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Does it really matter who the first pick is?

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There's less than a week to go before the NFL draft and everyone is arguing the pros & cons of each of the possible players the Chiefs could draft in the first round. Some want Tennessee WR Donte Stallworth; others want North Carolina DT Ryan Sims. Still others pitch for candidates like Quentin Jammer, John Henderson, Albert Haynesworth, Joey Harrington, or Wendall Bryant. Several of these players should still be available when it's the Chiefs turn to draft and all of them would look good in Chiefs colors. My personal choice is Ryan Sims, but I'm not sure that it really matters. The odds are that 5.5 years from now, he won't be with the team.

Since the combined draft started in 1967, KC has selected 429 players (this includes the 1984 supplemental draft for USFL players). 226 of them made the active roster for at least one season. Sixty-five percent (147) were on the roster for four seasons or less. Only 19 of the 226 have lasted at least ten seasons. In the first round, the Chiefs have selected 35 players. Four of the first-rounders are still on the active roster. Of the other 31, 15 were on the roster for four seasons or less. Think about that for a moment; 48.9% of the first round picks bombed. Only four first-rounders ended up playing at least ten seasons for KC. Don't blame the salary cap - at least not entirely - for this situation. Overall, the 31 now-departed first-rounders lasted an average of 5.5 seasons. Since the inception of free agency and the salary cap, KC's first picks have lasted 5.0 seasons (excluding active players).

Statistics for the second round are similar. Of the 26 that made the roster, 11 (45.8% when you exclude those still active) lasted four seasons or less. Five lasted for at least ten seasons. The overall average stay for second-rounders is 5.9 seasons and 5.5 seasons for the post-salary cap/free agency picks.

The third round is where you start to see an appreciable difference between the pre- and post- free agency/salary cap figures. Thirty-three third-rounders have made the team and seven are still active. Of the remaining 26, the average length-of-stay has been 4.5 seasons. Since free agency and the salary cap kicked in, the average has dropped to 3.1 seasons. A similar decline is visible for the fourth and fifth rounds. There is virtually no change in length-of-stay averages for the sixth and seventh rounds.

Unless the Chiefs do some maneuvering between now and the draft, the team has one selection in each round minus the sixth. As you watch the selections unfold, remind yourself that there's only an 8.4% chance any of the chosen will still be with us ten years from now and a 65% chance they won't make it for more than four. That may be a depressing thought, but it puts things in perspective. The draft's importance in determining a team's future has diminished almost to the point of rendering it irrelevant. That, dear reader, is where you can pin the blame on free agency and the salary cap.

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