Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs wouldn’t be here without an incredible success rate in the draft

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes is in his second year on a 10-year, $450 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. According to spotrac.com, for the 2022 season alone, he consumed 17.2% of the team’s salary cap.

Mahomes is the most talented player in the league, so neither the Chiefs nor any other team would hesitate to allot that much to a single player given the chance. He’s the exception to the rule.

However, what goes to one player cannot go to all others, namely the 52 others needed to win games.

Because of this, the theory remains that the winning formula for teams is to have a great quarterback on a relatively cheap rookie contract — as Kansas City’s Super Bowl opponent Philadelphia (Jalen Hurts, $1.6 million cap hit) or AFC Championship game rival Cincinnati (Joe Burrow). , $9.8 million). Then spend some of that extra money on several important parts.

And that’s probably true.

Well, unless you’re the Chiefs and can work around this conundrum the old-fashioned way. namely, by absolutely smashing the draft for the past three years and stocking the roster with key contributors who come cheaply, even if the quarterback doesn’t.

Kansas City has made 22 picks in the last three NFL Drafts. Because of their success during this period, the Chiefs never had a selection above 21st overall (2022). They had no first round player in 2021 and picked 32nd in 2020.

Still, General Manager Brett Veach and his staff were on a heater. As much as Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones and head coach Andy Reid received well-deserved praise, this was truly an organizational trip to the Super Bowl.

The Kansas City Chiefs drafted running back Isiah Pacheco (10) in the seventh round, and he made an important contribution in the playoffs as a rookie.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Chiefs drafted running back Isiah Pacheco (10) in the seventh round, and he played a key role in the playoffs as a rookie. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

17 of those 22 selections played in the AFC title game, including 10 of them playing at least half of the snaps. And they came from the entire draft, from the first round to late. There was even undrafted free-agent rookie Jake Cochrane, who took part in 18 special teams snaps.

Additionally, two other draft picks — running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and defensive end Joshua Kaindoh — are on injured reserve. One pick — Cornerback Thakarius “Bopete” Keyes, a seventh-round pick in 2020, was traded after one season.

Another wide receiver, Cornell Powell, a fifth-round pick in 2021, is on the practice team but has been in action in three games this season. Rookie Darian Kinnard has seen limited play this season, but the team sees a future for him as an inside offense lineman.

It’s fair to say that Kansas City has made 20 of their last 22 draft picks.

Consider some of the highlights of Sunday’s AFC title game win against the Cincinnati Bengals alone from the 2022 class:

  • Attacking running back Isiah Pacheco, who ranked 251st after Rutgers, had a combined 85 yards for rushing and receiving in a game where he was difficult to reach.

  • Defensive end George Karlaftis, Purdue’s 30th pick, had a big sack and added depth to a dominant defensive line.

  • Cornerback Jaylen Watson, who ranked 243rd from Washington State, had an interception in the second straight playoff game.

  • Cornerback Joshua Williams, the 135th pick from Fayetteville State, had his own pick, snagging a brilliant pick from Cincinnati second-round player Bryan Cook.

  • First-round corner Washington’s Trent McDuffie had two pass deflections and six tackles while scoring 98% of snaps.

  • And finally, there was receiver and, more importantly, returner Skyy Moore, a western Michigan second-round player who caught just three passes for 13 yards but delivered the massive 29-yard punt return in the last minute, to prepare KC’s game. winning drive

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach (center) has found all sorts of hidden gems in recent drafts to bolster Patrick Mahomes' roster.  (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach (center) has found all sorts of hidden gems in recent drafts to bolster Patrick Mahomes’ roster. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

That’s an amazing and critical group effort from the rookies. As of 2021, linebacker Nick Bolton (four tackles) and offensive linemen Creed Humphries and Trey Smith were on the field for every defensive and offensive snap, respectively.

The Chiefs are undoubtedly a top-heavy team. There’s Mahomes, the biggest star in the game. And tight end Travis Kelce, a future Hall of Famer. Pass-rushing duo Chris Jones and Frank Clark combined for seven tackles and 3.5 sacks. Offensive linemen Joe Thuney and Orlando Brown Jr. were high-priced additions the team brought in to protect Mahomes.

Those six alone make up 53.58% of the Chiefs’ salary cap. In comparison, the Share-the-Wealth Eagles’ top 25 players combine for 53.13% of the salary cap.

Next season will be tougher for Kansas City. Brown can go via free agency, but the remaining five alone will eat up a whopping 63.71%.

But maybe it doesn’t matter. At least not if Veach and company can continue the heat and use their dozen 2023 draft picks to find players who can come in and contribute in even the biggest games.

Kansas City may be star-driven, but it wouldn’t be in the Super Bowl, let alone possibly winning it, if it weren’t for the Chiefs’ relatively underpaid youngsters that kept rising.

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