With the notable exception of wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin in 2011, every Kansas City Chiefs first-round draft pick since running back Larry Johnson has started either immediately or very early in his rookie season. This list includes linebacker Derrick Johnson (2005), defensive end Tamba Hali (2006), wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (2007), defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and offensive tackle Branden Albert (2008), defensive end Tyson Jackson (2009), safety Eric Berry (2010), nose tackle Dontari Poe (2012) and offensive tackle Eric Fisher (2013).
The Chiefs traded out of the first round in 2004.
The Chiefs are drafting 23rd this year, the lowest pick they've had during this period except for 2007, when they took Bowe 23rd, and 2011, when they selected Baldwin 26th. They have a balanced roster without glaring needs (other than possibly free safety) and depending on how the draft unfolds Thursday night, this year's top choice may spend his rookie season as a backup and special-teams contributor.
That doesn't mean his Chiefs career will turn out to be a disaster, as Baldwin's did. It's just that his impact might be realized in Year 2 or beyond.
The Chiefs have young Sanders Commings and veteran Husain Abdullah at free safety, but let's assume they, like a lot of their fans, want an upgrade through the draft. The best available safeties, Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor, will almost certainly be gone by that point. So it appears the Chiefs are in no-man's land at safety, at least when it comes to the first round.
It looks at this point like none of the second tier of wide receivers (LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and USC's Marqise Lee) will be available when the Chiefs pick. Unless the Chiefs like and draft a lesser prospect, say Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin or Indiana's Cody Latimer, they may be out of luck at receiver in the first round as well.
At any other position, is there a player who could reasonably fall to the Chiefs at 23 who is good enough to immediately bust into their starting lineup? I certainly don't see it anywhere on offense, with the possible exception of right guard.
That's probably true on defense as well. I could see the Chiefs drafting a cornerback if, say, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert fell to them. But would he push Brandon Flowers or Sean Smith from the lineup and be an immediate starter? Doubtful.
Let's say inside linebacker C.J. Mosley of Alabama fell to the Chiefs. They might view him as the eventual successor to Derrick Johnson but he's not good enough to knock Johnson from a job now. The same goes for outside linebacker Anthony Barr of UCLA and Hali.
This may truly be one of those best-player-available first rounds for the Chiefs. If that's the way they go, that player may wind up serving his rookie season as an apprentice.