The final four is set in the NFL with the championship games kicking off this Sunday. While those four teams prepare to battle it out to make the Super Bowl, 28 other teams sit at home trying to figure out what went wrong and how they can get there.
Last year, the Los Angeles Rams rode “F Them Picks” to a Super Bowl championship before falling back to earth this season. The Rams seemed to scoff at the notion that good teams must be “built through the draft.”
What about this year’s AFC Championship game? How did the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals build their current teams to get them to where they are?
For this exercise, we are going to look at both teams’ current 53-man rosters and how they acquired those players.
Kansas City Chiefs Roster
First of all, you will notice that the Kansas City roster has just 52 names on it currently. According to Pete Sweeney at Arrowhead Pride, the team waived defensive back Chris Lammons two days ago but has not made a corresponding roster move yet. Sweeney believes the Chiefs will bring up tight end Jody Fortson from injured reserve later in the week.
Kansas City acquired their 52 players in the following ways:
Drafted or signed as undrafted rookies: 32 players
The Chiefs have drafted a majority of their biggest stars including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones. Of those 32 players, only four have been with the team for more than four seasons with defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi joining Mahomes, Kelce and Jones.
Kansas City’s roster is made up of a lot of young players that they have drafted and developed but have not yet hit big second contracts.
Signed as free agents: 17 players
The Chiefs have not had to be big players in free agency but have added some important players in that manner. After trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the team signed Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster to their wide receiver room. Guard Joe Thuney, signed away from the New England Patriots, may have been their biggest free-agent signing.
Traded for: 3 players
Kansas City doesn’t make a lot of trades but when they do, the trades are quite large. The Chiefs added offensive tackle Orlando Brown, defensive end Frank Clark and receiver Kadarius Toney through trades. Brown and Clark have been important pieces of the team’s line of scrimmage while Andy Reid hasn’t figured out how to unlock Toney since acquiring him from the New York Giants during the 2022 NFL season.
Chiefs Roster Acquisition: 61.5% out of NFL Draft & undrafted free agents, 32.7% in free agency, 5.8% via trade
Cincinnati Bengals Roster
For years, Mike Brown was seen as an owner that rarely dipped into his pockets for free agents and would let his own players leave once they became expensive. Former head coach Marvin Lewis watched his team move on from talented players in the middle of their roster and never be able to get over the hump.
Brown’s seeming change of philosophy led to a Super Bowl appearance last year and even more spending in free agency this year
Cincinnati acquired their 53 players in the following ways:
Drafted or signed as undrafted rookies: 35 players
A vast majority of the Bengals big-time offense has been drafted over the last few years. Quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Joe Mixon. and receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd were all first or second-round draft picks by the team.
Six of the 35 players added through the drafted or undrafted free agency have been with the team for more than four seasons.
Signed as free agents: 17 players
Cincinnati has gone shopping to address their needs, particularly at the line of scrimmage. Defensive tackle D.J. Reader and defensive end Trey Hendrickson are vital parts of the defensive line while guards Alex Cappa and Ted Karras were signed this offseason to buttress the offensive line and protect Burrow better.
Traded for: 1 player
Defensive lineman B.J. Hill is the lone addition via trade. Cincinnati added the hulking defensive lineman in a deal with the New York Giants where they gave up offensive lineman Billy Price and got Hill and a late-round pick in return. The team gave a new contract this offseason to keep him around.
Bengals Roster Acquisition: 66% from the NFL Draft or undrafted free agents, 32% in free agency, 1.8% via trade
Based on the two teams fighting it out in the AFC Championship game, the 28 teams sitting at home can see how important it is to build your rosters through the NFL Draft but be able to supplement in free agency and trades. Both Kansas City and Cincinnati have also done a great job of keeping their roster young instead of holding on to players just because they drafted them.