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Decoding Brett Veach’s vision for the Kansas City Chiefs

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The Chiefs have made some drastic moves this off season Some expected, some not so expected. Throughout it all we have heard the Chiefs general manager Brett Veach say repeated variations of the following: “I think as we continue to progress through the month of March and to the draft, I think more of our ideas will get out there and the fans will be excited about it.”

What exactly is Veach’s plan? What is this vision we keep hearing about?

I don’t think any of us will know what Veach will do for sure until free agency and the draft pass, but I do know we all want to be excited about the Chiefs future. What you’ll read here is a look into Veach and Reid’s statements and tendencies, and what they could mean for the Chiefs in free agency and the draft.

What we know

I’m just going to list a few things we know about Brett Veach, his roster moves, and Andy Reid.

But first we’ll start with a Derrick Johnson quote:

“But the Chiefs, they wanted to go younger across the board — that’s what (general manager Brett) Veach was talking about.”

Knowing this information, let’s look at Veach’s roster moves to see if they back this theory up. (Note the ages in parentheses).

  • Stole Butker (22) from the Panthers practice squad
  • Traded DJ Alexander (26) for Kevin Pierre-Louis (26)
  • Traded 5th round pick for Cameron Erving (25)
  • Traded 4th round pick for Reggie Ragland (24)
  • Traded Alex Smith (33) to the Redskins for Kendall Fuller (23) and a 3rd round pick
  • Moved on from Derrick Johnson (35)
  • Cut Ron Parker (30)
  • Traded Marcus Peters (25) to the Rams for a 4th and a 2nd.
  • Signed David Amerson (26).

Veach has really gone after young players, so that checks out. We have unlocked the easiest part of decoding Veach’s vision: Veach values youth.

Looking at these moves, there is one more pattern I’ve noticed with Veach, which leads us to clue number two: Veach likes to flip picks for players the Chiefs scouts had been impressed with.

For example, Veach used this technique to land Reggie Ragland and Cameron Erving.

I absolutely love this strategy. I am not sure if this strategy is typical in the NFL, but Veach should be given a lot of props for choosing to go this route. Why not try and flip a fourth or fifth round pick for a player who the Chiefs scouts had evaluated as an early round talent.

Veach is turning mid round picks into early round picks, and it’s genius.

So, what else do we know? Well, we also have this quote from Veach shortly after he was hired:

“Free agency, the draft, it all has to be a cohesive deal where you’re attacking an area in free agency because it doesn’t work in the draft because of the depth,” Veach said. “And then vice versa, where you know you can’t get this in free agency but you can get it in the draft.”

Veach is essentially saying the following: When the draft is not deep at a particular position, Veach will attack that position in free agency and vice versa. We’ll go ahead and file that in our memory banks for later...

Here is another Veach quote:

“And I think that once we get through the free agency and draft process I think you’ll see us continue to be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself. I think we’ll add impact players right now, and again, be prepared for both the short and long-term.”

So it looks like the Chiefs may be aggressive in free agency and will go after players they have identified as team needs. I will pair this with another quote from an article discussing Andy Reid’s free agency philosophy in Philadelphia from 2004 to 2011.

As you can see, it appears their pattern is to add one high-priced free agent and then supplement that by acquiring a few mid-tier players.

This leads us to another clue: Both Veach’s comments and Reid’s history points to the Chiefs signing at least one big name free agent and then supplementing the rest of the roster with a handful of mid-tier free agents; think David Amerson.

Just to rehash, let’s briefly look at what we know:

  • Veach values youth
  • Veach likes to flip picks
  • The Chiefs will be aggressive in free agency towards shallowly talented draft position groups
  • The Chiefs will be aggressive in the draft towards shallowly talented free agent position groups
  • Veach and Reid’s history indicates there will be a big name free agent signing, and a handful of other mid level free agent signings.

Positions of need

Most important is the state of the Chiefs current roster. The following positions are positions of need for the Chiefs going into 2018, according to, uh, me: NT, FS, CB, ILB.

The Chiefs do have other positions that could use improvement, such as OLB, QB2, LG, TE2, DE, etc. However, these positions of need are not as critical as the first list as most of them are based on depth and upgrading the roster, although I would say of this list DE is the most needed.

Positions of Strength and Weakness

Free agency

We’ll need to understand positions of strength and weakness in both free agency and the draft if we want to have a chance at getting remotely close to having any foresight into what Veach will do this off season.

Using free agent rankings at WalterFootball, I was able to build the following list regarding the depth and talent at each positional grouping. The following list is a ranking of free agent positional strength with one being the strongest, and nine being the weakest.

  1. Cornerback
  2. Safety
  3. Defensive Tackle
  4. Gaurd
  5. Quarterback
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Outside Linebacker
  8. Inside Linebacker
  9. Defensive End, Tight End, Running Back

NFL Draft

Now let’s look at the top and bottom five positions of strength in the NFL draft. It was not fun gathering a consensus for this, I scoured a number of sites and formulated my own conclusions. We’ll start with the top five positions of strength with one being the best, and five being the worst.

  1. Running Back
  2. Quarterback
  3. Defensive Tackle
  4. Defensive Ends
  5. Cornerbacks

Here are the top five most shallow positions in the draft with one being the least deep in talent, and five being deeper in talent.

  1. Tight End
  2. Guard
  3. Free Safety
  4. Inside Linebacker
  5. Strong Safety

What we can expect in free agency

Armed with what we know, I feel the best place to start looking into what Veach may do in free agency is buried within the draft’s positions of weakness.

We know the Chiefs need a starting free safety after cutting Ron Parker. The Chiefs are also in need of an ILB now that Derrick Johnson is out of Kansas City. Both free safety and inside linebacker are positions of weakness in this year draft.

Given Veach has said he will supplement positions of weakness in the draft with free agents, let’s take a look and see who is available at ILB and FS. We’ll also touch on a couple other positions of need that make sense for the Chiefs to pursue. Each of these free agents could be potential options for Veach and the Chiefs. We will also consider age given what we know about Veach’s preference for younger players.

Inside Linebacker

The free agent pool at inside linebacker is very, very weak. Below are some players I believe the Chiefs could sign. They would fall under the “handful of mid-tier free agents” category.

  • Gerald Hodges, ILB, Saints. Age: 27
  • Avery Williamson, ILB, Titans. Age: 26
  • Kevin Minter, ILB, Bengals. Age: 27
  • NaVorro Bowman, ILB, Raiders. Age: 30

With Reggie Ragland playing the thumper role, the Chiefs are in need of a linebacker who can cover well. Hodges has been the best in coverage over his career and may be the Chiefs favorite choice here, even though the Saints did not use Hodges much in 2017.

Bowman is the most talented player in this list, but he has an injury history and will also command the highest price tag. It’s also fair to note that Bowman is older and the Chiefs are in the middle of a youth movement.

Of this list, I most expect the Chiefs to sign Hodges given everything we know, BUT I also want to point out it’s entirely possible the Chiefs try and flip a pick for another ILB; much like they did to acquire Ragland.

Since the ILB field is so weak in free agency, the Chiefs are really in a rough spot regarding Veach’s philosophy. I would actually look for Veach to both draft and sign a free agent inside linebacker.

Free Safety

Fortunately, the free agent pool for free safeties is much deeper than the inside linebacker position. Here is a list of a few players I believe the Chiefs will be interested in during free agency:

Morgan Burnett is a phenomenal player and may be outside of the Chiefs price range. However, if I were Veach, I would at least kick some tires.

Eric Reid and Tre Boston are two young players who would be massive improvements from what the Chiefs saw at safety in 2018. As of now, I would be pretty surprised if Veach did not try to acquire a player like one of these on the first day of free agency.

Burnett would be a top-tier free agent signing and Boston/Reid would be mid-tier signings. Each of these players will come with a fairly hefty price tag, but Boston and Reid will be cheaper (and younger) than Burnett.

Cornerback

Cornerback is not a shallow position in the 2018 draft, but when you trade a player of Marcus Peters’ caliber, it’s probably not a bad idea to keep an eye on free agent cornerbacks. It’s also important to note the cornerback market in 2018 is very strong, so the Chiefs would be wise to take advantage of that.

  • E.J. Gaines, CB, Bills. Age: 26
  • Prince Amukamara, CB, Bears. Age: 26
  • Trumaine Johnson, CB, Rams. Age: 28
  • Bashaud Breeland, CB, Redskins. Age: 26
  • Malcolm Butler, CB, Patriots. Age: 28

The problem with the top three CBs on this list is that they’ve had a sordid injury history. However, I believe the addition of David Amerson give the Chiefs the flexibility to roll the dice on some of these players with injury history.

I view Breeland as more of a depth type signing. The big names on the list are Butler and Johnson. Either one of these two players could be the Chiefs potential top-tier free agent signing.

However, my favorite choices from this list are Prince Amukamara, EJ Gaines, and Trumaine Johnson. I believe they would fit the best in the Chiefs scheme and may actually have reduced price tags due to recent injuries.

Nose Tackle

While defensive tackle is not a position of weakness in the 2018 draft, it is such a positional need for the Chiefs that I believe KC may both sign a free agent nose tackle and draft a nose tackle.

Fortunately for the Chiefs, the free agent pool for nose tackles isn’t too bad.

  • Dontari Poe, NT, Falcons. Age: 27
  • Justin Ellis, NT, Raiders. Age: 27
  • Bennie Logan, NT, Chiefs. Age: 28

Each of these three players would be a welcome presence in Kansas City next season. However, each of these players is approaching their upper twenties and I would be shocked if Veach offered anything over a 2 or 3 year deal.

I hope the Chiefs both draft and acquire a nose tackle this off season.

Free agency prediction

My best guess for free agency can be seen below:

  • Gerald Hodges - cheap one year deal
  • Eric Reid - long term deal
  • Trumaine Johnson - long term deal
  • Bennie Logan - one or two year deal
  • Blaine Gabbert - two year deal
  • Depth OL signing

The Chiefs will likely actively pursue each of the players discussed in this entire section. But with 31 other teams needing good players, there is a good chance the Chiefs won’t land this large of a haul.

There is also a part of me that thinks the Chiefs will also acquire a good WR. I would not be surprised if the Chiefs chose to roll the dice on a CB in the draft and acquire a WR like Sammy Watkins.

What we can expect in the draft

For starters, I know it’s not quite realistic to expect the Chiefs to acquire the large list of free agents above. Because of that, I am going to assume the Chiefs aren’t able to get any free agents from the list above when making decisions regarding the draft.

Let’s revisit what Veach said one more time...

“Free agency, the draft, it all has to be a cohesive deal where you’re attacking an area in free agency because it doesn’t work in the draft because of the depth,” Veach said. “And then vice versa, where you know you can’t get this in free agency but you can get it in the draft.”

In regards to the draft, Veach is looking to acquire players in positions of depth in the draft, as well as positions of weakness in free agency. Positions that fit this criteria are defensive ends and running backs. The Chiefs are already set at running back with Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware, but adding another young defensive end to pair with Chris Jones may not be a bad idea. I would believe the Chiefs will look for a defensive end somewhere in the draft.

Since there aren’t many other scenarios like above, I would think Veach would focus on positions of strength in the draft, combined with team needs. Those positions are NT, DE, QB, and CB.

Using this information, I could see the Chiefs 2018 draft look something like the following (note BPA = best player available):

Round 2 (54) - Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

Round 3 (78) - Tim Settle, NT, Virginia Tech

Round 3 (86) - Darius Leonard, ILB/OLB, South Carolina State

Round 4 (122) - Frank Ragnow, G/C, Arkansas

Round 4 (124) - B.J. Hill, 3-4DE, N.C. State

Round 6 (196) - Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky

Round 7 (233) - BPA

Round 7 (243) - BPA

Final thoughts

I’d like to finish with a few final thoughts...

The Chiefs have eight picks in the 2018 NFL draft, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had fewer than that when the draft starts since Veach is a fan of flipping picks. Don’t be surprised if Veach flips another pick and grabs an early round player who is struggling with their first NFL team.

I expect the Chiefs to be aggressive in free agency, particularly the safety and cornerback positions.

I also expect the Chiefs to draft at least one CB, perhaps two defensive lineman (NT and DE), an ILB, and then positional depth/competition throughout the rest of the roster.

With the picks in the draft and the roughly $27 million in cap space the Chiefs should have to work with, Veach is very capable of making all of the above happen. If the Chiefs take a step back in 2018, it’s the coaching staff and front office’s fault; no one else’s. Given Veach’s words, I don’t expect the Chiefs to take a step back.

Which is exactly what Veach has said all along.