About this same time last year, many of us in Kansas City were anticipating that the Chiefs might wind up drafting a QB with their 1st round draft pick. The question was, which one was going to fall far enough for the Chiefs to actually select? When the draft rolled around and the Bills were on the clock at pick 10, the Chiefs made their move and traded a 4th round pick, as well as their 2018 1st rounder in order to move up and select Mahomes.
The move was somewhat controversial, if only because they also had the choice of Clemson star DeShawn Watson. Watson went one pick later to the Houston Texans and got off to an insane fast start as a rookie, putting up huge numbers before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury. Mahomes in the meantime, sat behind Alex Smith for a year and learned the system and how to be a pro. While he’s provided us with plenty of excitement and anticipation after a strong preseason and one regular season start, we still don’t know for sure just how good he may be.
One thing is clear to me, as I research the 2018 NFL Draft class: had Mahomes returned to Texas Tech for his senior season, he would be the top QB in this class. So this begs the question, where would the Chiefs be had they not made the move and selected Mahomes.
For starters, they would have still taken someone in the 1st round and had an extra 4th rounder they didn’t have last year. Who knows who they ultimately would have taken with those picks, but chances are, a future starting QB that would be ready to take over the offense in 2018 would not have been one of them.
Alex Smith likely would not have been traded to the Redskins and KC would have a QB with one year left on his deal and be forced to make the decision of extending Smith or being forced to select a QB to groom in this year’s class. We would not have CB Kendall Fuller or an extra 3rd round pick either. Perhaps the Marcus Peters trade would not have happened and KC would be stuck with a malcontent, hell-bent on eventually leaving KC to sign with a California based team. Let’s also not forget about the 17 million dollars of extra cap space the team enjoyed this year as a result of getting out from under that last year of the Smith contract. WR Sammy Watkins and ILB Anthony Hitchens would not have been players the Chiefs could afford to acquire if Smith’s deal were still on the books.
The 2018 draft has five or six QBs that have a shot at being drafted in the 1st round: Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Josh Allen (Wyoming), Lamar Jackson (Louisville) and Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State). While any one of these guys could ultimately develop into a Pro Bowl QB, they all have serious flaws. Darnold has the stigma, fair or unfair, that comes from a USC program that has not produced a decent NFL QB since Carson Palmer was drafted in 2003. He really had a down junior year as well. Rosen is talented, but is a well-documented head case who also comes from a wealthy family and doesn’t really need NFL money like some do. Allen is a 56% passer playing against weak competition at Wyoming. Sure the arm talent is there, but what happens when he gets to the league? Jackson is dynamic but undersized. Mayfield is a small, spread QB with a personality that could be difficult to reign in. Rudolph has plenty of size and talent, but will likely need at least a year to work on his mechanics.
Since the Chiefs would be drafting at pick 22 this year, the odds of them landing any of the top three without trading up would be almost nonexistent. To move up far enough the Chiefs would have to part with picks either this year or next. Remember, in this scenario, the Chiefs do not have Watkins, Fuller or Hitchens due to their cap, so their roster would not be quite as built up to withstand losing several picks to draft a QB to sit on the bench. When you also factor in the ridiculous trade the New York Jets made earlier this month, sending two 2nd round picks this year and one in 2019 to the Indianapolis Colts to move up three spots from #6 to #3 just so they can make sure they can get one of the top QBs and it becomes even clearer the kind of value the Chiefs landed when they made their move last year. Trading up in the 1st round is a costly proposition, especially into the top 10.
While it will take a fair amount of patience waiting for the Chiefs to make their first selection at pick #54 this year, the wait will be worth it. The Chiefs have their QBOTF with a year of learning under his belt, a strong free agent class and five total picks between the 2nd and 4th rounds this year. They should be able to surround Mahomes with the talent he needs to succeed on both sides of the ball. All it cost them, was to give up the right to draft a player at pick #22 this year.