Pre-Draft Press Conference with General Manager Brett VeachPosted by The Kansas City Chiefs on Friday, April 20, 2018
The Kansas City Chiefs and the rest of the National Football League are only six days away from this year’s draft.
With that in mind, general manager Brett Veach held a pre-draft press conference late Friday morning, a staple for the Chiefs but the first in Veach’s tenure as general manager.
Similar in style to his predecessor in now-Cleveland Brows general manager John Dorsey, Veach began the press conference by thanking the members of his personnel staff.
“Before we begin, I want to thank my scouting department,” Veach said. “There is so much work that goes into this whole draft process in setting a board. You start with 4 or 500 players, you kind of narrow it to 160, and I said this from the time I took this job. I’m very fortunate to have a group of scouts that I work with.”
So there is the number the Chiefs will be working with on their personal board—160. As it stands now (with no picks yet traded), eight players of the 160 on the board will be Kansas City Chiefs nine days from now.
Here are my 10 takeaways from Veach’s pre-draft press conference:
1. Do not rule the Chiefs out of trading into the first round on Thursday night.
The Chiefs currently do not have a first-round pick. But that doesn’t mean you should rule them out, according to Veach.
“I think all cards are on the table,” he said. “That’s the great part about the draft—you really never know how everything is going to play out, and sometimes you think, ‘Yeah this guy’s going top 15 all day and then you look up and you’re picking 28 and the guy’s on the board, so it’s our job to be prepared, and you know, maybe it doesn’t make sense for us. Maybe the equity’s too much. Maybe you don’t want to give up two free picks to get all the way up there.”
That’s where the extra homework done by Veach and his staff comes in.
“I know that we’ve identified guys all throughout the draft—rounds one through seven—but if there’s that guy who we thought was a top-10 pick and he’s there at 28, we have to be at least prepared and we have to have dialogue throughout this process. That’s why we start calling teams now (Friday), and letting them know that we’re always open for business.”
2. John Dorsey was all about the “best player available.” But there’s a new sheriff in town.
Whenever Dorsey was asked who the Chiefs were taking during his time in Kansas City, he would playfully reply, “best player available.”
But the idea felt more like 10 percent joke, 90 percent philosophy. That thought is changing with Veach:
“The one thing that you have to protect yourself against is being too comfortable at any position,” Veach said. “I’ve gone into many camps thinking, ‘Wow, we’re really good at tight end or running back, and then all of a sudden, you lose three guys in a week or two.”
This may also explain why the Chiefs have recently loaded up at the running back position.
“I certainly think you’ll attack the draft in regard to best player available [and] your eye is always going to point to areas that you feel are positions of needs,” he added. “There will be a little give and take, so if you have a guy ranked in the second round at a certain position that maybe you feel is not a need, there is some give and take in regard to if that guy’s a similar value—maybe a little lower you’d go in that position of need, but if that value is in the fourth or fifth round, you’re not going to take a fifth-round lineman over a second-round receiver.”
3. So how does Veach evaluate the current state of the Chiefs defense?
If the Arrowhead Pride comments and mentions are any indications, the fan base feels the Chiefs ought to go in a defensive direction this draft season. Not everyone necessarily agrees.
But how does Veach evaluate the Chiefs D?
“I don’t think as an evaluator, as a personnel member, you’re ever happy with your team unless you win the Super Bowl,” he said. “We’re going to look to improve the defense, we’re going to look to make changes. But I think when you get a guy like Eric Berry back, that’s a big loss. And then you add a guy like Anthony Hitchens. We were able to add Xavier Williams, who I think will do a great job for us.
“I think we’ve made some good moves, but we’re certainly not finished.”
4. But Brett, the cornerback position!
Ever since the trade of cornerback Marcus Peters, fans have been a bit on edge regarding the cornerback position. Kendall Fuller, the slot corner acquired from the Redskins in the Alex Smith trade, is expected to start at one of the outside positions for the Chiefs, with Steve Nelson and David Amerson rounding out the depth chart.
“At corner, we feel really good about Kendall Fuller, obviously,” he said. “Steve Nelson has shown that he continues to get better and can help us out. Then you bring in David Amerson, who is a guy that, and look, we know he’s been a little up and down on the consistency level, but he has all the physical attributes that you need.”
Veach also gave the impression that he feels there could be some hidden gems already on the roster that are somewhat unknown.
“Look, we still have guys like Keith Reaser and Will Redmond, that people won’t really talk about but Will Redmond was a [third-round] pick by the 49ers coming off an injury and Keith Reaser was a guy we liked—I think he too is also coming off of an injury out of Florida Atlantic a few years back, so a lot of people won’t talk about those guys but when you start stacking those type of players in regard to what’s out there in the draft class, you feel good about them, but we’ll be certainly aggressive in all areas.”
5. The cap situation is good, per Veach.
Another item of concern has been the Chiefs’ salary cap, which currently sits at $6,657,432, per the NFL Players Association.
“We’re comfortable where we’re at,” Veach said. “The cap staff that I have is really, really good.”
“One of the things that we put a high priority on is making sure that we continue to maintain financial flexibility,” Veach added. “We know that in a year from now, Kendall (Fuller) and Reggie (Ragland) and Chris Jones—they’re all going to be eligible for an extension, but we have done things and structured our cap situation so we’d always have flexibility to keep our guys, because you want to draft guys and you want to keep them here, and that’s how you win.”
6. The Chiefs use mock drafts, just like fans and analysts, and in them, Veach always traded up.
When it comes to the actual NFL Draft—yes, the one that counts, with real lives and players on the line—I was surprised to learn the Chiefs also use mock drafts. But the more Veach talked about it, the more it made sense.
Through all of the signings and trades, he’s shown to be a rather aggressive general manager, and he is the same way when it comes to the Chiefs’ mocks.
“I have a group of guys [in the personnel office] who are worried I’m going to be too aggressive, so I’m glad I have those guys. And everyone does this—we’ve done this the last five years—you kind of go through mock drafts just like you see online, but we kind of play that game ourselves in regard to what do we do if? or what about if this guy slides?
“I think every scenario had me trading up, and guys are like, ‘We have a lot of good picks here,’ so I think I’ll have a good group of guys kind of helping me out there.”
7. The Andy Reid connection.
While this will be Veach’s first draft as an NFL team’s top personnel man, he started his career as Andy Reid’s coaching assistant in 2007—11 years ago.
The two have worked together ever since, from Philadelphia to Kansas City, and Veach said that longtime connection has allowed him to remain on the same page with Reid throughout the draft process.
“[The relationship] helps a lot because I’ve been around him a long time,” Veach said. “I’ve been around his offenses, his defenses a long time. I think it just helps with that trust factor. I think coach (Reid) knows that I’m really prepared, so if we’re going to talk about a roster, a free agency plan, an offseason plan, a draft, we speak the same language.
“He knows if I’m going to come to him with a pocket of players or an idea of how I feel we can get better, he knows that the homework is going to be done, [I] bring him a lot of information.”
8. Veach isn’t afraid to, in his own words, “wear Andy Reid out.”
In 2009, a Pittsburgh running back named LeSean McCoy entered the NFL Draft, and Veach made a point of it to get his tape in front of Reid.
“I wore him out,” Veach said. “I think I sent him some highlights every day for like 10 days straight, so he got the picture.”
McCoy has more than 10,000 yards rushing, including six seasons of more than 1,000, in his nine-year NFL career to date.
“[Reid] knows that when you bring something to him that it’s not just going to be just one player,” he said. “It’s not like you’re going to look at two or three guys at one position. You’re going to look at all those guys, you’re going to trim the fat and you’re just going to give him what you believe is best for the Chiefs.”
9. Forget the schedule.
Veach doesn’t give a damn about what the Chiefs’ schedule is. No really.
He didn’t say that, but he didn’t have to.
“Actually, when it came out, we were watching tape,” he said. “I just know we play the Rams and the Steelers away-away, and after that, I don’t know if I could tell you the rest of the schedule ... I find it interesting that everyone always talks about, ‘Wow we have a really hard beginning.’
“These are all tough games—it doesn’t matter who you open up with, who you end with. You never know who’s going to get hurt and how it’s going to play out. I know in this league, and coach mentions it every week, you win a game in this league, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, when you’re playing, you win a game, it’s tough.”
10. “I’m just going to call John.”
To end the presser, Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star brought up the fact that Dorsey used to take a lot of pride in his ability to acquire background information on draft picks to be.
Would Veach be doing the same?
“Yeah, I’m just going to call John,” Veach joked.
The NFL Draft begins Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT.