OPINION: Chiefs must nail draft picks after exiting first round
Much of the last month was spent in deep speculation about how General Manager Brett Veach would address the Kansas City Chiefs' biggest needs at pick No. 31 in the NFL Draft Thursday.
There have been countless mock drafts that projected the Chiefs taking positions like offensive tackle, wide receiver or defensive end, and with the blockbuster trade with the Baltimore Ravens for OT Orlando Brown Jr. for said first-round pick – and more – those predictions are irrelevant.
The trade for Brown makes the Chiefs’ offensive line one of the better and deeper in the league, just months after it was an embarrassment, but it might also make their next window of opportunity smaller.
Included with pick No. 31, was the Chiefs’ third-round pick and one of their fourth-round picks, meaning they are sacrificing the opportunity to find mid-round gems that can impact the team with cheaper contracts. They acquired Baltimore’s second-round selection, just five spots ahead of the Chiefs at No. 58, meaning they will have two chances late in the round to find at least one starter and a role player.
The Chiefs have done some of their best and worst drafting in the third round so its tough to say if missing a pick there is a big deal. On one hand, they could find an impact player like Travis Kelce or Justin Houston while on the other, they might end up with a career special teams player like Dorian O’Daniel.
Pick No. 144 in the fourth round represents the organization’s last realistic opportunity to select a player who could possibly make an immediate impact. After that, a handful of fifth-round picks (Nos. 175 and 181) and a sixth (No. 207) are all the Chiefs have left, meaning the room for mistakes is much smaller when picking players that can help your team immediately and finding projects to develop over a couple of years.
The Chiefs will need the linebacker and defensive end they – hopefully – select in the second round to be able to get onto the field next season at a consistent rate. Despite being a third-round pick, Willie Gay Jr. didn’t see the field nearly as much as we thought he would have. Regardless of if he was ready to play, the linebacker group was a weakness for the team last season, and that shouldn’t happen when you use a top-100 pick at that position six months prior.
If Veach selects a wide receiver in the second round instead of one of the other two positions, that player will likely need to be the third option behind Kelce and Tyreek Hill, unless a trade or signing is made in the remainder of the offseason.
Whichever defensive end they decide on will need to make noise opposite Frank Clark so the defensive line can create pressure consistently. Maybe Melvin Ingram III will come around so the two parties can strike a deal but if not, it will be up to a rookie and Taco Charlton to fuel the pass rush.
The point is, with all of the money tied to Patrick Mahomes and his new offensive linemen, the Chiefs need to start building depth and planning for a future where winning might not come as easy. Normally, teams don’t see the majority of their draft picks make the impact they expected, but the Chiefs absolutely need to see a favorable return on these six choices Friday and Saturday.
Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org