Why the Kansas City Chiefs need to alter their player acquisition strategy

At some point, someone needs to ask hard questions about the number of character concerns brought on board by the Chiefs front office.
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Let's get something straight before we go any further: the Kansas City Chiefs are the best franchise in the NFL right now. What they have done since 2018 is unheard of and there are numerous factors that have led to this great level of success. The Chiefs have built a juggernaut of a franchise, and a large part of that success has come from the NFL draft. General manager Brett Veach has given this team a real future with his ability to find meaningful contributors late in the draft each year. The Chiefs' front office clearly knows what it's doing.

However, one element to their draft strategy has caused numerous issues for them: Their willingness to gamble on players with character concerns. The Chiefs (and even Andy Reid before he came to Kansas City) have consistently been willing to look past character questions to bet on the talent.

We will never know all the players they've passed on for these reasons, but we can judge them on the players they have gambled on. From Marcus Peters and Kareem Hunt to Rashee Rice and Tyreek Hill, from Travis Kelce and Charles Omenihu to Willie Gay and Frank Clark, the examples are plentiful.

At some point, someone needs to ask hard questions about the number of character concerns brought on board by the Chiefs front office.

To be candid there are lots of very good football players on that list, and you have to give the Chiefs credit for at least hitting on those gambles—and not all of them were draft chances. The gambles on character made sense when the Chiefs were desperate to win their first Super Bowl in 50 years. There is no safer head coach and general manager combo in the NFL right now than Andy Reid and Brett Veach, so why do they continue to take risks on draft prospects and free agents?

In the case of Marcus Peters and Kareem Hunt they didn't even finish their rookie contracts in Kansas City before the team chose to move on. Again, both were highly successful in red and gold but you have to factor that into the draft pick. How many games were lost to suspensions levied on Willie Gay, Charles Omenihu, and Rashee Rice? It's hard to argue with the results, but watching the team having to manage games missed for off-the-field issues is frustrating, especially when you factor in their already difficult schedule.

Yes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are shining examples of the risk paying off. Kelce notably had marijuana issues, which is now legal almost everywhere (except Johnson County). While that was a much bigger issue back when he was drafted, the risk now seems much less. Hill came with plenty of baggage and caused even more drama once he was on the team. The Chiefs likely altered their draft strategy in 2019 to accommodate a potential suspension of Hill (or outright removal from the roster).

Beyond the on-field impact, further questions must be asked about the impact on the team's locker room and overall image. How hard is it to keep everyone on the same page and in good spirits when every year players are missing time? It's exhausting being a fan and waiting for our slew of resident Chiefs fans/ attorneys to try to interpret the latest legal pitfalls the franchise is facing. It's frustrating that the Chiefs have the reputation that they do.

The NFL draft is a crapshoot, even when you take players without character concerns. The Chiefs have the magic elixir to almost every problem with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. It appears that Brett Veach and company view this elixir as a way to accept inherent risk when it comes to player acquisition. "Who cares if Rashee Rice misses 7 games? We've got Patrick Mahomes he will make it work."

It should be the other way around. I've seen Patrick Mahomes do some incredible things on the football field but I've never seen him throw a pass to a player on the commissioner's exempt list. Instead of leveraging the superpower the Chiefs have to dismiss risk, they should be even more cautious. Why risk having to cut a player? Forcibly trade them to another team or lose them to suspension? When you have Patrick Mahomes there is no need to accept more risk into roster construction.