1st Rounders Have Seen Opening Day Starts Under Todd Haley

Posted Jun 5, 2011

Both Tyson Jackson and Eric Berry started their first game in a Chiefs uniform. Will Jonathan Baldwin continue the trend?

Jonathan Baldwin’s recent trip to Joplin, Missouri proves that all hasn’t been lost for Chiefs rookies during this year’s lack of an off-season to date. As highlighted in Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback last week, Baldwin hitched a ride with Chiefs QB Matt Cassel to assist in cleanup efforts following the deadliest single U.S. tornado in more than half a century.

King’s article is worth reading if you haven’t already done so.

By the way, I received an email last week from a Chiefs fan whose family benefitted directly from Cassel and Baldwin’s efforts.

I wanted to extend a more personal thank you to the Chiefs players who arrived at my parents’ house in Joplin and cleared away trees and debris. They live on the east side of town on 5 acres and lost probably 30 trees. The task was insurmountable and without the help of the many volunteers who showed up it would have been a task far too great for my family to take on alone. For the players that came along, again I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It makes me proud to call myself a fan!

-          Leslie Clouston, Overland Park, KS

In addition to Baldwin and Cassel, many other Chiefs have also aided their muscle in the daunting task of cleaning up Joplin.

From a football scope, Baldwin’s visit signals a genuine buy-in towards winning over his new teammates and fan base. Traveling two-plus hours to help with the aftermath of a historic natural disaster is an solid example that Baldwin’s in embracing his new community. 

 It’s also a good first impression for those concerned with the knocks that Baldwin took regarding his character shortly after the Chiefs selected him 26th overall.

Baldwin has yet to be issued a pair of team sweats, much less experience the fans that fill Arrowhead Stadium for the first time. He’s now spent more time in the community than he has with Chiefs coaches.

Off the field, Baldwin is acing rookie exams. But on the field, he sits in the same pool as the 31 other players selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

No contract talks. No mini-camps. No organized team activities. No individual coaching.

With the exception of quarterbacks, most NFL teams expect their first-round selections to make an immediate on-field impact. The NFL off-season is structured in a manner that allows college player to bridge the gap from amateur to professional as quickly as possible.

Healthy amounts of first-rounders go on to become Opening Day starters and those playing for Todd Haley have done just that. Under Haley, both Tyson Jackson and Eric Berry started their first game in a Chiefs uniform.

The last Chiefs first-rounder not to start on Opening Day as a rookie was Dwayne Bowe in 2007. He’d go on to start the following 15 games after an injury to Eddie Kennison. In fact, eight of the Chiefs 10 first-round picks since 2000 logged their first career start by at least Week Two of their rookie season.

For top picks, the waiting game has shortened as dramatically as the financial commitments have increased.

Little more than 10 years ago, the splits in Kansas City weren’t the same. Instead of first-rounders starting immediately, the majority had to wait their turn.

Of the nine first-round pick drafted by the Chiefs from 1990-1999, four didn’t make a single start as rookies. The list includes players like future first-ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and former Pro Bowler Jerome Woods.

Of the five that did make starts, three had to wait until Week 11 or later.

Year Player 1st Start
2010 Eric Berry Week 1
2009 Tyson Jackson Week 1
2008 Glenn Dorsey Week 1

Branden Albert Week 1
2007 Dwayne Bowe Week 2
2006 Tamba Hali Week 1
2005 Derrick Johnson Week 1
2004 No Pick
2003 Larry Johnson No Starts
2002 Ryan Sims Week 5
2001 No Pick
2000 Sylvester Morris Week 2
1999 John Tait Week 12
1998 Victor Riley Week 2
1997 Tony Gonzalez No Starts
1996 Jerome Woods No Starts
1995 Trezelle Jenkins No Starts
1994 Greg Hill Week 11
1993 No Pick
1992 Dale Carter Week 3
1991 Harvey Williams Week 15
1990 Percy Snow No Starts

Considering the Chiefs current situation at wide receiver, the probability that Baldwin lines up as a rookie starter is high. But how quickly can we expect that to happen?

We’re learning things new about Baldwin even in the absence of off-season workouts. He’s reportedly flown into town and worked on route-running with Cassel, in addition to their community efforts. Kansas City’s top pick appears excited about becoming a Chief and ready to work, but how quickly can Baldwin adapt to his new manual?

Like most of the rookies around the league, Baldwin has benefitted from tutors like Cassel, but he hasn’t truly stepped foot inside the classroom.

A quick mastery of the learning curve is critical for all rookies looking to see the field early this season.

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