Is selection of Patrick Mahomes a big gamble or great fit for KC Chiefs?

patrick mahomes

Taking quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the NFL draft was a risky proposition for the KC Chiefs.

For every Aaron Rodgers (taken by Green Bay with the 24th overall pick of the 2005 draft), there are more busts like Akili Smith (third in 1999), JaMarcus Russell (first in 2007) and Ryan Leaf (second in 1998). Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert (10th in 2011) failed to live up to such a high pick.

While many more first-round QBs are simply competent and serviceable – like Alex Smith (picked first overall in 2005) – they are nowhere near the lofty expectations of a “franchise” signal caller.

Yet that is the tag being applied to Patrick Mahomes, for whom the Chiefs traded up 17 spots.

“Just pure excitement,” he said of learning about the draft day trade which made him available to the Chiefs.  “It’s something I’ve always dreamed about, to get to an organization like this.”

Mahomes becomes the Chiefs’ first quarterback picked in the first round since Todd Blackledge was picked seventh overall in 1983.

Steve Fuller (23rd in 1979 and the Chiefs second first-round pick that year) is the only other first-round quarterback drafted by the team.

Blackledge and Fuller started just 55 games over parts of nine seasons in a Chiefs uniform, going a combined 26-29 with just one playoff appearance:  the 10-7 Wild Card loss to the Jets in 1986.

Mike Livingston was the Chiefs’ 1968 second round pick out of SMU and started a few years after Lenny Dawson retired.

Having reached the playoffs three of the last four seasons and creeping closer to an AFC title game, the Chiefs expect far more success from this first-round pick.

Mahomes, listed at 6-2, 225, has the athleticism to be an NFL star. He is a good enough runner to successfully scramble and was widely lauded for a strong arm at Texas Tech, capable of making pinpoint throws and heaving the deep ball.

That Mahomes might just as well have been performing on the northeast side of Truman Sports Complex – at Kauffman instead of Arrowhead – is a testament to his arm strength. Major league clubs were also interested in Mahomes.

A pitcher for the Red Raiders baseball team, Mahomes seemed poised to follow in the footsteps of his father, who pitched several years in the majors. He cites 21-year MLB veteran LaTroy Hawkins as one of the major influences in his life.

But the younger Mahomes fell in love with the gridiron and became one of three first-round QBs taken in the most recent NFL draft.

The decision to trade up – from 27th overall to 10th – was difficult for then-general manager John Dorsey, but as the interest in the “strong-armed gunslinger” grew they pulled the trigger, sending their first-round picks in 2017 and 2018, plus their third-round pick in 2017, to the Buffalo Bills.

“When you do a move like this, you have to do it with everybody on board,” Dorsey said.  “From the very beginning, the consensus was he has got unbelievable talents.  He’s got the skill set to be one of those truly great players.”

It was obviously a big gamble for the Chiefs as those “truly great players” are rare finds, but the coaching staff also believed his skill set was the best match for the team’s offensive style.

“We thought with what we do, Mahomes would fit in well,” coach Andy Reid said of the draft-eligible quarterbacks. “We thought (he) would fit best.”

The selection started two clocks ticking:  one on Mahomes’ NFL development, and the other on Smith’s remaining time in a Chiefs uniform.  The 33-year-old Smith has two years remaining on a contract extension signed at the start of the 2014 season.

The team is clearly looking to the future with this pick. “Alex Smith is the starting quarterback,” Reid said. “Nothing is going to change there. This kid’s going to come in and learn.”

The task falls to Reid’s staff to develop the youngster’s talent, which they plan to do via a full year of learning behind Smith, although Mahomes will have a chance to win the number two quarterback role.

“I’m just going to come in and work my tail off,” Mahomes said.  “Trying to become the best teammate possible and whatever the opportunity, whenever it happens, I’m just going to be ready to play.”

Early returns have been positive.

“The nice thing about him is that we found out that he likes to work,” Reid said.  “And that’s the big thing.”

One knock against him in pre-draft analysis was his lack of patience. With the Red Raiders, he would sometimes leave the pocket a bit early or try to deliver a difficult throw instead of waiting for the play to develop.

To succeed as an NFL quarterback, Mahomes will have to learn how to be patient and read defenses.  Once again, the early returns are positive.

“To me, the most exciting part of practice is when I get a protection right,” he said.  “Right now, if I switch a protection and it’s right, that’s probably the happiest I am.”

Mahomes likes to compare himself to Rodgers.

“He’s a guy who makes some throws out of the pocket,” he said.  “I feel like I can do those things.”

He clearly has big-game ability; last October Mahomes tied the NCAA record for single-game passing yards, 734, while setting a school record with seven touchdown throws.  He also rushed for another 85 yards to set an FBS record for most yards from scrimmage in a single game.

The super-confident Mahomes knows his day is coming with the Chiefs, but now he just wants to improve.

“It’s all about progression,” he said.  “I’m just trying to get better every single day.”

For more coverage of the Chiefs visit http://kcsportspaper.com/category/pro-teams/

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Article by Marc Bowman

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