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3 Chiefs listed in ESPN’s top 50 draft steals of the last decade

Kansas City has the first two players in this ranking.

Kansas City Chiefs vs New York Jets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

On Wednesday, ESPN writers Matt Miller and Jordan Reid published their list of the top 50 draft steals of the last decade. A Kansas City Chiefs player tops the list.

1. Travis Kelce, TE

Drafted: No. 63 in 2013
Career stats: 814 receptions for 10,344 yards and 69 TDs in 10 seasons

When his career is over, we might be talking about Kelce as the greatest tight end of all time. After all, he has already proven himself as a dynamic, reliable No. 1 receiving option on a Super Bowl-winning team, and he has numbers to stack up with the best of the best. That’s pretty good for a late-Round 2 pick who slipped in the draft because of a suspension at Cincinnati. Kelce’s all-around game and presence as the Chiefs’ No. 1 target put him right at the top of the list here.

A former Chiefs player is ranked second.

2. Tyreek Hill, WR

Drafted: No. 165 in 2016
Career stats: 598 receptions for 8,340 yards and 63 TDs in seven seasons

Hill played both running back and receiver in college and showcased an explosive skill set. But he slid in the 2016 draft after he was arrested and accused of punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend. Oklahoma State dismissed him, and he wasn’t even invited to the combine after heading to West Alabama. Many scouts thought he might go undrafted, but Kansas City ultimately took him in the fifth round. On the field, Hill scored 12 times as a rookie with the Chiefs and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in Year 2. Now with the Miami Dolphins, Hill continues to stress opponent defenses from any formational alignment. He can alter the outcome of a game in a single play.

Then another Chiefs player is ranked just outside the top 10.

12. Chris Jones, DT

Drafted: No. 37 in 2016
Career stats: 244 tackles, 65 sacks, 2 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles in seven seasons

Jones became a key part of the Chiefs’ defense during his superb third season, as an active and disruptive interior presence. He posted 15.5 sacks that season and has recorded at least 7.5 every year since. With a towering 6-foot-6 build, strong hands and a relentless hunger to make life difficult for opposing passers, Jones has positioned himself as one of the best interior defenders in the league despite lasting until the second round back in 2016.


No fan is going to complain about their NFL team having the top two entries on a list like this one — or having three players in the top 15!

But if my editor’s paycheck came from ESPN instead of Arrowhead Pride, I would have suggested a substantial change to Miller and Reid’s story pitch: that the 10 draft years should have been 2008-2017, rather than 2013-2022 — simply because we need at least five years of perspective to put a player on a “draft steal” list.

For example:

The Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts (ranked 10th after being drafted with the 53rd pick in 2020) is a very good player. No one can dispute that. But who is to say what his career will really look like? Is that something we can predict on the basis of just three seasons? If his production falls off a cliff over the next two or three seasons — which could easily happen — will he still be a draft steal?

What about the Detroit Lions’ Amon-Ra St. Brown, who is ranked 48th after being taken with the 112th pick of 2021? If he’s able to be listed at the tail end of this list for becoming a starter in his second season, I’d argue that Kansas City’s Trey Smith (drafted 226th in the same year) deserves it more. He started in his first season.

Of course, I wouldn't have wanted either of those players on the list for the same reason I don’t think Hurts should be on it: there just isn’t yet enough information to evaluate whether they really were draft steals.

Still, all three of the Chiefs’ picks listed here would likely be on a 2008-2017 list — and Justin Houston (picked 70th in 2011) and Ryan Succop (taken 256th in 2009) might make that ranking, too.

Finally... I have noticed that all of the Kansas City picks on this list were made by John Dorsey. But I will stop well short of saying that this means anything in the continuing argument about whether Dorsey is a better general manager than current GM Brett Veach — and for the same reason: Veach hasn’t had the job long enough to really compare his record to Dorsey’s.

Ask me again in five years. Then we’ll see.

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