KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The quarterback is often the most talked about position in the NFL. And that’s certainly the case for the Kansas City Chiefs.
For 30 years the Chiefs avoided drafting quarterbacks in the first round, but that changed in April when they moved up 17 spots to draft Texas Tech standout Patrick Mahomes II with the 10th pick in the draft. The drafting of Mahomes headlined the 2017 sports scene for the Chiefs, and the death of pitcher Yordano Ventura headlined the sports scene for the Royals.
When the Chiefs lost to the Steelers at home in the playoffs in January, many fans wanted the team to draft Deshaun Watson. But the Chiefs opted for Mahomes, who they believe is a game-changer.
“The reigning consensus was that he has unbelievable talent,” then-Chiefs GM John Dorsey said after drafting Mahomes. “He’s got the skill set to be one of those truly great players, and I think sometimes when you make an aggressive move like that — that’s why you do it. These players, they don’t come by too often. So you have to take a shot at it, and that’s kind of what we did.”
It seemed the plan was to let Mahomes learn from Alex Smith for a season and then take over as the starter in 2018. But Smith has had the best of season of his career, throwing for 4,042 yards to go with 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Mahomes, meanwhile, hasn’t played a down during the regular season but will make his debut in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Denver.
“Every single week this entire season I’ve been trying to prepare like I was the starter and trying to learn and make sure I was ready for any moment and this week I’ll be doing the same thing,” Mahomes said earlier this week.
Here’s a look at some other noteworthy Chiefs and Royals items from 2017:
CHARLES, MACLIN RELEASED
Jamaal Charles, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, never got back on track after a second ACL tear and was released on Feb. 28. Charles played in just three games and carried the ball only 12 times in 2016.
Veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin, who previously played for Reid in Philadelphia and made the Pro Bowl his first season with the Chiefs in 2015, was released via a voicemail from Dorsey during OTAs in June.
DORSEY FIRED, VEATCH HIRED
On June 22, Clark Hunt gave coach Andy Reid a five-year contract extension. Later that afternoon, he relieved Dorsey of his duties as GM. On July 10, Hunt promoted Brett Veach to GM.
AFC WEST CHAMPS
Sparked by the play of Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs started the season 5-0. The Chiefs then lost six of seven before winning three in a row to claim their second straight AFC West crown.
Hunt has rushed for 1,292 yards while tight end Travis Kelce has 1,038 yards receiving and wideout Tyreek Hill has 1,183 yards receiving. The team also got a big boost from rookie Harrison Butker, who has made 36 field goals.
On Jan. 22, Ventura died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. He was 25. That same day, Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and Christian Colon gave hugs to grieving fans who went to the stadium and made a memorial of posters, hats, cards and flowers in his honor. Later that night, players spoke at a candlelight vigil at the stadium as well.
Several members of the Royals organization, including former teammates, traveled to the Dominican for his funeral. Salvador Perez gave the eulogy on one of the fields where Ventura once played. The team also honored Ventura at FanFest.
“It’s up to us now to live out his legacy,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said at FanFest.
The Royals also honored Ventura throughout the year, and his mother threw out the first pitch in the home opener.
FREE AGENCY WATCH
Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar became free agents after the season ended. When free agency began, the odds that Hosmer would or could return to the Royals seemed a bit far-fetched. However, during a slow-moving offseason, it appears the Padres and Royals are the leading contenders to land Hosmer.
Hosmer had a career year in 2017, hitting .318 with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs. He also won a fourth Gold Glove at first base. Of the team’s top-tier free agents, Hosmer is the one the Royals would like to re-sign. But will they?
“After this weekend, it’s change and we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hosmer said after the regular-season finale that capped an 80-82 season. “That’s the thing for all of us that’s different. I don’t want to say it’s scary, but it’s different.
“I’m just used to showing up to the clubhouse and seeing one of these guys’ faces, or Salvy, or anybody for the last 10 years of my life I’ve been coming in and playing this game with.”
Moustakas, Cain and Escobar also have not signed anywhere yet, nor has left-hander Jason Vargas.
MOOSE CALLS 38
Moustakas put an end to a somewhat dubious Royals record this season, hitting 38 home runs to set the club’s new single-season record, which previously was set by Steve Balboni’s 36 homers in 1985.