Isiah Pacheco and the NFL Draft: How Did the Chiefs RB Slip to the 7th Round?

Isiah Pacheco has worked his way to the Chiefs' RB1. But his career began with a significant fall in his draft class. Why did he end up getting drafted in the seventh round?

As integral as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are in making the Kansas City Chiefs offense go, Isiah Pacheco is a pivotal piece too.

The Chiefs have had to rely on the power running and versatility of the running back, getting a combined nine touchdowns out of him in 2023. And for all the chatter surrounding a certain past seventh-rounder on the San Francisco 49ers’ side in Brock Purdy, the Chiefs have their own final-round discovery.

Which raises the question: How and why did Pacheco fall in the NFL Draft?

Looking Back at Isiah Pacheco’s Draft Process

Pacheco and Purdy are the seventh-round finds for both teams from the same draft class.

The Rutgers running back, though, was taken 11 spots ahead of the 49er Purdy in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Yet, what were Pacheco’s own reasonings behind his draft fall? Was it sustaining a myriad of injuries? Lack of production and playing time? Or all of the above?

Pacheco was a consistent earner of the starting RB role in New Jersey. He got his feet wet as a true freshman in 2018 and responded by netting 551 rushing yards. Pacheco moved up to the RB1 in Piscataway, N.J., for his sophomore year — and reacted by elevating his rushing total to 729 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.

For the next two seasons, Pacheco’s numbers took a decline. In the truncated COVID-19 year of 2020, Pacheco produced a career-low 515 rushing yards and crossed the end zone three times. Despite improving his yardage to 647 in 2021, Pacheco got bottled to a low 3.9 yards per carry.

Long story short, Pacheco was productive but posted less-than-dominating numbers in his college career. With his lack of immense production, NFL draft experts believed that Pacheco lacked the patience needed for his offensive line’s blocks to develop and didn’t have any rhythm to his running. Both thoughts led to his drop in the draft.

KEEP READING: Why Does Pacheco Run So Hard? Emotional Fuel Behind Physical Rushing Style

Now, he’s branded himself as a power runner who keeps a stout Chiefs defense off the field as much as possible — plus he keeps Mahomes and Kelce on the field by controlling the clock and moving the chains.

And as a seventh-round find, Pacheco has managed to outperform some notable backs who were taken ahead of him.

Who Pacheco Has Outperformed, Including an RB no Longer in San Francisco

Ironically, Pacheco could’ve been on the same starting field Sunday with one other RB from his draft class who became a 49er, but Pacheco’s time with his team’s active roster outpaced that of his draft contemporary.

Here’s a list of notable backs who went higher than Pacheco … only to later be outperformed by him:

  • Breece Hall: The first RB taken in the 2022 NFL Draft at No. 36 to the New York Jets, Hall matched the same number of touchdowns Pacheco had this season. Hall, though, is yet to witness a playoff run. Pacheco currently has more career rushing yards than Hall (1,765 to Hall’s 1,457).
  • Kenneth Walker III: While Walker rushed for 1,050 yards his rookie season, Pacheco produced more rushing yards (935) than the 41st pick of the draft to the Seattle Seahawks — who settled for 905 yards in 2023.
  • James Cook: The Buffalo Bills’ 63rd overall pick hit 1,122 yards in ’23. But he only scored twice on the ground compared to Pacheco’s seven rushing touchdowns.
  • Tyrion Davis-Price: Once considered a prized third-round selection to the 49ers, the LSU Tiger and 93rd overall pick never surpassed 100 yards rushing in his two years in the Bay Area. Davis-Price has since been demoted to the practice squad.
  • Dameon Pierce: The Houston Texans’ fourth-rounder and 107th overall selection, showed early promise with 939 yards in 13 games during his rookie season. Pierce, though, fell to 416 yards and just two touchdowns this season.
  • Zamir White: The Las Vegas Raiders’ 122nd pick of the fourth round only has one rushing touchdown in two seasons while compiling 521 total career yards.
  • Isaiah Spiller: Like Davis-Price, the 123rd pick of the fourth round Spiller is yet to surpass 100 yards in a season with the Los Angeles Chargers. The fellow SEC RB out of Texas A&M doesn’t even have a single touchdown, rushing or receiving.
  • Pierre Strong Jr.: Selected 127th overall in the fourth round to the New England Patriots, Strong is now on his second NFL team after rushing for 291 yards for the Cleveland Browns.
  • Hassan Haskins: The former Michigan Wolverine, taken No. 131 overall, only gained 93 yards his rookie season. He spent 2023 on both injured reserve and the Commissioner’s Exempt List following a domestic dispute.

If anything, Kyren Williams of the Los Angeles Rams is one Day 3 pick who’s put up better numbers than Pacheco: 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl nod for the fifth-rounder.

Still, Purdy isn’t the only stunning seventh-round gem who’s spearheaded a Super Bowl run: The Chiefs have their own in the hard-nosed Pacheco.

As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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