6. Todd Blackledge
The Chiefs selected quarterback Todd Blackledge out of Penn State with the seventh overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. This is one of the most notable picks in Chiefs’ history, as Blackledge was the last quarterback the organization drafted in the first round before Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft. For those keeping track, that’s 34 years.
Another reason this particular pick is so notable, aside from the impact first round quarterbacks historically have on a franchise’s fortunes, is the number of Hall of Famers the Chiefs passed on to choose Blackledge. Some of the most notable players selected after him in the first round, just to name a few, were Bruce Matthews by the Houston Oilers, Jim Kelly by the Buffalo Bills, Dan Marino by the Miami Dolphins, and Darrell Green by the Washington Redskins. Obviously, given the Chiefs could have had Dan Marino very easily and potentially won several Super Bowls, this one stings.
Blackledge was drafted as high as he was for good reason. He was a very successful quarterback at Penn State, going 31-5 and leading the Nittany Lions to a national championship in his final season with the team. That season he threw for over 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns. Those aren’t gaudy numbers by today’s standards, but back in the 1980s that was a very good season for a college quarterback. On top of this, that same season he won the Davey O’Brien Award as the best quarterback in college football and finished sixth in the Heisman voting.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, given who they could have had in his place, these winning ways did not translate at all to the pros. In his five seasons with the team, Blackledge barely saw the field relative to what you’d expect from such a high selection. He didn’t make a single start his first year. In total, per season he averaged less than five games started, 50 percent completions, 902 yards passing, four touchdowns, and six interceptions.
In truth, this pick was a complete disaster. It clearly hit the organization hard, as they only had one winning season the rest of the decade. Based on all these factors, here’s how Blackledge graded according to my criteria:
Blackledge checks in at number six on this list of draft busts, but there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Blackledge is the biggest bust in Chiefs’ history. He has virtually no positives as a player for the organization. If he weren’t a quarterback drafted so highly, it’s likely he wouldn’t have even made it through his rookie deal. Add to that the Chiefs easily could have drafted a Hall of Fame quarterback in Dan Marino, and it adds some pretty serious salt to the wound.
CRITERIA SCORE: 13
*Blackledge was drafted #7 overall in a first round with only 28 picks