Draft Masterclass: How the Kansas City Chiefs Used the NFL Draft To Build a Consistent Super Bowl Contender

A long process led to the Kansas City Chiefs becoming a Super Bowl mainstay, but the NFL Draft is where it all started. The numbers tell the story.

The Kansas City Chiefs have been in four of the past five Super Bowls and five of the last six AFC Championship games. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are at the center of the NFL’s latest dynasty, but how did NFL Draft success help bring the Chiefs to prominence?

Kansas City Chiefs Used NFL Draft To Build Perennial Super Bowl Contender

Team building is a complex, coordinated effort. It takes consistent scouting, player acquisition on multiple fronts, and the proper coaching and schematics to maximize player development and impact.

There’s no one right way to achieve victory in the NFL, but there’s no shying away from the fact that the NFL Draft is at the heart of the process.

In the NFL Draft, teams have the opportunity to acquire and develop homegrown talent at a cheap price.

As impact players move past their rookie deals, sustaining a Super Bowl-winning squad ultimately takes more ingenuity and problem-solving. But the NFL Draft helps build the foundation — and that’s something the Chiefs have proven.

How Much of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl 58 Roster Has Been Drafted?

There are other factors that go into the Chiefs’ success. The impact of tenured and innovative coaches like Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can’t be overlooked. And Patrick Mahomes’ own contract flexibility allows Kansas City to adapt and compensate other stars.

Having said this, the NFL Draft was — and has been — a major part of Kansas City establishing itself as the unquestionable NFL powerhouse of the 2020s. All you have to do is look at the numbers.

Looking at the team’s current 53-man roster, 35 out of 53 players — or 66% — were either drafted by the Chiefs or signed by the Chiefs as undrafted free agents.

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Expanding beyond the current roster to players on injured reserve and limiting the qualifiers to starting players and key rotational contributors, the numbers are even more stark. Out of that group, 25 of 37, or 67.5%, were acquired from the NFL Draft.

That group includes impact players like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, L’Jarius Sneed, Chris Jones, Creed Humphrey, Trent McDuffie, George Karlaftis, and Rashee Rice. But quality utility, depth, and role players like Derrick Nnadi, Michael Danna, Leo Chenal, Tershawn Wharton, and Nick Allegretti also contribute in their own ways.

Chiefs Add Impact Players at Incredible Value in the NFL Draft

Dating back over a decade, several impact players who contributed to at least one of the Chiefs’ recent Super Bowls were acquired through the NFL Draft.

That’s not just Mahomes, Kelce, and Jones, but also Tyreek Hill — who was traded to the Miami Dolphins — and offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who earned two Pro Bowl bids during his time in Kansas City.

A common theme within the Chiefs’ acquisition of impact players is their impressive feel for value and board movement. Even before Brett Veach’s days as general manager, Reid knew how to play the board. Kelce was a third-round pick. Hill was a fifth-round pick. But with Reid and Veach working in tandem, that’s only been magnified.

In 2020, Sneed was a mere fourth-round pick. In 2021, the Chiefs snared Humphrey — the best center in the class — at the end of Round 2, one pick after fellow center Josh Myers. In the same draft, the Chiefs rightly capitalized on Trey Smith falling to Round 6 due to a blood clot condition, using late-round capital to secure a high-impact player.

In 2022, the Chiefs traded up for 2023 All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie in Round 1 but also let George Karlaftis fall to them at 30th overall and reaped the benefits. Then, in Round 7, they added Isiah Pacheco, one of the best value additions in the draft.

Even Mahomes, who was drafted 10th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, could be seen as a value pick, as he wasn’t the first QB taken. That honor went to Mitch Trubisky, who went to the Chicago Bears second overall.

The Chiefs’ acquisition of Mahomes was just another example of them playing the board. When Mahomes fell far enough, they aggressively traded up from 27th overall to acquire him at ten, proactively placing a high-upside successor behind veteran Alex Smith.

The bottom line is that the Chiefs don’t have one set philosophy when it comes to acquiring value in the NFL Draft. They’ll be aggressive for players they feel confident about, but they’ll also play the board with patience when they can.

Ultimately, that balance has allowed the Chiefs to build the roster they have today.

For the Chiefs, NFL Draft Lays the Foundation as Free Agency Fills Gaps

It’s important to note: The Chiefs don’t bat 100% in the NFL Draft. And they’ve had their fair share of early-round misses, even in recent years.

Felix Anudike-Uzomah struggled to make even a rotational impact as a first-round rookie in 2023. Skyy Moore, the 54th overall pick in 2022, has delivered very little dividends.

Breeland Speaks, the team’s 2018 second-round pick, was gone after one season of play and another on injured reserve. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, albeit a solid player, was a major reach in value at 32nd overall. Between the 2017, 2018, and 2019 drafts, the Chiefs only had four total players still on the roster.

Nonetheless, the Chiefs hit more than they miss in the early rounds. They reliably use middle and late-round hits to improve the roster’s depth and coach up their draft picks. And wherever gaps need to be filled after that, they use their remaining resources on free agent and trade targets.

In particular, on the offensive line, that aggressive gap-filling process has been an important final piece. That’s how the Chiefs traded for Orlando Brown Jr. in 2021 and signed blockers like Joe Thuney, Jawaan Taylor, and veteran Donovan Smith.

It’s also been important on the defensive side of the ball, where the Chiefs have brought in stalwarts like Charles Omenihu, Justin Reid, Mike Edwards, and Drue Tranquill.

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The NFL Draft, free agency, trades, and player development and utilization all must work in tandem to create an NFL superpower. But the NFL Draft is where it all starts. And that’s where the Chiefs set themselves apart.

All the 2024 NFL Draft resources you need — the draft order, the top QBs, the Top 100 prospects, and the full 2024 Big Board — right at your fingertips at Pro Football Network!

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