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Chiefs' Super Bowl success started with historic 2022 draft class

Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones and many of the usual Kansas City Chiefs suspects drew rightful acclaim for their odyssey to Super Bowl LVII triumph.

However, the Chiefs' stars were buoyed by a 2022 NFL Draft class that will now go down as one of the most successful in league chronicle.

Led by four rookie Super Bowl starters, the Chiefs' 2022 class of first-year players combined for 61 starts this season, the most since 1991 for a Super Bowl winner, according to NFL Research.

From first-rounder Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis to seventh-rounders Jaylen Watson and Isiah Pacheco, Kansas City got a score of hefty contributions from its youngsters this past season -- along with a nod to the club's dynastic hopes ahead.

While AFC West rivals the Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos grabbed headlines in the offseason with big-name free-agent signings and trades, the Chiefs replenished their roster with what is now a celebrated group of rookies.

Kansas City general manager Brett Veach turned in a masterful draft performance.

The four rookie starters -- Karlaftis, McDuffie, Pacheco and Watson -- are tied for the most in Super Bowl history with the 2016 Atlanta Falcons and 2010 Green Bay Packers.

Most starts by first-year players on Super Bowl-winning teams (since 1991)

Table inside Article
Season Team First-year starts
2022 Chiefs 61
1994 49ers 56
2003 Patriots 41
2015 Broncos 37

Impressive and historic as the quartet of starters are, Veach's draft is truly remarkable for the contributions made from selections in nearly each round.

In total, Chiefs rookies played in 161 games, the third-most by a Super Bowl winner in history.

Most games played by first-year players on Super Bowl-winning teams in NFL history

Table inside Article
Season Team Games played
1974 Steelers 188
1981 49ers 187
2022 Chiefs 161
1994 49ers 159

Karlaftis led the way, as the No. 30-overall pick started all 20 Kansas City games and posted seven sacks. The defensive end became just the ninth rookie since the 1970 merger to start 20 or more games.

Picked nine spots ahead of Karlaftis, McDuffie repaid the Chiefs for trading up to get him. He started in each of the 14 games he played in.

Second-rounder Skyy Moore proved to be a big play waiting to happen, but waited for the biggest stage to score his first NFL touchdown when he found the end zone in the Super Bowl. Fellow second-round pick Bryan Cook, taken 62nd overall, appeared in 19 games this season.

Linebacker Leo Chenal, taken in the third round at No. 103, tallied eight starts and also contributed in the Super Bowl with a sack.

Plucked in the fourth round, cornerback Joshua Williams made a quartet of starts and had a crucial interception in the AFC Championship Game.

Then came the seventh-round contributions, where Leach struck gold with two major contributors.

Picked at No. 243, Watson started six games in the regular season, played in 16 and hauled in a 99-yard pick-six for the game-winning score in a Week 2 victory over the rival Chargers. During the playoffs, Watson started each game for the Chiefs and recorded two interceptions, coming up clutch in each of Kansas City's first two wins.

Finally there was Pacheco, a certifiable steal at No. 251 overall. The hard-running, high-energy back led the Chiefs with 830 rushing yards -- the most for a Chiefs RB since 2017 -- and five rushing scores. Pacheco capped his rookie campaign with 15 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl. He teamed up with Moore to make the Chiefs the first team to have multiple rookies score in the biggest of big games, per NFL Research.

It was the culmination of a draft class for the ages.

What lies ahead for the Chiefs' 2022 draft class obviously remains to be seen, but it's a collection of talent that's already made history and led to Kansas City celebrating another Super Bowl triumph. Perhaps it's fitting the 2023 NFL Draft will take place in Kansas City, because the Chiefs most certainly took home an all-time haul last year.

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