by his nickname “BoPete”, which is objectively incredible. Thakarius, though, even if he only hears it when people are mad at him, is a Football Name of legendary proportions that is only compounded by his nickname and how well Thakarius Keyes flows in full. It’s just a beautiful name that would work at any position on the field. I’m sure they’ll come up with some hackneyed bit about how BoPete must be landlord Mathieu’s superintendent because BoPete’s got the Keyes, but even that can’t tarnish his Hall of Fame name.
Pick Grade: A+
Chiefs 2020 Draft Need + Name Grade: B+
There you have it. Need + Name has been fully realized for the Chiefs’ 2020 draft class. Not to toot my own horn, but I think the coming seasons will almost certainly validate my formula. Come back next year to find out how great I did, or to find out how if I didn’t do great, it wasn’t because of the formula, but because of human error of some kind. The formula is never wrong.