Over the course of time, the Kansas City Chiefs have had a number of great players be drafted and play for the team, too many to choose from. With the NFL Draft beginning on April 27th in Kansas City, I put together a top 10 list of the greatest draft picks in Chiefs history. These are players that were originally drafted by the Chiefs, not free agents who later played for Kansas City, so the likes of Priest Holmes and Len Dawson are not included. Let the countdown begin…
Shields ranks tenth on my all-time list because of his durability and availability. From 1993-2006, he set the franchise record for starting the most consecutive games with 223 and made the Pro Bowl 12 straight years. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. Shields was a third-round pick and he had the task of blocking for many Chiefs quarterbacks, including Joe Montana during his first two seasons in the league. When initial starter Dave Szott got hurt in the first game of the ’93 season, Shields immediately got his chance and never looked back. His 223 consecutive starts in the regular season ranks fifth most in NFL history.
Larry Johnson is ninth on the all-time list of greatest Chiefs draft picks. The former first-round pick out of Penn State had a tremendous Chiefs career. From 2003-2009, Johnson ran for 6,015 yards and 55 touchdowns. In 2005 and 2006 specifically, he had 37 rushing touchdowns over a two-year span. He and his teammate Priest Holmes were as dynamic a duo as any team will ever have. Johnson is third all-time on the Chiefs’ all-time rushing list behind Priest Holmes and Jamaal Charles.
Christian Okoye is number eight on the list. Simply put, this man was a problem for many defenses. His nickname: The Nigerian Nightmare. During his tenure in Kansas City from 1987-92, it was RARE to see a running back with his size and stature. Okoye was 253 lbs, which is the normal weight of an NFL linebacker. Imagine trying to tackle him. In 1989, he imposed his will on the league as he ran for 1,480 yards and 12 touchdowns on 370 carries. His number of rush attempts and rushing yards led the NFL for that season. Okoye was named the Offensive Player of the Year as well as being named a first-team All-Pro from the Associated Press.
The current anchor the Chiefs defensive line, Chris Jones checks in at number seven on the list. His career has been spectacular with Kansas City as he has accumulated 65 sacks in his seven seasons. The second-round draft pick from 2016 is arguably the best defensive lineman in football to this point and was a vital part in the Chiefs’ run to winning the Super Bowl in 2022 as he led the team with 15.5 sacks. 2023 is the final year on a four-year, $85 million contract he signed in the 2020 off-season. Whenever the time comes, it will be interesting to see the final numbers of Jones’ contract extension. He’s too important for the Chiefs’ defense to not keep long-term.
Dante Hall ranks sixth on my list of all-time Chiefs draft picks because of his electrifying skills on special teams. Nicknamed “The Human Joystick” because of his elusive movement, he had an explosive seven-year carer in Kansas City from 2000-2006 accumulating 11 total return touchdowns (6 kickoffs, 5 punts). In 2002 and 2003, Hall was a Pro Bowler as he recorded three and four return touchdowns in those years respectively. In all, Hall finished his career with 12 touchdowns on special teams. His six kickoff returns for touchdowns is tied for fourth most in NFL history. It was a no-brainer I would put him on this list.
Number Five: Jamaal Charles, 2008, Round 3, Pick 73 (RB, Texas)
It would be asinine of me to not include the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher among the greatest draft picks in the team’s history. From 2008-2016, Charles ran for 7,260 yards and 43 touchdowns, including leading the league with 12 in the 2013 season, which landed him on the NFL’s All-Pro 1st team. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in his Chiefs tenure. He was one of the best running backs to suit for the Chiefs and is without a doubt a top-five choice for best draft picks in the team’s history.
Number Four: Travis Kelce, 2013 Round 3, Pick 63 (TE, Cincinnati)
Like his teammate Jamaal Charles, Kelce was drafted in the third round. His career numbers: 814 catches for 10,344 yards and 69 touchdowns. He’s had seven straight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards. Just last year, Kelce had a career high in catches with 110 and a career high in touchdowns with 12. Simply put, he is a nightmare for defenses to try to gameplan for, let alone stop. He is more than deserving of being ranked in the op four of greatest Chiefs draft picks. He is on his way to being a Hall of Famer, but the man that came before him however, set the precedent and ranks number three on my list.
Number Three: Tony Gonzalez, 1997, Round One, Pick 13 (TE, California)
Tony Gonzalez was one of the best tight ends in NFL history. He is the Chiefs’ all-time leading receiver with 916 catches, 10,940 yards, and 76 touchdowns. It doesn’t get any better than that. At the University of California, Gonzalez was a two-sport star playing both basketball and football but ultimately settled for an NFL career. Turns out that was the right decision as he made the Pro Bowl 14 times (10 with Kansas City, 4 with the Falcons). In 2004, Gonzalez led the NFL in catches with 102. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.
I went back and forth trying to decide who would be the top two draft picks in Chiefs history, although I knew who they would be: linebacker Derrick Thomas and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Thomas is the greatest defensive player in Chiefs history and his career as a linebacker was second to none for his era. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1989 posting ten sacks, three forced fumbles, and 75 tackles. The very next season, Thomas set the all-time record in Chiefs history for most sacks in a season with 20. He finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Bills defensive end Bruce Smith. He owns the Chiefs’ all-time record for sacks with 126.5 and has his number retired by the team (58). Thomas tragically passed away on January 9, 2000, after being involved in a car accident and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously in 2009.
Patrick Mahomes tops the list of greatest Chiefs draft picks. It’s hard to believe that nine teams (most notably the Chicago Bears) passed on Mahomes in the 2017 draft because he was the real deal in college. Just at Texas Tech alone, Mahomes was a stud. He threw for 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns in three seasons from 2014-2016. As an NFL quarterback, his play has been off the charts. In five seasons as a full-time starting quarterback, he’s thrown for 23,957 yards and 192 touchdowns. Mahomes is a two-time regular season MVP (2018, 2022) and a two-time Super Bowl MVP (2019, 2022). In 2022, he threw for a league-leading 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns in leading the Chiefs to a victory in Super Bowl 57. He has undoubtedly become one of the NFL’s all-time greats and he’s only going to get better.