Several late picks, undrafted players make impact for Chiefs, 49ers

Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco stretches during practice last week in Kansas City. (Associated Press)
Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco stretches during practice last week in Kansas City. (Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS -- If you’re the last player picked in the NFL Draft, at least you get a nickname -- Mr. Irrelevant -- and a certain amount of fanfare.

When you’re taken a little bit earlier, you’re just a normal seventh-round selection.

“I had no idea where I was going. If you had told me I went undrafted, I would be like: ‘Makes sense, sure. I got it,’” said Kansas City guard Nick Allegretti, who was taken in the seventh round in 2019. “We didn’t win a whole lot of games when I was in college, but I had confidence in myself.”

Brock Purdy’s journey from Mr. Irrelevant to Super Bowl starting quarterback is one of the main subplots of this year’s game, but a handful of other late draft picks -- and players who weren’t drafted at all -- have made contributions to the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. All of them are reminders you can build a memorable NFL career, no matter how long it takes someone to choose you.

Allegretti was drafted with the 216th pick overall. The Illinois product is now in his fifth season with the Chiefs, having already won two Super Bowls. He’s played an important role this postseason, replacing injured All-Pro Joe Thuney for the AFC Championship Game.

Kansas City took running back Isiah Pacheco in 2022 with the 251st pick -- 11 spots ahead of where the 49ers picked Purdy. During two seasons, Pacheco has rushed for 1,765 yards and 12 touchdowns.

There’s a school of thought once you reach the latest stages of the draft, it’s better not to be picked. Then you’re a free agent and can shop around for the best situation.

But joining Kansas City and playing alongside Patrick Mahomes has worked out nicely for Pacheco.

“Being a seventh-round draft pick shaped me as a player knowing I was wanted,” he said. “It didn’t matter where you came from, just having an opportunity and making the best out of it.”

Even for an undrafted player, there’s always hope. Kurt Warner, for example, was the MVP of Super Bowl 34.

Jake Brendel came into the league undrafted out of UCLA. Now in his eighth NFL season, he’s San Francisco’s starting center.

“My first goal when I was a kid was just to get to college, and once I got to college, I was like, ‘I’m pretty good at this. I could probably make it in the NFL,’” Brendel said. “Once I got in the NFL, it was, ‘Let’s get a multiyear deal.’ That happened last year, and I was like, ‘Let’s rearrange my goals a little bit and see if we can get a Super Bowl.’”

San Francisco safety Tashaun Gipson has waited even longer. After 174 starts -- regular season and playoffs -- with five teams during 12 seasons, he’s finally in a Super Bowl. Being undrafted has stuck with him.

“I think it meant the world. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade my path to the National Football League. I think it made me who I am today. It made me have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I don’t think I ever got relaxed one moment, and it just kept me grounded as crazy as that may sound. I think that’s probably paid the biggest dividends to be the man I am right now.”

Gipson is a big reason the 49ers are in the Super Bowl. He forced a fumble in the NFC Championship Game that was crucial to San Francisco’s comeback against Detroit.

But in truth, he’s been good enough to reach a stage like this for a while. He just needed the right team.

That’s true for a lot of players, particularly those who are undrafted or taken late. It’s all about finding a good situation.

“I knew all I wanted was an opportunity, an opportunity to get somewhere,” Allegretti said. “The fact I got an opportunity in Kansas City’s been incredible -- the organization, coach (Andy) Reid, (offensive line) coach (Andy) Heck. Awesome men to play for.”