The streak is over.
The Chiefs drafted Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Thursday night after trading up to No. 10 in the NFL Draft. It had been 34 years since the Chiefs took a quarterback in the first round: Todd Blackledge in 1983.
To get Mahomes, the Chiefs traded their first-round pick (No. 27), one of their two third-round picks this year (No. 91 overall), and their 2018 first-round pick to the Buffalo Bills.
By trading with the Bills, the Chiefs leaped the quarterback-needy Browns, who eventually traded the No. 12 overall pick to Houston (who drafted Clemson QB Deshaun Watson) for the No. 25 overall pick and other picks.
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The pick makes Mahomes the Chiefs’ quarterback of the future, although coach Andy Reid, general manager John Dorsey and chairman Clark Hunt have all said for months that quarterback Alex Smith — who is 41-20 as the Chiefs’ starter the last four years — will start in 2017.
The Chiefs, however, lost their home playoff game 18-16 to Pittsburgh despite not allowing a touchdown, and the cap-tight Chiefs could save $17 million by releasing Smith next year. They could also create some cap room by extending his contract, but the selection of the strong-armed but raw Mahomes will provide short- and long-term insurance.
“Right now Patrick isn’t absolutely ready to play — he’s got some work to do,” Reid said. “He’s going into a great room … he can learn from Alex. We have to be patient with him. Tremendous upside. Good person, intelligent with great skill.
“We think they’re both really good football players. We just thought we with what we do, Mahomes would fit in well.”
Reid said the Chiefs liked Mahomes’ intelligence and ability to avoid pressure and make plays.
“Very seldom do you have a perfect pocket … in the National Football League,” Reid said. “And we thought he did that well.”
The flip side to that escapability, however, is that Mahomes hates giving up on plays, which leads to some reckless throws, despite his stellar 41-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2016. But Reid said Mahomes’ “gunslinger” mentality isn’t a bad thing.
“I’ve been around the best gunslinger ever with Brett Favre,” said Reid, who was Favre’s quarterback coach in the late 1990s. “I’m not into comparisons — they’re different players. Brett’s a Hall of Fame player and this kid has a long way to go before that, but I think when you have an opportunity to talk to him and be around him, he has an energy and certain intensity you like.”
Mahomes said he knows it’s important to eliminate reckless throws, especially because the Chiefs’ defense has been one of the NFL’s best in takeaways.
“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes,” Mahomes said on a teleconference after his selection. “That gunslinger mentality to make the throws (is good), but when you have a defense like the Chiefs have, you have to make sure you protect the ball.”
Mahomes is also confident Reid, who has tutored Pro Bowl quarterbacks Favre and Donovan McNabb, will help him accomplish that goal.
“It’s extremely exciting to play for a coach you know will coach you well,” Mahomes said. “It’s something you always want.”
Mahomes was wanted by the Chiefs just as much as he wanted to be selected by them. Reid credited Mahomes’ lead scout, Willie Davis, for his research during the pre-draft process and noted that Mahomes won over the Chiefs at the combine and during his predraft visit to Kansas City.
“Everybody liked this guy,” Reid said. “Couldn’t find a guy who didn’t like him … everybody fell in love with the kid and how he went about his business and how he played. That’s not something that happens every year.
“Ron Wolf taught me a long time ago, when that happens, you go get him. And Dorse attacked that.”
Indeed, just like Wolf – Green Bay’s legendary general manager – did in 1992 when he traded a first-round pick to Atlanta for Brett Favre. But that’s not to say the Chiefs won’t have some work to do with Mahomes.
No Air Raid quarterback — the offense Mahomes ran with staggering efficiency at Texas Tech — has excelled in the NFL because of the simplified reads and plethora of easy throws the system provides. Mahomes never called plays in college and Reid’s offense is known for its long play calls.
But Mahomes did have a lot of control of Texas Tech’s offense, which is no small thing.
“I could change any play at any time of the game,” he said. “That’s Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury believing in me.”
Mahomes, Reid added, did execute NFL-style route combinations at Texas Tech. Reid was also comforted about Mahomes’ ability to recite plays during his visit to Kansas City, where they — in Reid’s words — grilled him and he “did a good job.”
“We tried to bury him,” Reid said with a laugh. “We try to throw the kitchen sink at him and you try to keep it as close to what we’ll do.”
While fans might be clamoring to see Mahomes play, Reid reiterated that Smith will start.
“I don’t worry about Alex on this,” Reid said. “Alex knows we trust him. Alex is the starting quarterback. Nothing is going to change there. The kid is going to take some time. He understands that.
“But there’s gonna be a day Alex isn’t playing anymore and we’ll need someone to step in and play.”
So in the meantime, Mahomes said he’s focused on being a good teammate and learning as much as he can from Smith, a 12-year veteran whose primary objective remains leading the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title since 1969.
“That’s pretty awesome,” Mahomes said of the chance to learn from Smith. “He’s had a successful career in the NFL, so you know he’s doing things the right way.”
Chiefs remaining draft picks
2nd round: No. 59
3rd round: No. 104
4th round: No. 132
5th round: No. 170 & 180
6th round: No. 216 & 218
7th round: No. 245
The book on QB Patrick Mahomes II
The Star’s Terez A. Paylor looked at six games of Mahomes’ before the draft, talked to scouts and draft analyts and wrote up a scouting report. Here it is:
Measurables: 6-2, 225, 21, 4.8
Bio: Two-year starter who completed 388 of 591 passes (65.7 percent) for 5,052 yards, 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2016. Rushed 131 times for 285 yards and 12 touchdowns. Was sacked 27 times. Committed six fumbles. Declared after true junior season in which he led the Red Raiders to a 5-7 record. Son of ex-MLB pitcher Pat Mahomes, who played in the big leagues for 11 years. Had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine.
Strengths: Young for a prospect. Team captain in 2016. Top tester at his position in the three-cone (6.88) and 20-yard shuttle (4.08). Possesses a thick, strong frame but is an above-average athlete who can slip oncoming defenders both in and out of the pocket; has a bit of the Tarkenton/Manziel gene. Occasionally reverts to a sidearm delivery but generally pairs a quick motion with a loose, live arm; has easy gas and can really drive it on difficult intermediate and deep throws. Gunslinger who throws tight spirals and consistently chucks it downfield and into tight spots. “You think about the arm talent, it’s rare to see a kid who can spin it,” Kiper said. “And the explosiveness in those throws … it’s a 98 mph fastball that gets there in a blink.” Field-stretcher who hates letting plays die; tries to make every play, even to his detriment. Flashes the ability to throw with touch, even on the run, and on downfield and sideline throws, as well. Would rather throw than run; wants to be a distributor and get teammates involved. “His eyes — he sees things, he sees the field,” Kiper said. Showed improvement in pocket poise and accuracy by the end of the season. Enthusiastic on-field demeanor. Has a likable personality and might display leadership potential. Has a nice combination of athleticism, character and arm talent, though he will need some time to acclimate to the pro game.
Weaknesses: Flashes the ability to stand in the pocket and deliver in the face of the rush but will also throw off his back foot, significantly affecting his command of the strike zone. Makes too many wild decisions under pressure (i.e. throwing across his body, late or into coverage). Needs to cut down on his questionable throws over the middle in general, and learn when to let a play die. “He’s got to have a better idea of when he can take chances and when he can’t,” Mayock said. “I saw him make some throws in the fourth quarter down a touchdown in the red zone that made no sense at all to me.” Needs to keep working on his inconsistent mechanics and accuracy, the latter of which must improve significantly at all levels if he’s ever going to reach his potential. “What happens is the consistency of his mechanics break down as he tries to throw home runs every snap, and he’ll throw off his back foot one snap, and it’s 50 yards down the field and you go: ‘Wow, what a great play.’ The next snap will do the same thing and throw an interception,” Mayock said. Comes from a pass-heavy, Air Raid spread passing attack that has failed to produce a big-time NFL passer. Never had to spit out the lengthy, double-digit play calls present in Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s playbook. “The only concern I have — and this is a major concern for some people — is (he’s) coming out of the Texas Tech Red Raider offense,” Kiper said. “There’s no issue physically. There’s no issue with the arm strength, mobility, character and attitude and approach.”