In the history of the franchise, the Kansas City Chiefs have taken part in 60 AFL/NFL Drafts. Which stand out as the best five classes of all time?
In 1961, the Dallas Texans (or pre-Kansas City Chiefs) participated in their first AFL draft. Over the course of the last 60 years, the team has made over 550 selections. They’ve drafted Hall of Famers, All-Pros, Pro Bowlers, key cogs in their rosters, below average NFL players and of course, colossal busts.
Each year the team is graded by “experts” based on the perceived quality of the sum total of the players they’ve selected, called the draft class. But the best analysis of a draft’s success is always made much later, long after the players from the team have retired, or at least established themselves as as NFL veterans.
Measuring a Chiefs draft class is hard. Some draft classes are bigger (30 rounds in 1961); some are much smaller (just five picks in 1993 and 2002). In other instances, some classes featured players who were highly productive—long, sustained careers—but never been the best in the business; others had flash-in-the-pan talents who, for a time, rose to the level of All-Pro at their positions.
Despite these difficulties, we’ll attempt to outline parameters and name the five best draft classes in Chiefs history. Metrics considered when evaluating classes include: contribution to overall team success (how successful did they make the team), years as an NFL starter, Pro Bowls, All-Pros and of course, members of the Hall of Fame.
The Chiefs did not draft a single Pro Bowler for six years: 1970-75 drafts. At the very least that explains some of the team’s records during the ’70s and ’80s.
The jury is still out on the 2019 draft class. The class already boasts Super Bowl rings for every player in it, however, and four of them were solid contributors for the Chiefs Super Bowl LIV Championship run. We’ll wait to add them to the list, but no one would be surprised to see the Class of 2019 make the Chiefs top five classes of all time if this list were recreated in ten years. That class included Mecole Hardman, Juan Thornhill, Khalen Saunders, Rashad Fenton, Darwin Thompson, and Nick Allegretti.
In the long run, the 2017 draft class will get a ton of attention, if only because of the selection of Patrick Mahomes. Couple that with a still budding Tanoh Kpassagnon and you’ve got a real shot to make some noise. If only third round pick Kareem Hunt had made better choices, this class would likely be shooting for a top five spot, even with only 2.5 contributors.
A couple of draft classes could merit consideration, if only we did not have to assume the travesty of the first round picks. In 1983 Kansas whiffed with quarterback Todd Blackledge but then hit home runs with defensive back Albert Lewis and offensive linemen Dave Lutz and Irv Eatman, not to mention punter Jim Arnold kicked for 12 years in the league.
The 2011 draft also fits in to this category. That draft featured a massive bust in wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, but also included center Rodney Hudson, pass rusher Justin Houston and defensive end Allen Bailey in rounds two through four.
It would be fair to argue for the inclusion of other classes that don’t make our top ten, but here are the top classes that we’ve identified:
#10 – 2015
This class likely places higher if any of the players stick on the team long term. But, all six of them started for Kansas City for at least a season. That’s an impressive feat.
#9 – 2013
Not a deep class despite the Chiefs making eight selections in this one, but two players who were fundamental in helping secure the Super Bowl LIV Championship, and two more who earned substantial snaps in both KC and elsewhere, put this class on the map.
#8 – 2005
The team had far more misses than hits in this draft, landing on only two of its nine picks. But the team’s first two selections became a pair who played a combined (so far) 28 years in Kansas City. (Colquitt, of course, is still on the team.) Two surefire Ring of Honor members and two bubble future Hall of Famers put this class at number eight.
#7 – 2010
Any general manager will tell you that if you come away from a draft with six solid contributors, including three starters and a borderline future Hall of Famer, that they’ve had a good draft. Most of these players didn’t stick around long in the red and gold, but all of them contributed while they were there. This was a strong draft for Scott Pioli.
#6 – 1967
It seems asinine to argue that when a team hits on only two of 17 draft picks, it should be considered a success. However, when the two hits are as significant as a tandem of future Hall of Fame linebackers, the argument begins to crystallize.
While Jim Lynch is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (yet), many argue that he should be. Fellow 1967 second round selection Willie Lanier already has a bust in Canton. It is difficult to argue that their combined 22 years in Kansas City were not foundational in building the franchise; and they were integral in winning Super Bowl IV.