It’s almost time.
Every year, we await the NFL Draft in a frenzy of anticipation. This is the one time of year that college players are considered more of a “sure thing” than half the players who are already in the NFL.
It’s a glorious time, as people project what a guy did in college as to how it will relate to the pros and pray that they’re correct (and, of course, that their team is the one to snag said player).
Me? Well, I tend to stay about the fray a bit. Partly because I can’t bring myself to throw darts blindfolded, but also partly because I simply don’t have the time to review players who aren’t Chiefs. It’s just the nature of being tri-vocational (it’s a thing!).
Of course, that doesn’t mean I never get involved in draft coverage. Last season I wrote about pretty much every quarterback who was considered a first-rounder (and several who weren’t), as I had a really strong feeling the Chiefs would draft one. That’s when I fell in love with Patrick Mahomes. And then, of course, I wrote an article saying if I were John Dorsey I’d trade up and draft Mahomes. Then he actually did it.
As I wrote about after that draft, it’s going to be tough to top that one. But considering I’m totally one-for-one on calling draft shots (that’s batting 1.000!), I figured I’d better take another swing this year.
It’s a weird draft for the Chiefs. For starters, they don’t have a first-round pick due to, you know, all the stuff that happened last year. Additionally, this is the first draft run by Brett Veach, who claims to be so aggressive with trades in mock drafts that he’s got underlings who worry about it (I absolutely love this, by the way. The NFL is far, far too conservative with its moves as a whole. I want a guy who is so aggressive it makes people nervous).
He’s also shown he’ll be highly aggressive acquiring players he wants.
On top of all that, the Chiefs have an overall strong roster with a few very (seemingly) obvious needs... but have given no indication that they feel their needs are so, um, obvious. In short, I have literally no idea what Veach will do.
But I know what I’d do. I’d take a highly aggressive, but surgical, approach to this year’s draft. In other words... I want Veach to trade up early and trade up often.
That’s basically the opposite of what common wisdom is in the draft, and quite frankly runs counter to how I normally feel. I’m very much a “the draft is a crapshoot” kind of guy, so my general thought is to shotgun it: get as many picks as possible to increase your chances of landing a couple of good players.
However, when I look at the specific needs on the Chiefs (virtually all of them on defense) and consider that this roster is absolutely ready to compete now, I can’t bring myself to get on board with that kind of approach.
I want Brett Veach to identify a handful of guys he really, really loves, then go and get them.
Obviously, you need to be smart about it. Some guys are going to be top-10 picks and out of reach. But I’m talking about guys in that low first-to-early third-round range. There’s plenty of talent there, and plenty of guys who could, in theory, step on the field in 2018 and help the Chiefs win games. I want those guys. Of course, people always want those guys. But I’m saying I’m OK sacrificing the ability to “shotgun” picks in order to snag two or three guys Veach is really crazy about.
My reasoning is perhaps overly simplistic, but here it is: the time is here, the time is now.
There will be no better window to win a Super Bowl than the next three years, when Patrick Mahomes is on an extremely cheap contract. This is the time the Chiefs can spend big money on “luxury” players. This is the time the Chiefs can load up on talent in areas that might have to be neglected (or populated with “we hope they’ll work out” guys) due to paying the quarterback $25 million a year.
While there are absolutely issues with the defense, the offense is absolutely loaded on paper. More importantly, perhaps, it’s loaded in a way that is specifically designed to succeed in the modern NFL: spread offense, track-meet style. There’s continuity across the board and more talent at the skills positions than arguably any other team in the league.
And with regards to the defense... it’s not like it’s bereft of talent.
Adding Anthony Hitchens, Xavier Williams and Kendall Fuller helps inject some much-needed young talent. Getting Eric Berry and Dee Ford back should help tremendously in two of the biggest problem areas last season (safety play and pass rush).
Again, the concerns are there, but there are enough pieces when you have Chris Jones, Justin Houston, Reggie Ragland, Hitchens, Fuller, and Berry to build around.
What’s missing? More talent on defense. That’s where the draft comes in.
I’m no draftnik, but my understanding is there are multiple solid cornerbacks and safeties to be had. Given the likely run on quarterbacks early and the usual desire for edge rushers (and inevitable over-drafting of some running backs), some talented guys are going to fall.
If I’m Brett Veach, I’m looking at a roster that looks so close to being a major threat, if it can only add a few more pieces on defense. Then I’m compiling a list of 10 to 15 guys who could be available in that late first-to-early third range. Then I’m grabbing them if and when they drop.
In other words, I’ll take two guys they absolutely love over six guys they like.
Is that wildly aggressive? Sure. Is it a tough model to work going forward? Absolutely, and I wouldn’t recommend it for more than a single year. Is it, in my opinion, the best way to give the Chiefs the best chance to win a Super Bowl this season? Yes. Yes it is.
(Side note: if you’re looking for actual player suggestions, you’re in the wrong place. I like what I’ve seen in Mo Hurst, but beyond that I’m out. I leave that to the experts. For me, it’s all about addressing the spots that could drag the roster down this year)
Maybe the Chiefs shock all of us and draft a guard, or a tight end, or (gulp) a wide receiver. If they do, I’ll wait and see what the result is. But for me, the time to start going big is now. The best window is here, today. And getting just a couple of immediate contributors on defense could be the difference between a “meh” defense and one that’s able to actively contribute to a run. Then you can go back to the shotgun approach next year.
I’m almost always a “best player available” guy, but this year... and this year only... I’m a guy who says “we’ve got some real needs, go up and get your guys for those needs.”
At least, that’s what I’d do. We’ll see what happens. As the kids say these days... can’t wait.