What if the Chiefs didn’t trade up to draft future NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes? The state of the franchise would be completely different. I will be outlining three of the many different routes Kansas City could have gone in regards to the quarterback position and where they would be now.
Instead of drafting a quarterback in the 2017 draft, let’s say Kansas City chooses to draft a linebacker in the first round, addressing a glaring defensive need after Derrick Johnson’s Achilles injury. With Alex Smith returning at quarterback as the starter, the Chiefs go 10-6 and make it to Wild Card weekend, losing to an AFC foe with better quarterback play.
Route #1: The Chiefs draft a quarterback in the 2018
Coming off another year of not making it past the divisional round, Andy Reid and the front office decides it’s time to draft Alex Smith’s replacement. As a loser of a Wild Card game, the Chiefs would be drafting in the 19-24 range. Baker Mayfield (1st), Sam Darnold (3rd), Josh Allen (5th), and Josh Rosen (10th) all would have required Kansas City to trade up in the draft. Lamar Jackson, who was taken 32nd, would have been available for Kansas City.
With a large package of draft picks, the Chiefs trade up to 4th overall with the Cleveland Browns and select either Allen or Rosen. The Chiefs will select Josh Allen. While he took multiple seasons to develop into a quality starter in Buffalo, with a better receiving core and coaching staff, Kansas City would have been a playoff team Allen’s rookie season. After several playoff appearances but no trips to the Super Bowl, the Chiefs would be one of the few surefire contenders for the AFC crown going into the 2021 offseason.
Route #2: The Chiefs sign a quarterback between 2018 and 2019
In this scenario, the Kansas City Chiefs elect to not go through the draft to find their next franchise quarterback. The free-agent market for quarterbacks in the 2019 offseason was lackluster with no legitimate starters available, so the Chiefs will be making their move in 2018. The two most viable options would be Kirk Cousins or Teddy Bridgewater.
Cousins looked poised to make the jump from good to great after three straight 4,000 yard seasons. Bridgewater, coming off of a gruesome knee injury, had previously shown flashes of potential, making the Pro Bowl in 2015. Cousins would command a massive contract, leaving the Chiefs to sign Bridgewater.
After this signing, the Chiefs would be a borderline playoff team, still lacking an above-average quarterback each of the next three seasons. Over the 2021 offseason, Kansas City would be back to the drawing board looking for their next quarterback through the draft, free agency, and trades.
Route #3: The Chiefs draft a quarterback in 2020
After continuing to watch Alex Smith’s subpar postseason performances, the Chiefs finally decided to find a replacement. The 2019 season ended with a divisional loss, so Kansas City would be drafting somewhere between 25-28.
In order to draft a quarterback, the Chiefs would either have to trade up to take one of Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, or Tua Tagovailoa, or draft Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts with their original draft pick. They will select Jordan Love, creating a quarterback competition for the offseason.
Love will not win the job in the offseason, but with a slow start from Alex Smith, Love takes over midway through the season. He struggles but shows enough promise for the Chiefs to finish 9-7 and just missing the postseason. The Chiefs go into the offseason with Love as their quarterback for the foreseeable future.
The decision to take Mahomes has obviously worked out, but it is interesting to think about where the team would be today had they not traded up to 10 in 2017.