The NFL draft is a time of hope and promise for every NFL franchise. It can be the turning point in building a championship team, or it can be an opportunity to build on championship success. The latter is true for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs usually would look to the draft to find those guys that could take them over the top. This year, however, they want to find the guys that can keep them at the top. No matter what the goal is, the draft is always an exciting time because you never know if you are drafting the biggest steal of the draft or the biggest bust. Let’s take a look back at the Chiefs’ biggest draft day moments; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1961 – Building the Core
The year after the inaugural AFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs (aka, the Dallas Texans at the time) drafted with their first ever pick, LB E.J. Holub out of Texas Tech. They would also take OT Jim Tyrer out Ohio St., DE Jerry Mays out of SMU, TE Fred Arbanas out of Michigan St., and FB Curtis McClinton out of Kansas. All five players are in the Chiefs Hall of Fame and were also a part of the 1969 Super Bowl Championship run. McClinton was actually the 1962 AFL Rookie of the Year and the first AFL player to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
1963 – A pair of Hall of Famers
The Chiefs had the first overall pick in the 1963 draft and selected DT Buck Buchanan out of Grambling. Six rounds later they took LB Bobby Bell out of Minnesota. Both of these guys were instrumental to the Chiefs Super Bowl IV victory and both were selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bell was the 1969 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
1965 – Chiefs miss on Sayers but still get Otis Taylor
In 1965 the Chiefs had the fifth overall pick in the AFL draft. They selected the “Kansas Comet” Gale Sayers. However, the Chicago Bears also selected Sayers in the NFL draft. He chose to play for the Chicago Bears. He would eventually become the NFL Rookie of the Year, a two-time NFL rushing leader, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It would have been nice to see what he could have done for a Chiefs franchise that already had a stockpile of weapons. One of those weapons also came out of the 1965 draft and that was WR Otis Taylor. Taylor was a prolific receiver who ranks second in Chiefs history for receiving yards. He also caught a 46-yard touchdown in the 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
1979 – Chiefs draft Steve Fuller, not Simms or Montana
In 1979, the Chiefs had two first-round picks, pick two and pick 23. With the second overall pick they selected DE Mike Bell out of Colorado St. Bell was a fine player who played 12 seasons for the Chiefs and accumulated at least 40 sacks (sacks were not an official statistic until 1982). However, five picks later the Giants selected quarterback Phil Simms. Simms went on to take the Giants to two Super Bowl championships and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXI. The Chiefs were actually in need of a QB, so with the 23rd overall pick they selected Steve Fuller out of Clemson. Fuller would go 13-18 as a starter in four years with Kansas City and have a 22-32 touchdown to interception ratio. Two rounds later the 49ers would select one of the greatest QBs of all-time, Joe Montana. Now, to the Chiefs credit, no one thought that Montana had a first-round value and the Chiefs didn’t have a second or third round pick, but it still hurts to know that the Chiefs missed on that one. The Chiefs would eventually land Montana in 1993, but it was well past his prime.
1981 – Joe Delaney
In the second round of the 1981 NFL draft, the Chiefs drafted RB Joe Delaney out of NW State in Louisiana. He was the ninth RB selected and would be considered a steal in today’s draft. Delaney rushed for 1,121 yards and three touchdowns. He was named the AFC Rookie of the Year and was an important piece to the team’s first winning season since 1973. The following year was not as successful due to the NFL strike and an eye injury. Delaney would only record 380 yards. In June of 1983, Joe Delaney died while trying to save three children who were drowning in a pond in Monroe, Louisiana. Delaney didn’t know how to swim but still tried to rescue the children. Unfortunately, only one of the children survived.
1983 – Todd Blackledge and one of the greatest quarterback draft classes ever
The Chiefs had the seventh pick in 1983 draft, and they selected QB Todd Blackledge out of Penn St. He was selected ahead of Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien, and Dan Marino. Of the QBs taken that year, three of them are in the hall of fame. Blackledge isn’t one of them. Of those QBs, four of them had multiple pro bowl appearances. Blackledge didn’t have one. This class had 11 Super Bowl appearances. Blackledge only had one winning season and Bill Kenney was the starter for most of that year. In five years with Kansas City, Blackledge went 15-14 as a starter and had a 26-32 touchdown to interception ratio. He was named the franchise’s biggest draft bust by ESPN.
1989 – Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer start the rebuild with Derrick Thomas
The 1989 draft was the first draft of the Marty Schottenheimer and Carl Peterson Era and they started it off with a bang. With the fourth overall pick they selected LB Derrick Thomas out of Alabama. In Thomas’ 11-year career with the Chiefs, he accumulated 126.5 sacks, nine trips to the Pro Bowl, was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1989, and the sack leader in 1990. More importantly, the Chiefs were winning football games. During Thomas’ tenure, the Chiefs had a winning record nine times. They had only had eight winning records all-time before the linebacker was drafted. Tragedy struck the Chiefs once again, however, when Thomas died in February of 2000 from complications sustained in a car wreck.
1993 – Chiefs steal a Hall of Famer
The Chiefs did not have a pick in the first two rounds of the 1993 draft but with the 74th overall pick they were able to get OG Will Shields out of Nebraska. Shields started 231 straight games (including playoffs) for the Chiefs and went to 12 Pro Bowls. He was a big reason why RBs like Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson were so successful in Kansas City. In fact, Holmes led the league in rushing in 2001 and in touchdowns in 2002 and 2003. Shields is a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1997 – Chiefs trade up for Gonzalez
In 1997, the Chiefs traded up five spots in the first round to grab TE Tony Gonzalez out of California. Gonzalez has been regarded by many as the greatest TE of all time. During his time with Kansas City he led all TEs in receptions and yards for seven seasons and in touchdowns for four seasons. He tied the record for most pro bowl appearances with 14 and holds the Chiefs all-time records in yards, receptions, and touchdowns. Gonzalez was traded to the Falcons in 2009 and retired after the 2013 season.
2004 – Chiefs get the steal of the draft
The Chiefs didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2004 draft, but they were able to steal a first-round talent late in the fourth round. With the 126th overall pick they took DE Jared Allen out of Idaho St. While most of Allen’s career was spent in Minnesota, he was still able to accumulate 43 sacks in Kansas City. In fact, he led the team in sacks in 2007 with 15.5 and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, the Chiefs traded him to Minnesota in 2008 for a first-round pick and two third-round picks. It wasn’t all bad news for the Chiefs though. One of those third-round picks was used on RB Jamaal Charles.
2009 – Tyson Jackson is surprisingly the first defensive player taken
In 2009 the Chiefs were in a definite rebuild mode. They had the third overall pick in the draft and new GM Scott Pioli needed to make a pick that would be one of the cornerstones of the franchise. Enter Tyson Jackson. Jackson was a DE out of LSU that many analysts had projected as a late first round pick. The Chiefs passed on guys like Brian Orakpo, Robert Ayers, and Clay Mathews to take Jackson. Jackson finished his tenure with Kansas City after the 2013 season. He recorded only nine sacks in five seasons.
2017 – Chiefs move up 17 spots to take Patrick Mahomes
This is by far the greatest moment in Chiefs draft history. The Chiefs traded the Buffalo Bills their 27th, 91st, and 2018 first-round pick for pick number 10. With that pick the Chiefs took QB Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech. In his first year as a starter, Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns, over 5000 yards, and was the NFL MVP. The next year he won the Super Bowl and was Super Bowl MVP. You cannot ask for anything more out of a draft pick. All of the QB woes from 1983 to now are gone. The Chiefs finally have that guy that was able to take them over the top.
That is what is exciting about the NFL draft; you never know what a certain player can do for a team. Whether a team trades up for the franchise QB or finds a steal in the later rounds, there is always that hope that a player will make all the difference. That difference wasn’t found in Todd Blackledge or Tyson Jackson, but it was definitely found in Patrick Mahomes. The 2020 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday, April 23rd at 8 pm.