KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The NFL draft never unfolds in a predictable fashion, and given different circumstances Chiefs rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes may very well have found himself lining up behind center Sunday night for the Houston Texans with Deshaun Watson backing up Alex Smith in Kansas City.
“I had a visit there and it went well,” Mahomes said about his pre-draft trip to Houston. “I like the organization, like the coaches. It was a good visit.”
The Chiefs traded up to the No. 10 pick in the first round to land their quarterback of the future. Houston moved quickly as well, sliding up to No. 12 in selecting Watson.
Just as Mahomes visited with the Texans staff, the former Clemson quarterback met with Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and his organization.
“I had a great time with coach Reid and all the coaching staff, and met some of the players,” Watson said. “We still communicate through the whole summer, training camp and the first two weeks. I shot coach Reid a text and he shot me a text and it went from there.”
Reid and Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien found themselves impressed with both young quarterbacks quarterback.
“As good of a player as he is, he’s an even better person,” Reid said of Watson. “He’s a great kid. He was a real pleasure to deal with before the draft.”
O’Brien holds similar praise for Mahomes.
“We really liked Patrick, watching his tape in college and then getting to know him during the pre-draft visit,” O’Brien said. “Very smart guy, really had a lot of energy. You could just tell that he had a bright future.”
Since draft day, Mahomes and Watson have taken different paths through their rookie season. Watson took over at quarterback for the Texans midway through the season opener. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 811 yards along with seven touchdowns and four interceptions with a quarterback rating of 91.7 through Houston first four games.
Mahomes is backing up Smith, one of the league’s hottest quarterbacks, for the 4-0 Chiefs. His job is to learn from the veteran Smith for the time being.
“You definitely want to play just being a competitor,” Mahomes said. “But you know you just got to come to work every single day, practice as hard as you can and just be ready and do whatever you can to help the team.”
Despite the lack of regular season playing time, Mahomes shows few signs of the NFL intimidating him. He quickly won the No. 2 job in training camp and showed poise beyond his years during the preseason. But he acknowledges the NFL is an adjustment for a young quarterback.
“Just the amount of hours you have to do and studying film,” he said. “In college you study a ton, but you get here and you get to the NFL and that’s all it is. Everybody’s good, you have look through the film over and over again until you find something that helps you succeed on Sunday.
Smith uses the quarterback room as a sounding board for advice and discussion. He also uses it to test the rookie quarterback.
“He always keeps you on your toes,” Mahomes explained. “He’s ‘Hey, are you going to contribute in a meeting? We need your advice too.’ He wants to see what you’re talking about. He wants to see it from every perspective you can get.”
Mahomes said he and Watson met several times during their college years, usually at football camps. Their crossed paths more frequently as the draft approached.
“Especially with the draft process, being on visits and going to the combine and doing all those things, we met each other through that and I’ve kept up with him of course and all the other quarterback,” Mahomes said.
He keeps tabs on his fellow rookies including Watson, No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky with Chicago and Cleveland second-round pick DeShone Kizer. But Mahomes doesn’t feel any special long-term competition against them.
“I feel competition with every quarterback in the league,” Mahomes said. “You want to go in and try and be the best. The biggest thing for me is just going out every single day and putting together hard working days back-to-back.”
In the end, however, both the Chiefs and Texans lay claim to landing the No. 1 quarterback on their draft board.
“You’re talking about two guys that were very, very impressive to meet in person,” O’Brien said. “Patrick was a very impressive young man also.”
Mahomes knows the draft could have unfolded very differently, playing for O’Brien in Houston.
“He was an awesome guy,” Mahomes said. “Just getting to talk football, you knew that he knew what he was talking about.”
He’s just fine, however, with landing in Kansas City
“But I ended up here and it’s been awesome so far,” he said.