On Friday, the Kansas City Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt after video of his February domestic violence incident became available. A 2017 draft pick, Hunt took Spencer Ware’s job in his rookie season after the latter was lost to injury and never looked back. The next season, his fellow 2017 draft pick Patrick Mahomes became the Chiefs’ starting quarterback and the two helped fuel one of the better offenses this year.
Needless to say, Kareem Hunt’s release hurts from a talent perspective. The Chiefs have Ware who was projected for a big 2017 until his injury and now he can finally reclaim his role.
So what about the rest of their draft? The following is all the picks the Chiefs made in 2017:
1. QB Patrick Mahomes II
2. DE Tanoh Kpassagnon
3. RB Kareem Hunt
4. WR Jehu Chesson
5. LB Ukeme Eligwe
6. S Leon McQuay III
Mahomes needs no introduction. After spending a year on the sidelines, the Chiefs traded starter Alex Smith to Washington and the job was Mahomes’ for the taking. Now ESPN’s Monday Night Football is trying to get that “Showtime” moniker shoved down our throats for the massive amount of touchdown passes he’s thrown.
The rest of the picks is where it gets interesting. Kpassagnon has played in only 10 games, starting in 0 for 2018. He has no sacks on the year and four tackles. It’s a step down from his rookie campaign that gave average numbers, but nothing special; one start, two sacks, 13 tackles.
Hunt got released.
Chesson got waived in roster cuts for 2018
Eligwe was waived for roster cuts in 2018 as well.
McQuay plays on the practice squad.
Does any of this look familiar? The Chiefs got Mahomes out of all of this. Hunt has effectively become a bust as well (among a few other things we don’t need to get into). Everyone talks about the crazy weapons the Chiefs have, weapons that took about four years to accumulate. I know some are calling for John Lynch’s head after two seasons, but let’s once more look at that 49ers draft.
1. DT Solomon Thomas
2. LB Reuben Foster
3. CB Ahkello Witherspoon
3. QB C.J. Beathard
4. RB Joe Williams
5. TE George Kittle
5. WR Trent Taylor
7. DE Pita Taumoepenu
7. S Adrian Colbert
10 draft picks for the 49ers vs the Chiefs’ six.
Thomas is prematurely labeled with the bust moniker (if they’d just play him in position and get an EDGE rusher!). Foster was released for the aforementioned domestic violence incident. Witherspoon has struggled and might not be starting next year. C.J. Beathard is a career backup, though given that the coaching staff has given up on him twice in as many years he may not be there much longer. George Kittle is on the cusp of being an elite tight end and may hit 1,000 yards this year. Trent Taylor? Once that back heals, he’s Mr. Third Down (here’s hoping). Jones puts up roughly the same numbers as the Kansas City Chiefs second round pick despite being taken in the sixth. Taumoepenu was waived in final roster cuts and the jury is still out on Adrian Colbert.
A few more picks and the 49ers draft class could be considered similar—superior even—with talent. There’s just one difference: The Chiefs have been successful for several years due to them having draft after draft where they could get one-three starters and build on the roster they had when Andy Reid arrived. That squad was built by Andy Reid and it took years, despite having a playoff appearance in their first season (having Alex Smith as your quarterback helps since the Chiefs were atrocious with Matt Cassel). The 49ers have nothing. Right now they play backups of backups. That’s how thin this roster was when Trent Baalke was shown the door. Kyle Shanahan didn’t have much to work with when he arrived, and to get the depth, let alone starters will take time.
Key word here: time.
So why bring this up? Well the Chiefs are a favorite to go to the Super Bowl and they had what could be a bad draft in 2017. Only Mahomes and Kpassagnon remain with the active roster. Or it was a good draft because Patrick Mahomes came and booted Alex Smith out of a job (and salary cap space) while the Chiefs had depth from hitting on one, two, three positions in the past. But that’s only one player that really offered turnover from 2017 to 2018.
And yes, Foster was a late first round pick as opposed to Hunt’s third, but when you think about it, the pick is less valuable than the talent it can command and in this case, the 49ers found some talent with later picks (George Kittle anybody?).
The 49ers will get there, they just aren’t there yet. Their quarterback to shoulder the offense when the defense plays the way it does is currently on injured reserve, and that very defense is depleted of talent. As an example, they have nothing behind Foster in the same vein of the Chiefs (unless you count Brock Coyle, but he’s on IR), but again, this roster was devoid of anything.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, showed Hunt the door and had Spencer Ware ready to go because of the depth they accumulated, and they didn’t have to start from scratch like the 49ers did. The 49ers have shown the depth levels at some positions are starting to get there—just look at when they lost Jerick McKinnon at running back and now Matt Breida is having a career year. You don’t get all that depth across every position in two years. Especially when you purged that roster before those two years began. And you can’t get five quality players in every draft (we all want the magic draft the Seattle Seahawks had, face it, it’s not happening). The 49ers found Kittle, Taylor, and maybe Colbert in 2017.
The Foster release hurts the team’s depth, but to say the draft was completely horrible and Lynch needs to go is impatient and unnecessary. They 49ers have found players that can make impact and some depth. But it will take more players and time before they can really compete.
Getting their starting quarterback back will help, too.