The Chiefs went 2-14 in 2012 and were a rudderless ship under the stewardship of Romeo Crennel. They hadn’t been relevant since the Trent Green – Priest Holmes led teams of the mid 2000s. In one fell swoop, the 2013 offseason overhauled the trajectory of the franchise with the hiring of Andy Reid who immediately orchestrated a trade for Alex Smith. Surprising most pundits, Smith proved to be a wholly capable QB for Reid’s West Coast offense and the Chiefs rebounded to become a consistent football team. In 4 seasons under Reid, the Chiefs have never finished below .500 and made the playoffs 3 out of those 4 years. While playoff appearances are all well and good, the 2016 field goal fest against the Steelers proved once and for all that an Alex Smith led team can be a competitor but not a CONTENDER.
Facing this reality, Reid and GM John Dorsey pulled the 2nd major shock of the 1st round (the 1st being the Bears/Trubisky) and mortgaged some of their future for what they believe to be THE future: Patrick Mahomes II. Kansas City traded up an incredible 17 spots in the 1st round (giving up 27, 91 and 2018 1st rounder) for a quarterback that many talent evaluators loved (myself included). Mahomes has all the tools you look for in an elite QB. The absolute CANNON of an arm, phenomenal athleticism, the ability to break the pocket and keep his eyes downfield, etc. etc. etc. However, the main reason I liked Mahomes as a mid round prospect, but not as a 1st round guy (much less top 10) is because he looks like he’s going to need a couple of years of seasoning.
The Chiefs in turn look like the potential perfect landing spot with Alex Smith still under contract for another year. I do believe that Mahomes may need 2-3 years with a clipboard before he’s ready to face NFL defenses, and you can be sure that Reid & Dorsey didn’t give up that kind of draft capital to watch Mahomes sit for 3 seasons. Sir Patrick will be the starter week 1 of the 2018 NFL season and the Kansas City brass believe he’s the man that’s going to lead KC from a postseason one & done to a formidable contender to the Patriots.
At first, I wasn’t sold. The Chiefs are clearly already a good team with the potential to be a great one if their QB play goes from solid to spectacular. Usually a roster that has already proven a winning mentality would tempt the front office to go after immediate contributors. Instead, the Chiefs realized their ceiling with Smith and decided to swing for the fences so they could have a realistic chance of winning a Super Bowl in 2019 and beyond. I can always respect balls like that.
(We’re big fans of the Sam Cassell/Randy Marsh all-stars here at Ball Island).
And with the 6th youngest roster in the league, you can understand KC’s strategy. Compete now, get these kids more big game experience and once Mahomes is ready in ’19/’20, go out and win a Super Bowl with impact players at every position in their prime. Football is an incredibly tough sport to plan for the future though, as injuries can easily derail the best laid plans. Beyond that, there are contract disputes which they got an early peek at with all-world safety Eric Berry (that’s now settled with a long term extension).
The Chiefs doubled down on their build for the future while not adding an immediate impact player in round 2. Reid & Dorsey went with arguably the biggest project in the draft taking Tanoh Kpassagnon, a 6’7″ monster defensive end from Villanova. Kpassagnon is a great story with only a few years of football experience prior to the 2017 draft. While his freakish athleticism is undeniable, most draftniks had him pegged as a day 3 selection because of how raw he is and the massive jump in competition going from Villanova to the pros. Once again the KC front office said fuck it and gambled on a player that could become one of the best at his position if he realizes his enormous potential.
With back to back projects in the first 2 rounds, both of which are unlikely to produce next season, the Chiefs realized the dearth of offensive weapons on their roster and took 2 guys that should help ease Mahomes’ transition down the road. In round 3, they selected Toledo RB Kareem Hunt, who I wrote about in my sleeper series. The 5’9″ scatback is a bowling ball out there, and despite his diminutive frame he can definitely steal the every down limelight from Spencer Ware. Ware was wildly impressive the first half of the 2016 season, but wore down in a big way down the stretch and is probably going to be most effective as a change of pace back to complement Hunt. Kareem is also a phenomenal receiving back which may allow the Chiefs to get creative and play both Ware & Hunt together. In the 4th round Kansas City went out and got the Michigan Man Jehu Chesson who might be Mahomes’ favorite target for the 2018 season and beyond. Chesson impressed in college in a run first offense with average QB play at best, not dissimilar to his current situation in KC. With a defense full of playmakers at every level, the Chiefs were smart to focus on mostly the offense in the 2017 draft.
So, I came into this thinking I would trash KC’s draft decisions by foregoing the chance to win now for a better opportunity in 3-4 years. After more consideration though, this extremely talented core should continue to develop and give Mahomes the type of talent he’ll need to succeed. It’s certainly a risky proposition with both Mahomes & Kpassagnon being high risk, high reward prospects. But ultimately, I respect Reid & Dorsey’s mentality to play the long game here and let their talented, but under developed, prospects have the time needed to grow into their roles.