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Battle of the Chiefs GMs: Is John Dorsey's first 3 years better than Carl Peterson's?

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

John Dorsey has done a good job in his first three years at the helm as GM of the Kansas City Chiefs. Where does Dorsey's first three years stack up against former GM Carl Peterson's first three years?

King Carl was one of the Chiefs best GMs ever (if not the best), so let's compare the two by going all the way back to January 1992, King Carl's third year.

Ahhhh January of good ol' 92. I was probably sitting somewhere in my childhood home playing the Nintendo and fighting with one of my four siblings over who got to be Mario. I'd be in my Chiefs Starter coat because who didn't have one of those? Somewhere else Carl Peterson was slicking his hair back and Marty Schottenheimer was cleaning his over-sized glasses. Both Peterson and Schottenheimer were wrapping up a season that ended in a 37-14 Divisional round loss to the Bills.

These comparisons won't be perfect. You can't always quantify these things but let's start with a simple one: wins. Peterson's first year was in 1989, and Dorsey's was in 2013.

Total Wins (Regular Season)

Year Carl John Year
1989 8 11 2013
1990 11 9 2014
1991 10 11 2015
Total 29 31 Total

Coaches and players obviously matter but GMs are still judged by wins and losses too. Dorsey has two more regular season wins in his first three years than King Carl.

Regular Season Wins - Advantage Dorsey

Postseason Appearances and Wins

Both Peterson and Dorsey were 1-2 in the playoffs in their first three years. They have the same number of playoff appearances, playoff wins and playoff losses. The 1990 Chiefs lost a Wild Card game to the Dolphins 17-16. The 1991 Chiefs won their Wild Card game against the LA Raiders 10-6, and then lost to the Bills in the Divisional round.

Post Season Appearances and Wins - Push

Draft Comparisons

We'll now start looking at the drafts for both King Carl and Dorsey. Remember talking about the 1992 snapshot earlier? We'll need to take a statistical snapshot of that time period if we are able to fairly compare the two general managers.

One way to approach comparing eras is to simply total the statistics for the picks both Dorsey and Peterson made. However, I felt this was not a good choice because players whose rookie seasons began in 1989 or 2013 would overload the numbers when comparing them to players who were drafted in the later years.

Instead we'll use the average year of production for each player. As an example, Travis Kelce. He was drafted in 2013. He missed a season due to injury, but that year will still count towards his averages. Kelce has 139 receptions, for an average of 46.3 receptions a year since he has been drafted.

Going forward to compare the draft picks we'll look at the average year of production for players at either a snapshot of January '92 or January 2015.

Also it's important to note that in the first three years of Peterson's drafts the NFL utilized more than seven rounds in the draft. For the sake of keeping things even we'll only consider the first seven rounds of Peterson's drafts.

Some Draft Graphs

This first table will show a summary of both Peterson and Dorsey's first three years worth of draft picks.

Carl Peterson Draft Picks

Year Round Pick Player Position
1989 1 4 Derrick Thomas LB
1989 2 32 Mike Elkins QB
1989 3 60 Naz Worthen WR
1989 4 88 Stan Petry DB
1989 6 143 Robb Thomas WR
1989 7 171 Ron Sancho LB
1990 1 13 Percy Snow LB
1990 2 40 Tim Grunhard C
1990 3 96 Fred Jones WR
1990 5 124 Derrick Graham G
1990 5 127 Ken Hackemack T
1990 6 152 Tom Sims DT
1990 7 180 Dave Szott G
1991 1 21 Harvey Williams RB
1991 2 50 Joe Valerio C
1991 3 77 Tim Barnett WR
1991 5 133 Charles Mincy DB
1991 6 162 Darrell Malone DB
1991 7 189 Bernard Ellison DB

John Dorsey Draft Picks

Year Round Pick Player Position
2013 1 1 Eric Fisher T
2013 3 63 Travis Kelce TE
2013 3 96 Knile Davis RB
2013 4 99 Nico Johnson LB
2013 5 134 Sanders Commings DB
2013 6 170 Eric Kush C
2013 6 204 Braden Wilson FB
2013 7 207 Mike Catapano DE
2014 1 23 Dee Ford LB
2014 3 87 Phillip Gaines DB
2014 4 124 De'Anthony Thomas RB
2014 5 163 Aaron Murray QB
2014 6 193 Zach Fulton G
2014 6 200 Laurent Duvernay-Tardif G
2015 1 18 Marcus Peters DB
2015 2 49 Mitch Morse C
2015 3 76 Chris Conley WR
2015 3 98 Steven Nelson DB
2015 4 118 Ramik Wilson LB
2015 5 172 D.J. Alexander LB
2015 5 173 James O'Shaughnessy TE
2015 6 217 Rakeem Nunez-Roches DT
2015 7 233 Da'Ron Brown WR

The following graphs will show the positional selections for Peterson and Dorsey.

Carl Peterson Positional Selections

John Dorsey Positional Selections

Carl Peterson had a total of 19 picks in his first three years and John Dorsey had a total of 23. We'll make sure to look at the average performance of all players later on.

Next let's look at the average draft round of each position for both Dorsey and Peterson. Keep in mind this is just for observation purposes and has nothing to do with which GM may be performing better.

Carl Peterson Average Round by Position

Position Count Avg Round
QB 1 2
RB 1 1
WR 4 3.75
TE 0 N/A
OL 5 4.2
DL 1 6
LB 3 3
DB 4 5.5

John Dorsey Average Round by Position

Position Count Avg Round
QB 1 5
RB 2 3.5
WR 2 5
TE 2 4
OL 5 4.2
DL 2 6.5
LB 4 3.5
DB 4 3

It's interesting to see both Dorsey and Peterson drafted along the offensive line the most, and they also averaged the same draft position. Peterson and Dorsey also drafted the same number of DBs, pass catchers (TEs + WRs), and QBs.

With all the talk about the Chiefs never selecting a QB in the early rounds I didn't remember Peterson's second round selection of Mike Elkins in 1989. This could be because I was four years old at the time, but most likely because Elkins threw two passes for the Chiefs in 1989 and never saw the field in the NFL again. Could you imagine the ruckus if this happened in today's NFL?

First Round Pick Production

Carl Peterson

Overall Pick Player Position Avg Starts Avg Pro Bowls
4 Derrick Thomas LB 15.3 1
13 Percy Snow LB 7 0
21 Harvey Williams RB 1 0
Total Avg 7.8 0.3

John Dorsey

Overall Pick Player Position Avg Starts Avg Pro Bowls
1 Eric Fisher T 14.3 0
23 Dee Ford LB 2.5 0
18 Marcus Peters DB 16 1
Total Avg 10.9 0.3

John Dorsey's first round picks saw more playing time than Carl Peterson's first round selections. Dorsey and Peterson tied in terms of average Pro Bowls for players drafted during their first three years.

Even though Dorsey's picks saw the field more, it's very difficult to say that Dorsey's first round picks were better when Peterson drafted Derrick Thomas, who is an all-time great. Marcus Peters' fantastic rookie season helps Dorsey's cause. Fisher and Ford may have their flaws, but collectively they contributed more than Percy Snow and Harvey Williams.

I'm going to call this one a push because of Derrick Thomas -- my post, my rules -- even though Dorsey's players contributed more in terms of playing time.

First Round Selections -  Push


Both Dorsey and Peterson selected QBs who have made very little to no contribution to the team, including the aforementioned Elkins. Aaron Murray was selected in the fifth round and is still on the team. So one would have to think a slight advantage goes to Dorsey here ... even though neither Dorsey or Peterson have done much at the QB position in the draft during their first three years.

That being said, no production from either quarterback should still result in a push even if Dorsey's QB selection stayed on the team longer.

Quarterbacks - Push

Running Backs

Carl Peterson Running Backs

Round Pick Player Games Started All Purpose Yards Receptions Carries TDs
1 21 Harvey Williams 1 594 16 97 3
1 21 1 594 16 97 3

John Dorsey Running Backs

Round Pick Player Games Started All Purpose Yards Receptions Carries TDs
3 96 Knile Davis 0.67 925.33 9.67 77.33 4.67
6 204 Braden Wilson 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 124 De'Anthony Thomas 2.00 820.50 20.00 11.50 2.00
4.33 141.33 0.89 581.94 9.89 29.61 2.22

The bottom numbers represent the averages of the average year for all of the players. Looking at the information it's kind of odd to think that Knile Davis has contributed over 900 yards per season in all purpose yards - which includes kick off and punt returns.

Harvey Williams was a first round selection who seemed to have some promise after being selected by the Chiefs. Much like Knile Davis, Williams had his fair share of difficulties holding onto the ball. Williams was used primarily as a kick returner for the Chiefs. He eventually went to play for the Raiders where he did have one 1,000-yard rushing season in 1995.

If were looking at a snapshot of both seasons, it's easy to see that the average John Dorsey running back selection provided more for the team relative to draft position. A first round pick for a player who is primarily used to return kicks may not have been the best decision by Peterson (yeah, yeah hindsight). Of course Williams may have had a hard time seeing many carries because Christian Okoye was the running back for the Chiefs at the time.

Running Backs - Advantage Dorsey

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

I lump WRs and TEs together because Peterson did not draft a TE in his first three years. Another reason I put these two together is because the TE position has changed since Peterson's early years of being the Chiefs GM. Both of the Chiefs TEs that were selected by Dorsey in the draft are expected to catch the ball, which wasn't the case with tight ends in Peterson's era.

Carl Peterson

Round Pick Player Games Started All Purpose Yards Receptions TDs
3 60 Naz Worthen 0.33 240.33 1.67 0.00
6 143 Robb Thomas 8.33 366.00 30.67 2.33
3 96 Fred Jones 0.00 98.50 4.50 1.00
3 77 Tim Barnett 8.00 564.00 41.00 5.00
3.75 94 4.17 317.21 19.46 2.08

John Dorsey

Round Pick Player Games Started All Purpose Yards Receptions TDs
3 76 Chris Conley 5 213 17 1
7 233 Da'Ron Brown 0 0 0 0
3 63 Travis Kelce 9 579 46.33 3.33
5 173 James O'Shaughnessy 3 87 6.00 0.00
4.50 136.25 4.25 219.75 17.33 1.08

These numbers were surprising to me. Even with Travis Kelce in tow the Carl Peterson pass catchers were superior to the John Dorsey receivers. Perhaps this is due to the complexity of Andy Reid's system. Peterson's pass catchers out performed the Dorsey receivers in all purpose yards, receptions, and touchdowns. Even though Peterson drafted receivers slightly higher, the difference in production is not to be ignored.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends - Advantage Peterson

Offensive Line

Carl Peterson Offensive Line Selections

Round Pick Player Position Games Started
2 40 Tim Grunhard C 12.5
5 124 Derrick Graham G 0.5
5 127 Ken Hackemack T 0
7 180 Dave Szott G 13.5
2 50 Joe Valerio C 0
4.2 104.2 5.3

John Dorsey Offensive Line Selections

Round Pick Player Position Games Started
1 1 Eric Fisher T 14.3
6 170 Eric Kush C 0.3
6 193 Zach Fulton G 11
6 200 Laurent Duvernay-Tardif G 6.5
2 49 Mitch Morse C 15
4.2 122.6 9.4

With the Chiefs dominant offensive line of the 90s it's interesting to see that John Dorsey has been getting more playing time from his offensive line selections than Peterson has. I'll credit this to the fact that the Chiefs line in the 90s is simply better and more competitive than the Chiefs offensive line in the 2010s.

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge Carl Peterson's second best draft selection in his first three years behind Derrick Thomas. Dave Szott was a seventh round selection who went on to be a very solid starter for nine seasons in the 1990s. This was a huge pick for Carl Peterson and the Chiefs franchise. What a value.

All things aside it is hard to decide which GM has the advantage here. In one case, Carl Peterson selected two outstanding offensive lineman, but three duds. Dorsey on the other hand appears to have selected four good to serviceable offensive lineman and one dud.

Which brings me to the question - is it better to have a large number of decent players, or two great players? Would I rather have 1992's Szott and Grunhard or 2016's Fisher, Morse, LDT, and Fulton?

I really can't make up my mind here -- recency bias? -- so I decided to add another quantifier as a tie breaker.  We'll use Pro Football Reference's approximate value.

Carl Peterson

Player Avg AV
Tim Grunhard 7.5
Derrick Graham 1.5
Ken Hackemack 0
Dave Szott 8
Joe Valerio 0

John Dorsey

Player Avg AV
Eric Fisher 7.3
Eric Kush 0.3
Zach Fulton 6
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif 3.5
Mitch Morse 8

It's very interesting to see Fisher and Morse's AV very similar to Grunhard and Szott's AV.  Both Szott and Grunhard are widely considered great Chiefs, but Fisher has been met with some criticism.

According to approximate value, John Dorsey's OL selctions have been better than Carl Peterson's.  One main proponent of AV is that a team full of superior AV players will perform better than a team full of lesser AV players.  So to answer the question above, according to AV it is better to have four good to serviceable players, than two very good players.

Offensive Line - Advantage Dorsey

Defensive Line

Peterson selected a DT named Tom Sims in the sixth round of the 1990 draft. Sims never had much of an impact. Dorsey selected Mike Catapano in the seventh and Rakeem Nunez-Roches in the sixth round. Neither of these players have made much of an impact either.

Defensive Line - Push


Carl Peterson Linebackers

Round Pick Player Games Started Tackles Sacks INTs FFs TDs
1 4 Derrick Thomas 15.33 72.33 14.50 0.00 4.33 0.33
7 171 Ron Sancho 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 13 Percy Snow 7.00 0.00 1.00 0.50 0.00 0.00
3 62.67 7.44 24.11 5.17 0.17 1.44 0.11

John Dorsey Linebackers

Round Pick Player Games Started Tackles Sacks INTs FFs TDs
4 99 Nico Johnson 0.33 1.67 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 23 Dee Ford 2.50 12.00 2.75 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 118 Ramik Wilson 2.00 13.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.00
5 172 D.J. Alexander 0.00 1.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3.5 103 1.21 6.92 0.69 0.00 0.00 0.25

Can you believe Derrick Thomas averaged 14.5 sacks a season in his first three years? That is amazing. There is no argument here. Carl Peterson selected the better linebackers and it's not even close thanks to DT.

Linebackers - Advantage Peterson

Defensive Backs

Carl Peterson Defensive Backs

Round Pick Player Games Started INTs TDs
4 88 Stan Petry 0.67 1.33 0.33
5 133 Charles Mincy 0.00 0.00 0.00
6 162 Darrell Malone 0.00 0.00 0.00
7 189 Bernard Ellison 0.00 0.00 0.00
5.5 143 0.17 0.33 0.08

John Dorsey Defensive Backs

Round Pick Player Games Started INTs TDs
5 134 Sanders Commings 0 0 0
3 87 Phillip Gaines 4 0 0
1 18 Marcus Peters 16 8 2
3 98 Steven Nelson 0 0 0
3 84.25 5 2 0.5

Much like Peterson and linebackers, Dorsey has been better with selecting defensive backs. Marcus Peters is obviously a huge reason for this. Dale Carter wouldn't come until the 1992 draft.

Defensive Backs - Advantage Dorsey


So if we tally all of the above advantages and pushes we have the following information.

Item Peterson Dorsey
Reg. Wins Advantage
Playoff Wins Push Push
First Round Push Push
QB Push Push
RB Advantage
WR/TE Advantage
OL Push Advantage
DL Push Push
LB Advantage
DB Advantage
Total Adv. 2 4

After much deliberation we can come to a reasonable conclusion the start of Dorsey's career as a GM in Kansas City has been a little better than the start of Carl Peterson's career -- if we're living in a snapshot.  All of Dorsey's picks could fall by the wayside and 3 years from now we could be talking about how much better Peterson was than Dorsey.

All that said, since Peterson was such a great GM for the Chiefs, it is a very good sign for Dorsey to have a slightly better start than Peterson.  Let's hope Dorsey can keep up the good work.