Kansas City ChiefsPatrick Mahomes

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

Patrick Mahomes is in the second year of a 10-year, $450 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. For the 2022 season, he alone swallowed up 17.2% of the team’s salary cap, according to spotrac.com.

Mahomes is the most talented player in the league, so neither the Chiefs, nor any other team given the opportunity, would hesitate to spend that much on one player. He is the exception to the rule.

Even so, what goes to one player cannot go to all others, that is, to the 52 most needed to win games.

That’s why the theory still stands that the winning formula for teams is to have a big quarterback on a relatively cheap rookie contract, like Kansas City’s Super Bowl opponent Philadelphia (Jalen Hurts, $1.6 million ) or AFC championship rival Cincinnati (Joe Burrow). , $9.8 million) enjoys. Then you spend some of that extra money on several important pieces.

And that’s probably true.

Well, unless you’re the boss and can find an old-school way around this conundrum; that is, absolutely crushing the draft the last three years and filling the roster with key contributors who are cheap, even if the quarterback doesn’t.

Kansas City has made 22 picks in the past three NFL Drafts. Because of their success during that span, the Chiefs never had a pick higher than 21st overall (2022). They didn’t have a first rounder in 2021 and picked 32nd in 2020.

However, general manager Brett Veach and his staff have been on a hot streak. As much as Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones and head coach Andy Reid get some well-deserved praise, this was really an organizational trip to the Super Bowl.

Seventeen of those 22 selections played in the AFC title game, including 10 of whom played at least half the snaps. And they came from all over the draft, from the first to the last rounds. There was even undrafted free agent rookie Jake Cochrane, who logged 18 special teams snaps.

In addition, 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 squad but saw action in three games this season. Rookie Darian Kinnard has seen limited duty this season, but the team sees a future for him as an interior offensive lineman.

It’s fair to say Kansas City has hit 20 of its last 22 drafts.

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

  • Running back Isiah Pacheco, who was 251 for Rutgers, had 85 combined yards rushing and receiving in a game where he was hard to come by.
  • Defensive end George Karlaftis, the 30th pick out of Purdue, had a big sack and added depth to a dominant defensive front.
  • Cornerback Jaylen Watson, who came out 243rd in Washington State, had an interception for the second straight playoff game.
  • Cornerback Joshua Williams, the No. 135 pick out of Fayetteville State, had his own pick by taking a bright tip from fellow freshman linebacker Bryan Cook, a second-round pick out of Cincinnati.
  • Washington’s first-round cornerback Trent McDuffie had two pass deflections and six tackles while taking 98 percent of the snaps.
  • And finally there was receiver, and more importantly, returner Skyy Moore, a second-round pick out of Western Michigan, who caught just three passes for 13 yards, but delivered the huge punt return of 29 yards in the final minute to set up KC’s game. winning unit

It’s an amazing and critical collective performance by the rookies. Starting in 2021, linebacker Nick Bolton (four tackles) and offensive linemen Creed Humphries and Trey Smith were on the field for every defensive or offensive snap, respectively.

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

These six alone add up to 53.58% of the bosses’ salary cap. By comparison, in the wealth-sharing Eagles, the top 25 players combine for 53.13% of the salary cap.

Next season will be tougher for Kansas City. Brown can leave in free agency, but the remaining five must consume 63.71% by themselves.

However, it may not matter. At least not if Veach and company can continue the hot streak and use their dozen 2023 draft picks to find players to come in and contribute, even in the biggest games.

Kansas City may be a star, but it wouldn’t be in the Super Bowl, let alone potentially win it, if it weren’t for the Chiefs’ relatively underpaid youngsters stepping up time and time again.