Counting 21: John Alt to Sylvester Morris

Posted Mar 17, 2011

From a franchise Hall of Famer to an injury-plagued bust, Kansas City's history selecting at pick number 21 doesn't run deep

John Alt: Selected 21st overall in 1984

Whether it’s an offensive lineman, defensive lineman or skill position, somebody among this year’s pool of draft-eligible players will become the initial member Kansas City’s 2011 Draft Class this April. If no trades are made, the selection will come with the 21st overall pick, marking just the fifth time in team history that the Chiefs have selected from that position.

Kansas City’s brief history with #21 brings results that span across the board. Each of the five selections has been used on an offensive player, but that’s where the similarities between picks end. When it comes to on-field production, the small sample size has produced Hall of Fame performers, injury-plagued busts and what fills between.

One wide receiver, two running backs and an offensive tackle make up the Chiefs history at pick #21. Let’s flashback and grade them all.

2000 – Chiefs select WR Sylvester Morris (Jackson State) with the 21st overall selection

1991 – Chiefs select RB Harvey Williams (LSU) with the 21st overall selection

1984 – Chiefs select T John Alt (Iowa) with the 21st overall selection

*1965 – Chiefs select FB Mike Curtis (Duke) with the 21st overall selection

*AFL Draft/not a first-round choice

Sylvester Morris

Totals G GS Rec Yds Avg Lg TD
Career 15 14 48 678 14.1 47 3
KC 15 14 48 678 14.1 47 3

Grade: F

We took a look at “Sly Mo” earlier this week, and what might have been, in Hitting on 21. It’s a shame that Morris’ knees couldn’t hold, because flashes of first-round talent was certainly there between ACL tears.

Unfortunately, there’s no way around a failing grade here. Morris was the fourth receiver to go off the board in 2000 and, although it was a horrible year for selecting wide outs, getting just 15 games of production from a first-round investment equals a failed pick.

Harvey Williams

Totals G GS Rush Yds Avg Lg TD
Career 110 47 1021 3952 3.9 60 20
KC 32 7 217 858 4 - 2
Totals G GS Rec Yds Avg Lg TD
Career 110 47 193 1442 7.5 32 7
KC 32 7 28 213 7.6 - 2

Grade: D

What’s the barometer for grading a first-round running back? A 1,000-yard season? Williams had one of those, but it didn’t come with the Chiefs.

Williams’ best seasons came after he left Kansas City. Of course, maybe that’s because he never really had a chance with the team that drafted him. Williams, often frustrated, played behind Christian Okoye and Barry Word during his first two NFL seasons and behind Marcus Allen and Kimble Anders during his third.

A change of scenery did Williams well in year four when he rushed for 983 yards with the Raiders after totaling 858 rushing yards over his three seasons in KC. Williams topped the 1,000-yard mark for the first and only time of his career in his second season with the Raiders.

When it was all said and done, Williams produced a better than average NFL career, but his grade takes a hit because the Chiefs didn’t see that production. With the Chiefs backfield as deep as it was in the early 1990s, selecting a different position with that first-round choice would have been a better option.

John Alt

Totals G GS
Career 179 149
KC 179 149

Grade: A

Put Alt right up there with Derrick Thomas, Tony Gonzalez, Dale Carter, Neil Smith, Art Still, Buck Buchanan, Ed Budde and E.J. Holub. That’s where the discussion begins as to who is the best first-round pick in franchise history.

Each of those players, with the exception of Gonzalez, is already in the club’s Hall of Fame. Gonzalez is a lock to join the list after he retires.

Inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2002, Alt set the bar for which all future Kansas City left tackles would be judged. He anchored the offensive line for 13 seasons and earned two Pro Bowl invites (1992-93). Alt was also named an NFL All-Pro twice (1990-91) and helped the Chiefs lead the NFL in rushing for the first time in team history (1995). Alt was dominant and so was the Chiefs rushing attack of the early 1990s.

The opening stanza was good to Kansas City in 1984. In addition to Alt, the Chiefs also selected Bill Maas in that year’s first round.

Mike Curtis

No Picture/No Stats

Grade: Incomplete

Things were a bit different in 1965. For starters, the Chiefs drafted 23 players that year and, at pick #21, Curtis was the fourth player taken by the Chiefs. This was also a pre-merger draft with both the AFL and the NFL competing for players separately.

Curtis never played a down for the Chiefs, but he wasn’t a first-round pick either. Putting a grade on the 21st overall pick of the 1965 AFL Draft isn’t comparable for the purpose of this story.

Kansas City’s best pick of the 1965 AFL Draft came one round after Curtis, at pick #29, when the Chiefs selected a wide receiver out of Prairie View A&M names Otis Taylor. University of Kansas standout Gale Sayers was the Chiefs first-round pick that year (5th overall), but opted to sign with the Chicago Bears of the National Football League instead.

On a side note, Kansas City also drafted LB Mike Cox out of Iowa State with the 93rd overall pick in 1965. From what we can gather, there is no relation exists with current Chiefs FB Mike Cox.

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