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Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce provide Jets’ draft ‘what ifs’

PHOENIX — Draft “what ifs” are a part of Jets lore.

What if the Jets drafted Anthony Munoz in 1980 instead of Lam Jones? What if three years later they took Dan Marino over Ken O’Brien? Taking Kyle Brady over Warren Sapp still stings for Jets fans.

This week at Super Bowl LVII there are two Chiefs stars that Jets fans can wonder “what if” about. Both Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce thought the Jets might take them in their respective NFL drafts.

Do you think those two might have made a difference for the Jets?

Kelce was in the 2013 draft. That was John Idzik’s first year as general manager and Rex Ryan was just figuring out he was not going to see eye-to-eye with the new GM. Kelce recounted his thoughts entering that draft on the “New Heights” podcast he hosts along with his brother Jason, the Eagles center.

“I thought I was going to be the first tight end taken off the board, I ended up being the fifth,” Kelce said. “The Jets were sold on me. I had a great interview with Rex Ryan, he said it is between you and Geno [Smith] — if Geno is available, we are going to take him, and they ended up taking Geno.”

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, left, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrate winning the AFC Championship game against the Bengals on Jan. 29.

The Jets took Smith, a quarterback out of West Virginia in the second round with the 39th overall pick. Kelce lasted until the first pick in the third round when Andy Reid and the Chiefs took him.

Kelce may have been unhappy with the Jets on draft night but he is now relieved he did not end up with the Jets.

“Thank goodness,” he said.

Reid, who had drafted Jason Kelce in Philadelphia called Travis on draft night with an important question.

“Andy Reid, I had no idea I was even on his board,” Kelce said. “He asked me straight to the point, ‘Are you gonna f–k this up, man?’ And I was like, ‘No I’m not, I’m going to be the best tight end you have ever coached.’ ”

Kelce has been first-team All-Pro four times in his career and he may not just be the best tight end Reid has coached, he may be the best tight end anyone has coached.

Four years after Kelce was drafted, Mahomes was in the 2017 draft and the Jets had the No. 6 overall pick. The Jets did not have a franchise quarterback, but had drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round in 2016. Then GM Mike Maccagnan loved Hackenberg and wanted to give him a chance to win the job in 2017 and then if he failed, the Jets would take a quarterback in 2018 when there was already three hyped prospects — Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen.

Geno Smith was a Jets bust who has since resurrected his career with the Seahawks. He led Seattle past Gang Green, 23-6, on Jan. 1, 2023.
Getty Images

Still, the Jets met with the top quarterbacks in that year’s draft — Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Mahomes. The Jets visited Mahomes at Texas Tech and had him to Florham Park for a workout.

“I definitely thought there was interest there,” Mahomes told reporters in 2020. “Whenever you get on those visits, you know that they’re pretty interested in doing their due diligence. I mean, I definitely thought there was interest there, but at the time they drafted a great player in Jamal Adams, and you can’t really argue with that one.”

Adams was a good player for the Jets but things went sour and they traded him in 2020. Meanwhile, Mahomes is carving out a career as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play and could win his second Super Bowl ring on Sunday.

Quarterback and tight end are two positions that have been black holes for the Jets over the last decade. When Jets fans watch the Super Bowl, they can dream about “what if” their team had taken the Chiefs two superstars.