As the NFL Draft approaches, here’s a trend the Chiefs want to continue.
In each of the last three seasons, the Chiefs selected a guy who played in the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Cornerback Marcus Peters started the streak in 2015. Tyreek Hill followed as a return specialist in 2016, and last season, running back Kareem Hunt made the NFL All-Star game.
How unusual is this? The Chiefs' communications department did some digging and found no other team since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 has made a similar run.
This draft marks the first for Brett Veach as general manager, but he’s been part of the Chiefs' front office and draft-room circle of trust since joining the organization with Andy Reid in 2013.
Keeping the streak alive with this year's class — the Chiefs enter the draft with eight picks but not a first-rounder — is a big ask. But Veach said many of the draft fundamentals applied by former general manager John Dorsey, now with the Cleveland Browns, won’t change.
“It speaks to the process and really understanding and having a great deal of information on every player,” Veach said. “It goes back to know where the pockets of players are and what direction you can go. John did a great job of laying down the blueprint for that.”
That's not to suggest each of the past three Chiefs’ classes were great in their entirety. All three had misses along with the hits.
But when it came to Peters, Hill and Hunt, the Chiefs were rewarded for their scouting and evaluating efforts even when the picks appeared risky.
Peters played at Washington and was considered one of the draft’s top cornerbacks in 2015. But he had been dismissed from the Huskies' team before the end of the season after a confrontation with an assistant coach.
Peters figured to slip into the late first round or the second, but the Chiefs took him with the No. 18 overall pick.
He had disruptive moments in Kansas City, including a one-game suspension last season. But he was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-Pro in 2016, played in two Pro Bowls and owns 19 career interceptions. He was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for two draft picks this offseason.
Teams were cautious with Hill, who was projected by NFL.com as an undrafted free agent. Hill had a domestic violence charge from his year at Oklahoma State and played only one other college season after that, at Division II West Alabama, where he was underutilized.
The Chiefs took the speedy Hill in the fifth round. He has appeared in two Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro as a return specialist in 2016.
There wasn’t trouble in Hunt’s past, and he checked all the right boxes except one. Hunt played at Toledo and not a Power 5 school. The first five running backs selected in 2017 were from Power 5 institutions.
Hunt was taken in the third round and went on to become the NFL’s rushing leader.
In each case, the Chiefs knew, or at least strongly believed, something other clubs didn’t based on their volume of homework.
Veach said the Chiefs start by narrowing down 400-500 players to 160 on their draft board. By draft day, scouts will have seen 10 games on each of them.
“I couldn’t even tell you the amount of hours,” Veach said. “It goes back to rolling up our sleeves and getting into the film room.”
Scouting Combine interviews, pro day observations and film study identify more than sheer talent. Work ethic and the ability to process and retain information are part of the checklist.
A Pro Bowl player each of the past three years has been part of the payoff.