NFL Draft: The Best Players the Kansas City Chiefs Never Drafted

Derek Estes@NotacowCorrespondent IApril 25, 2012

NFL Draft: The Best Players the Kansas City Chiefs Never Drafted

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    When it comes to the NFL draft, the headlines always talk about the player drafted. Is he a good fit? Will he be a superstar, or is he going to be another franchise bust?

    The story reads the same for previous draft picks. Who flopped and killed his team's playoff hopes? Which prospects went from late-round afterthought to All-Pro player?

    But what about the players a team didn't pick?

    The Kansas City Chiefs aren't the only team with plenty of draft regrets. It's the nature of the business, trying to judge a player's ability for the next decade based on a relatively small body of work.

    But with this year's NFL draft looming, Scott Pioli (and every other general manager for that matter) should look at some of the Chiefs' biggest historical mistakes as a cautionary tale—not the bad players they drafted, but rather the ones they missed out on.

1983: Quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Dan Marino

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    Picture it: 1983, the greatest quarterback draft in NFL history. The Chiefs hold the seventh pick overall and are in the market for a new man behind center to build their team around.

    With John Elway already off the board, Kansas City weighs the merits of future Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

    Then the Chiefs select Todd Blackledge.

    While Marino leads the Miami Dolphins to a 12-4 season, the Chiefs fester at the bottom of the AFC West at 6-10. Kelly eventually leads the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls.

    Blackledge left Kansas City after five unimpressive seasons and retired from football two years later. The Chiefs are still looking for their first home-grown quarterback talent since Len Dawson.

1985: Wide Receiver Jerry Rice

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    Two years later, Kansas City missed out on the greatest receiver of all time by just one pick.

    With the 15th pick of the 1985 NFL draft, the Chiefs decide on tight end Ethan Horton to bolster their offense.

    The San Francisco 49ers then come in with the 16th pick and select I-AA standout Jerry Rice.

    Horton led a relatively pedestrian career, eventually making the Pro Bowl roster in 1991. By that time, though, the Chiefs had long since released Horton (he played only one year for Kansas City).

    Rice went on to shatter nearly every NFL receiving record. Had the Chiefs selected Rice instead, Blackledge's career might not have met such an ignoble end. A receiver corps featuring Rice and Stephone Paige would have been a quarterback's dream come true.

    Instead, it just keeps fans (or at least one Chiefs featured columnist) up late wondering what might have been.

2003: Defensive Backs Troy Polamalu and Nnamdi Asomugha

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    The Chiefs' draft picks in the '90s left little to really complain about. Not because they always drafted so well (it took three first-round picks to find a viable offensive tackle in John Tait, after all), but rather, because there weren't any outstanding players right around the corner as a more reasonable selection.

    That brings this list to 2003.

    With Dick Vermeil in as head coach, the Chiefs fielded the second coming of the Greatest Show on Turf with their Air Coryell offense, made possible by players like Trent Green, Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez.

    Kansas City had all it needed on offense, but the defense's shortcomings counteracted its offense's stellar performance. The team needed a strong infusion of talent and skill to help the Chiefs not end every game in a shootout.

    Instead of addressing their greatest need, the Chiefs traded down and drafted Larry Johnson.

    Holmes ended the 2002 season prematurely due to a hip injury. With questions surrounding his health and a contract extension looming, Carl Peterson decided to improve his bargaining position by drafting the Penn State running back.

    Johnson produced well for a handful of years, but never helped the Chiefs win a playoff game despite his sometimes gaudy stats. Kansas City released Johnson after a series of legal run-ins and more than a couple of inflammatory remarks, which included criticism of his coach and homosexual slurs.

    Had the Chiefs addressed their more obvious need, they could have drafted Troy Polamalu, the player for which the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up. Polamalu has been the driving force in Pittsburgh's secondary for nearly a decade.

    Even if the Chiefs had gone ahead with that trade, Kansas City could have killed two birds with one stone by selecting Nnamdi Asomugha. Not only would the Chiefs have picked up one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but it would also have kept him out of the hands of the Oakland Raiders.

    Of those two options, Asomugha is the more appealing.

    With Eric Warfield and William Bartee as their starting corners, the Chiefs provided little deterrent against opposing passing games.

    Asomugha is one of the greatest humanitarians in the NFL today, a strong contrast to a running back who faced multiple charges for violence against women.

2004: Linebacker Karlos Dansby, Defensive Tackle Darnell Dockett

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    2004 brought many of the same issues on defense the Chiefs had the previous year.

    Kansas City needed playmakers at every position group, as evidenced by its 38-31 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts in which neither team punted all game.

    The Chiefs went for potential rather than production with their first two picks. Kansas City traded down to select Junior Siavii, then took tight end Kris Wilson later in the second round.

    Siavii played only two years with the Chiefs and never reached his potential. Wilson became the quintessential journeyman, playing for four teams in eight years.

    But Kansas City had two opportunities to draft solid defenders with both of their picks. Had they not traded out of the first round, they could have selected Karlos Dansby. The Auburn linebacker developed into one of the better inside linebackers in the league.

    The other top prospect for the Chiefs was Dansby's teammate Darnell Dockett. Kansas City appeared highly interested in Dockett prior to the 2004 NFL draft but missed out on him when the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the third round.

    While Kansas City received little production from either of its draft picks, Dansby and Dockett played key roles in Arizona's Super Bowl appearance in February 2009.

    Dockett was the biggest miss of the two for the Chiefs; Kansas City has lacked a quality nose tackle since shifting to the 3-4 defense in 2009, and Dockett is one of the best in the league at plugging the middle.

2007: Running Back Michael Bush

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    In 2007, the Chiefs re-signed Larry Johnson to a five-year contract extension for $45 million despite his off-field antics and the grueling 416 carries he had in 2006.

    Johnson only gained 1,401 total yards over the next two seasons before his release in 2009.

    In the weeks leading up to Johnson's departure from Kansas City, Chiefs fans took the Internet asking Johnson be released.

    Instead of stubbornly re-signing Johnson, the Chiefs could have jettisoned him to another team in exchange for at least a first-round pick and more.

    Had they done that, his replacement sat waiting for the Chiefs in the third round.

    Michael Bush had just finished a solid collegiate career at Louisville, marred only by a broken leg in 2006. The strong, bruising runner possessed many of the same qualities as Johnson in terms of running ability at a much smaller price tag.

    Instead, the Chiefs stuck with Johnson and watched the Raiders draft Bush at the top of the fourth round.