With a few successful drafts under their belt recently, it is often easy to overlook some of the blunders that the Kansas City Chiefs have made over the years in evaluating talent, pulling the trigger too early or not at all, or simply disregarding certain players or positions altogether.
While every organization makes similar mistakes, the fact that the Chiefs seem to repeatedly pigeonhole themselves as “losers” when it come to the draft is indicative of just how many gigantic gaffes occurred as a result.
General manager Scott Pioli’s job is to right the ship and alter the course of which the Chiefs have been taking. But first, let’s take a look at six of the franchise’s biggest draft mistakes over the years.
Known as the “Year of the Quarterback,” the 1983 NFL draft saw six signal callers taken in the first round; most notably John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. The Kansas City Chiefs decided to join the fray by taking Penn State product Todd Blackledge with the seventh pick.
Coming off a season in which he won the Davey O’Brien Award (given to the nation’s top quarterback), Blackledge was considered a top prospect at the position. But an underachieving NFL career—mostly with the Chiefs—highlighted also by the fact that both Kelly and Marino went on to have Hall of Fame careers, is why Blackledge is widely considered the biggest draft bust in franchise history.
The failure of Blackledge to be the franchise quarterback is what propelled the demotion of Chiefs President Jack Steadman, a move that began the Carl Peterson era in Kansas City.
When investing a high draft pick on a quarterback, organizations take a huge risk as evidenced by the Todd Blackledge experiment. However, you can’t hit a home run without swinging for the fences from time to time, and this is exactly where the franchise has failed mightily.
Since that ill-fated draft in 1983, the Chiefs have drafted a quarterback inside the top three rounds a mere three times (Mike Elkins—second round 1989, Matt Blundin—second round 1992, Brodie Croyle — third round 2006).
The laundry list of names (Dave Krieg, Steve DeBerg, Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac, etc..) that have spent a significant amount of time as starting quarterback for the Chiefs should be the primary indication that it is time to invest in a franchise player under center.
The Kansas City Chiefs seem to have always placed a premium on drafting for defense, specifically along the front line. But since trading up in the 2001 draft to select Ryan Sims, who we will get to later, the organization has misevaluated a disproportionate number of defensive linemen.
Although Tamba Hali (now an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense) and Jared Allen (now with the Minnesota Vikings) are considered two of the best draft picks in recent memory, there are names like Sims, Junior Siavii, Eddie Freeman, Turk McBride, Tank Tyler and Alex Magee (all drafted in the top three rounds) that quickly remind fans of how inept the Chiefs are at assessing top-end talent at the position.
Although the jury is still out on recent first-round picks Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, these two players will have to become superstars for the reputation of the organization to be put in reverse and for some of the mistakes to become distant memories.
Coming off a 2001 season in which they finished with a 6-10 record, the Kansas City Chiefs owned the eighth pick in the 2002 NFL draft. With only five total picks that year after trading to acquire cornerstone players such as quarterback Trent Green, you would think that the Chiefs would have been in the position to scale back a bit. Think again.
In fact, Kansas City did the exact opposite by trading up to draft North Carolina defensive tackle Ryan Sims at No. 6. By doing so, the Chiefs handed the Dallas Cowboys their eighth overall pick, their third-round pick and a sixth-round pick in 2003.
As Sims’ career took off, it was obvious that he benefited by playing alongside college teammate Julius Peppers. To make matters worse, some of the prominent defensive linemen drafted after him that year were John Henderson, Dwight Freeney and Albert Haynesworth.
Although hindsight is always 20/20, the Chiefs could have traded down to acquire some extra picks and still would have gotten either Sims or a much better player at the same position. Go figure.
After finishing with a franchise worst record of 2-14 in 2008, the Kansas City Chiefs owned the third pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
After seeing what multiple draft picks can mean to a franchise devoid of talent (as seen in 2008, which was considered by some to be the best draft class in franchise history), the Chiefs were in position to do just that by trading down from the third pick. Instead, they drafted defensive lineman Tyson Jackson out of LSU (their third consecutive first-round pick used on an LSU product).
Although some consider Jackson to still be a work in progress, it is safe to say that the Chiefs would be in a much better position today had they worked out a deal to trade down. And with him being considered a late-first or early-second round pick by most, the Chiefs could have still selected him without all of the expectations of a third-overall pick.
Drafted out of the University of Michigan in 1995 to become the anchor at left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, Trezelle Jenkins was simply not cut out for the NFL.
Playing three seasons in Kansas City, in which he appeared in just nine games while making only one start, the Chiefs quickly pulled the plug on what is talked about as one of the biggest draft busts in franchise history.
After failing to catch on with Minnesota and New Orleans, Jenkins was drafted by the San Francisco Demons of the XFL in 2000 but fell short of making the team.
But all is not lost for Jenkins who, in 1999, opened a Harold’s Chicken Shack franchise in Ferndale, Michigan. What a stark contrast for a former first-round NFL draft pick.