The Kansas City Chiefs are one year too late to the quarterback party with the first overall pick. A year after the two prospects who were rated highly enough to go first overall were available, the consensus this year is that, well, there is no consensus. Many think that few quarterbacks if any are truly worth a first round pick. Mel Kiper didn’t have any in the Top 20 before last week.
Let’s say that there isn’t a quarterback truly worth the first overall pick, whatever that may mean. Should the Chiefs still take one, and not worry that Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck is not in the draft?
Here’s the problem when there is not a strong quarterback seen as a must take player: the other solutions don’t seem to be that much better. There have been 18 drafts since 1978 were a quarterback did not go first overall, most recently 2008 with Jake Long being selected by Miami. Teams going for a position other than quarterback with the first overall pick have been very hit or miss.
Bruce Smith, Orlando Pace, and Earl Campbell were hits. Courtney Brown, Ki-Jana Carter, Steve Emtmann, and Aundray Bruce were major misses. Jake Long and Mario Williams have both been slightly above average 1st overall picks, and so I guess the question for Kansas City is this – do they pass on taking a clear need at quarterback for the average return at first overall with a non-quarterback?
If you put those 18 first overall picks up against the first quarterback taken, and compare their careers, yes, the first overalls prevail. It’s not as lopsided as you would think considering one was taken with the first selection, while the other group averaged being selected at pick number 17. I would rate that 11 were “victories” for the first overall pick, five for the first QB taken, and two were draws due to both being bad.
However, even in those quarterback deficient drafts, if a team had selected the “right” quarterback among the top three in the draft, they would have soundly outperformed the first overall picks. Brett Favre was in a draft where Russell Maryland went first overall and no quarterback went in the top 15. Boomer Esiason was the first quarterback taken in 1984, when Irving Fryar went first. Neil Lomax was the second quarterback taken when George Rogers was first overall. Chad Pennington (Courtney Brown), Matt Ryan (Jake Long), Steve McNair (KiJana Carter), Jim McMahon (Kenneth Sims), and Phil Simms (Tom Cousineau) were all better options in hindsight.
Andy Reid was hired in Kansas City because of his expertise in developing and training quarterbacks. New GM John Dorsey came from Green Bay, where they valued quarterbacks and drafted Aaron Rodgers when he slipped in the draft. So prove that you are better than average at identifying and developing the position. History would say that, even in these weaker quarterback classes, at least one of the quarterbacks drafted among the top three will turn out to be a good starter. I would say that in 13 of the 18 classes, at least one would have been worthy of a high pick. While it may be more difficult to identify that guy this year, the odds are better than average that one of these quarterbacks will be a good starter.
I think that guy is Geno Smith, who seems like a good risk to be at least a decent quarterback. If the Chiefs personnel evaluators disagree, then that’s fine. If they take a different position while sitting at the first overall pick with the one glaring need being quarterback, the thought process better be either:
a) there is a Hall of Fame caliber can’t miss talent at another position, where we don’t want to look back and say we passed; or
b) there is no starting quarterback in this class who will start for 8+ years in this league.
Kansas City has gone the second longest of any franchise without using a first round pick on a quarterback. Kansas City has not had a quarterback drafted by the franchise actually win a game in Kansas City since Todd Blackledge. If that does not change this year, there will be plenty of early pressure on the new regime. My guess is that despite the talk about other positions and players like Luke Joeckel, Kansas City becomes the 11th team in the last 13 years to take a quarterback first overall.