First-Round Carl … Monday Cup O’Chiefs

One of the greatest elements of the annual NFL Draft of eligible players out of college football is the trail of evidence that’s left behind.

Since the Draft as we know it was born in 1966 with the first common selection meeting involving the American Football League and the NFL, there have been 45 drafts, with at least 250 players picked each year. Do the math and that’s close to 10,000 players selected. That’s 10,000 pieces of evidence about the ability of individual players and the talents of those who picked them.

One of those urban myths about Carl Peterson’s 20-year reign as the man in charge of the Chiefs was this – the King wore no clothes when it came to first round draft choices. Supposedly, Peterson was just horrible when it came to the premier picks of the annual NFL Draft.

The theory lacks legs to stand on. Even three years after his forced early departure his lack of prowess in the first round is one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the Peterson Era at Arrowhead Stadium.

Listen, when it came to the first round, the Chiefs under Peterson had their stinkers, the biggest being University of Michigan OT Trezelle Jenkins in 1995. Jenkins was a complete bust, appearing in nine games over three seasons. He started the ’97 season opener, was benched and release two weeks later. He never played another regular season game in professional football.

But over 20 drafts, Peterson was correct far more than he was wrong when it came to the first round. One of those choices is already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (OLB Derrick Thomas/1989.) There’s another that will be there eventually (TE Tony Gonzalez/1997.)

Check out the chart below, chronicling all of Peterson’s first round picks. For comparison and context, his choices have been matched against the first-rounders of all four teams in the AFC West from 1989 through 2008, Peterson’s last draft in charge. Take a minute and look at those names, the number of Pro Bowlers that were produced with the first round picks, the number of victories and division titles. Seattle was left out of this comparison, although the Seahawks played in the division from 1989 through 2001.

AFC West First-Round Draft Picks 1989-2008







LB Derrick Thomas (9)


  S Steve Atwater (8)  DE Burt Grossman 


LB Percy Snow  DE Anthony Smith  RB Bobby Humphrey (1) (supplemental) LB Junior Seau (12) 


RB Harvey Williams QB Todd Marinovich  LB Mike Croel  S Stanley Richard 


CB Dale Carter (4)


DT Chester McGlockton (4)  QB Tommy Maddox  DE Chris Mims 


  S Patrick Bates  DE Dan Williams  CB Darrien Gordon 


RB Greg Hill  LB Rob Fredrickson     


OT Trezelle Jenkins RB Napoleon Kaufman     


S Jerome Woods (1)

TE Rickey Dudley  LB John Mobley  QB Ryan Leaf 


TE Tony Gonzalez (10) DE Darrell Russell  DE Trevor Pryce (4)   


OT Victor Riley  CB Charles Woodson (4)
OT Mo Collins
WR Marcus Nash   


OT John Tait  OT Matt Stinchcomb LB Al Wilson (5)  


WR Sylvester Morris  K Sebastian Janikowski  CB Deltha O’Neal (1)   


  S Derrick Gibson  CB Willie Middlebrooks  RB LaDainian Tomlinson (5)


DT Ryan Sims  CB Philip BuchanonLB Napoleon Harris  WR Ashley Lelie CB Quentin Jammer 


RB Larry Johnson (2)

CB Nnamdi Asomugha (2)
DE Tyler Brayton 
G George Foster  CB Sammy Davis 


  T Robert Gallery  LB D. J. Williams  QB Eli Manning 


LB Derrick Johnson  CB Fabian Washington    LB Shawne Merriman (3)
DT Luis Castillo 


DE Tamba Hali S Michael Huff QB Jay Cutler (1) CB Antonio Cromartie (1)


WR Dwayne Bowe  QB JaMarcus Russell DE Jarvis Moss WR Buster Davis 


DE Glenn Dorsey
LT Branden Albert
RB Darren McFadden OT Ryan Clady CB Antoine Cason

Total #1 Picks 





Avg. #1 Position





Top 10 Picks








Pro Bowls










AFC West Titles


Pro Bowl players and number of appearances between the 1989 and 2008 seasons are in italic. Bowe, Clady and Asomugha twice made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and/or 2010. Players highlighted in team colors remain with the club.

The most important factor in evaluating the success of draft choices is what effect did those players had on the success of team. In those 20 seasons, only Denver won more games than the Chiefs. The Chargers and Broncos won more division titles. Denver also won a pair of Super Bowls, something the Chiefs got close to only once, losing in the 1993 AFC Championship Game.

No AFC West team enjoyed more Pro Bowl appearances from first rounders in the time span than the Chiefs. Thomas, CB Dale Carter, Gonzalez, S Jerome Woods and RB Larry Johnson – that’s five of 18 first-rounder that made the Pro Bowl. Add WR Dwayne Bowe who made the all-star game last season, that’s 33 percent of Peterson’s first picks in the Pro Bowl at least once.

Sift through those 18 first rounders and they can be broken into four categories – Hall of Famer/Pro Bowler, Starter/Contributor, Backup/Disappointment/Injury and Bust:

  • Hall of Famer/Pro Bowlers (6) – D. Thomas, D. Carter, T. Gonzalez, J. Woods, L. Johnson, D. Bowe.
  • Starter/Contributor (5) – J. Tait, D. Johnson, T. Hali, G. Dorsey, B. Albert.
  • Backup/Disappointment/Injury (5) – P. Snow, H. Williams, G. Hill, V. Riley, S. Moris.
  • Busts (2) – T. Jenkins (below left), R. Sims (below right.)

That’s 11 positive performances from first-rounders out of 18 selections. On average Peterson was drafting in the 18th position in the first round and only three times did he select in the top 10 – Thomas (No. 4/1989), Sims (No.6/2002) and Dorsey (No. 5, 2008). Five of those 18 picks came in the bottom fourth of the first round, picks No. 24 through 32.

When it came to first-round draft choices, Peterson’s success rate was better than average in the league and better than anyone in the AFC West. For those that want to find fault with his selections, the second round would be better evidence. Of 16 players selected in that round, two stood out – C Tim Grunhard (1990) and CB Brandon Flowers (2008). In between there were a lot of failures at quarterback (Mike Elkins and Matt Blundin) and defensive tackle (Eddie Freeman and Junior Siavii.)

The only constant in the 20 years of drafting was Peterson. He worked with four different head coaches and four different player personnel directors. The first thing he will tell you about how the Chiefs drafted in those two decades was that it was a joint effort. He had the ultimate vote, but there were very few times when Peterson made a choice that his head coach did not want. They all deserve credit and they all deserve blame.

But in his position as the man in charge of the franchise and the only constant for two decades, the microscope falls on one man. Carl Peterson was not perfect in the first round. But overall, he did a good job with his initial selections, and certainly better than anybody else in the division.

The evidence is there.

9 Responses to “First-Round Carl … Monday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • April 4, 2011  - PAChiefsFan says:

    Eleven years later and the loss of Derrick Thomas still hurts. It was so much fun watching him play.

  • April 4, 2011  - RW says:

    Drafting a player is kind of like buying a car. You can do all the research, test drive it, kick the tires, lift the hood and all the rest but still, it lacks a guarantee that you’ll not get a lemon on occasion. I wonder how much more extensive and sophisticated the evaluation process is today as opposed to, say, 20 years ago?

    Then too, how much more effective is today’s process in cutting down on the ‘lemon factor’? It’s probably a wash because like that car buying experience, the one thing you can’t effectively do is look inside that engine to see what kind of durability and future performance you’re going to get.

    Bob’s analysis and charts detailing the CP era was revealing. I had focused in too much on the Greg Hills, Trezelles and Ryan Sims disasters when in actuality, CP did a far better job in first round picking than I thought he did. In comparison, thus far, I’d say Pioli is batting .500.

  • April 4, 2011  - el cid says:

    Peterson had his run and, frankly, believe he took it as far as he could. At the end, he just floundered around for coaches who could do the job. Or maybe his ego finally got the best of him.

    In turn we now have Pioli. Will he have 20 years to put his plan in effect? So far, Jackson and Berry and no one know how that will turn out. We are on the path and which way will it go? Now you can post how you trust Pioli and his skills, I am done.

  • April 4, 2011  - Darren says:

    Thanks for the research Bob. But, I disagree with your conclusion that Peterson drafted in the first round better than anyone else in the AFC West. I would say the Broncos did. KC got Pro Bowlers at LB CB S and TE RB WR. DEN got Pro Bowlers at LB CB S DE and LT QB RB. Throw in a couple of Lombardi’s and you have to give it to them.

  • April 4, 2011  - leonard says:

    Bob, the Carl haters will never accept the truth. They will always say he didn’t care about winning. Truth is now, as was then, Carl saved the Chiefs in KC.

  • April 4, 2011  - Dan says:

    I put a lot on the pro personnel guy. Whitey Dovell obviously excelled, and the Chiefs did better when Kuharich came in. They between guys, Bradway and Stiles, were not as good.
    However, any fan could do OK drafting with Derrick Johnson on board at 17. Where Carl really stunk it up was the 2′s and 3′s he did not trade during the Stiles era. Rashad Shehee, Mike Cloud, Eric Downing, Eddie Freeman to name a few. Trading a 2 for Surtain and failing to trade players that could have gotten pick (Pioli picked up choices for Tyler, Thigpen, Magee,Page, Gonzalez)

  • April 4, 2011  - el cid says:

    The only thing I give Denver was their owner and John Elway. Their owner has a burning desire to win superbowls and had an active role in getting there (some might say to active with Josh D. as HC). After Elway retired, Denver basically shot craps even with a decent HC and players.

  • April 4, 2011  - Anonymous says:

    Leonard is spot on. All the Carl haters are gonna believe what they want, truth is Carl saved KC. The Chiefs were the Bengals for 16+ years until Carl an Marty got here, and while they didn’t win a Super Bowl, the games played in December always meant something.

    As for the Donkeys, most won’t remember the “Vaseline” game. If they had instant replay and an impartial referee crew, Elway retires after the 97 season and the cut blocking cheaters win 0 rings.

    I drive from Portland Or to KC and back once a year. I go all the way thru Wyoming and Nebraska rather than cut thru Colorado, because I don’t wanna that soil to touch even my tires.

  • April 4, 2011  - Fleaflicker34 says:

    The above post was from me. Sorry, wasn’t logged in

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