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The draft market — and predicting a Chiefs strategy for each position

We take a market-based look at what the Chiefs could do in the draft

NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame-Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the first wave (or two, or three) of free agency is over, Kansas City Chiefs team needs have reset a bit.

Looking back at what we predicted here, the Chiefs sold (Dee Ford, Justin Houston) and bought low on EDGE (Alex Okafor) and SAM (Damien Wilson). They got bargains at cornerback (Bashaud Breeland) and running back (Carlos Hyde), and bought high on safety (Tyrann Mathieu). Based on our list of free agent needs, they have yet to address wide receiver or offensive line.

So, the Chiefs filled some needs — and created some others — over the past couple of weeks. If your head is still spinning, you’re not alone. Catch up on all the moves here at Arrowhead Pride.

We also believe the team isn’t done yet. There will absolutely be moves coming via trade and/or free agency, and we’re still waiting on decisions for several of the Chiefs’ own free agents.

Trying to guess with any certainty as to who the Chiefs might pick in the draft is tough — if not impossible. We have some ideas on who might be available at pick 29. But we’re also pretty sure that the Chiefs won’t actually pick at 29. Brett “The Riverboat Gambler” Veach doesn’t seem patient enough to sit and wait to see who might fall his way. He’s going to move up to get his guy — we think.

We’ll try to get an idea of the market of available players in the draft and discuss potential strategies the Chiefs might employ based off of supply and demand at each position. At the end, we’ll include a mock draft that applies this to the market.

I called down to the AP draft nerds in their basement lab this week to get a consensus on both the team needs (demand) and the market (supply). By the way, if you haven’t purchased your copy of the KC Draft Guide, it’s THE source for Chiefs-related draft information and well worth it.

Quarterback (top-heavy bear market)

Texas Tech v TCU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s a great year to have a 23-year-old, MVP quarterback on your roster and not to be shopping for a new signal-caller. It’s not a good quarterback class after Kyler Murray. At all.

Strategy: don’t waste a pick

The Chiefs have the franchise quarterback in place, with a veteran backup (Chad Henne), developmental player (Chase Litton) and a guy trying to rehab his career (EJ Manuel). Others may disagree, but I can’t see a scenario where it makes much sense for the Chiefs to spend any pick on a quarterback this year.

Potential Chiefs fits: N/A

Wide receiver (semi-strong bull market)

NFL Combine - Day 3
Wide receivers (from left) Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin of Ohio State, Emmanuel Butler of Northern Arizona and Tyre Brady of Marshall look on during day three of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We see only a couple of guys that will be a No. 1 receiver, but there are a ton of guys that project as No. 2 receivers with a wide variety of skill sets to fit nearly any offense.

Strategy: pick for fit

Regardless of the status of Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have a need here with Chris Conley’s departure, Sammy Watkins’s injury history (and contract), and with De’Anthony Thomas still unsigned. The Chiefs need to think both short and long term with the receiver position. Fans and media think the team should only be focused on defense, but continuing to build on the offensive machine around Mahomes will always be a priority. Look for Brett Veach and Andy Reid to add a playmaker — and don’t be surprised if they use one of their first three picks on a receiver.

Potential Chiefs fits: AJ Brown, Hakeem Butler, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Terry McLaurin

Running back (picker’s market)

NFL Combine - Day 1
Running back Josh Jacobs of Alabama
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

At running back, there aren’t many headline-grabbing guys that will instantly be three-down starters in the NFL. There are, however, plenty of draftable running backs that can help. Teams likely have widely varying grades on each running back and will be able to pick their best fit.

Strategy: buy low

Adding Carlos Hyde made plenty of sense, and we think the team has enough talent at the running back position to go into the season with Damien and Darrel Williams. Running back isn’t an urgent need, but that doesn’t mean they won’t draft one. Depth is important, and this team needs to keep loading up on playmakers. While it shouldn’t be surprising if they add another back as early as round three, it’s the type of need they can afford to wait and draft later — or even sign after the draft.

Potential Chiefs fits: Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, Devin Singletary, Darrell Henderson, Miles Sanders

Tight end (bull market)

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - North Carolina State v Texas A&M
Jace Sternberger #81 of the Texas A&M Aggies makes a reception for a first down against Jarius Morehead #31 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

This has the appearance of a very good rookie class of tight ends. There will be contributors taken deep into the middle rounds and a couple of kids from the University of Iowa that could both go in the top half of the first round. It’s entirely possible that none of these guys become stars in the NFL, but there will be plenty of starters drafted next month.

Strategy: pick for fit

Go get a dynamic young player to pair with/learn from Travis Kelce’s game. They could opt for more of an in-line blocker to be the complement or another pass-catcher to be the backup. Either way, it’s a substantial need.

Potential Chiefs fits: TJ Hockenson, Kahale Warring, Jace Sternberger, Foster Moreau

Offensive tackle (bull market)

NFL: Combine
Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The class of offensive tackles isn’t being talked about much, but there are a lot of very good prospects available. For teams that need a starter, they should be able to find one — wherever they are picking.

Strategy: pick for development

The team still literally has nobody to back up the tackle spots. Cam Erving or Andrew Wylie could slide out in a pinch, but neither looks like a long-term option for the Chiefs. We’d like to see them go get a guy that has enough talent to back up Eric Fisher and Mitch Schwartz this season — and potentially start (if needed) in the future.

Potential Chiefs fits: Yodny Cajuste, Dalton Risner

Interior offensive line (picker’s market)

NFL: Combine
North Carolina State offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

There might be some value to be had by teams looking for help at guard and center. There could be as few as three taken in the top 50 picks, but we like the potential of a lot of players that should be available in the later rounds.

Strategy: weigh the options

The Chiefs have a variety of options on the interior — even after losing Mitch Morse and Jordan Devey, but they could still add a center if they aren’t sold on Austin Reiter. Garrett Bradbury is starting to be a popular pick at No. 29 in mock drafts, but even if Kansas City doesn’t go that direction, they could add a potential starter on the interior later in the draft.

Potential Chiefs fits: Garrett Bradbury, Connor McGovern, Elgton Jenkins, Michael Deiter

Interior defensive line (top-heavy bull market)

NFL: Combine
Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

At the defensive tackle position, some absolutely elite prospects will go early in the first round. The second and third tiers blend together, so after the top guys are off the board, there will be reaches as teams talk themselves into players they can coach up.

Strategy: look for value

Chris Jones is a superstar in this league, even if not everyone knows it yet. Xavier Williams and Derrick Nnadi should provide solid play at the nose tackle. But there is a need for depth behind Chris Jones at the 3-technique spot, and the big guy needs a rotation to stay fresh. Only Justin Hamilton could currently fill that role. The Chiefs want to be able to get after the quarterback from all over the defense, so this is a sleeper position that they could add in the draft. I wouldn’t assume a trade up (unless Ed Oliver is within reach), but I could see the Chiefs adding a disruptive interior defender at any point in the draft.

Potential Chiefs fits: Jerry Tillery, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise

EDGE (top-heavy, scheme-specific)

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Media Day Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The pass rushers appear to be stronger in 3-4 outside linebackers than 4-3 defensive ends. While we acknowledge that schemes are more varied than ever — and base defense matters far less than it used to — there are still characteristics of EDGE players in the draft that will dictate where they fit best. Like defensive line, there will be some spectacular top-end EDGE talent available early in round one, and some serious question-marks as the draft goes into the second and third days.

Strategy: buy early, or trade up for the right guy

The Chiefs were down two pass rushers after letting Houston go and trading Ford. Alex Okafor, Emannuel Ogbah and Jerry Attaochu fill some of those spots with competent veterans, but none of those guys are game-changers on their own. Expect the Chiefs to look for a LEO (pass-rushing specialist for the defensive end spot across from the offense’s left tackle) early in the draft. This is another spot they could be aggressive and trade up to get their guy. Given what we’ve seen and heard, there is a specific type that Spagnuolo is looking for. The only question in my mind is: will they continue to add guys that fit that same mold? OR, will they add a dynamic speed rusher to complement them?

Potential Chiefs fits: Clelin Ferrell, Rashan Gary, Montez Sweat, Anthony Nelson, Charles Omenihu

Linebacker (top-heavy, bear market)

NFL: Combine
Brigham Young linebacker Sione Takitaki
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The league has not traditionally valued off-ball (non-pass-rushing) linebackers as worthy of early draft picks. However, it looks like there will be at least one going in the top five this year, with another shortly after that. From there, though, the market drops off rather dramatically. If a team doesn’t get one of the top two guys, they might be drafting a limited role-player later in the draft.

Strategy: seek specific traits

The Chiefs need linebackers with speed to play in this system. They have some guys slotted in positions in which it’s hard to see them fitting. Reggie Ragland, for example, doesn’t appear to be a guy you want playing sideline-to-sideline or in coverage. So, they should be looking in the middle-to-late rounds for player with specific traits that they can use. Perhaps a speedy WILL linebacker or a SAM linebacker that can rush the passer a little might be good bets for the Chiefs to add at some point.

Potential Chiefs fits: Jahlani Tavai, Blake Cashman, Sione Takitaki, Terrill Hanks, Malik Reed

Cornerback (scheme-specific picker’s market)

NFL: Combine
Washington defensive back Byron Murphy
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While the headlines say this draft is not great at the cornerback position because many of them have flaws, we think it is loaded with corners that have plenty of upside that will be tempting for teams who are willing to invest in their development. While only one or two corners are considered first-round locks, as many as five or six may go in the next tier.

The run on cornerbacks could start in the late first round or early in the second round. Teams will be looking for cornerbacks that fit their shopping list of traits and skills like size, speed, press ability, ball skills and tackling. We don’t see any that have it all put together, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of good cornerbacks coming out of this class.

Strategy No. 1: Buy early, trade up if needed

Invest in a guy that could be a future No. 1 cornerback with one of the first three picks. Given the market for corners, the Chiefs will be competing with other teams looking for similar traits. Expect Veach to consider a trade up to get the right fit, as corner is a critical need at one of the most critical positions on the field.

Strategy No. 2: pick for development

This isn’t a typo. We think the Chiefs might need to double dip at corner. If they go cornerback in round one or two, expect that player to contribute this season. They might also want to pick up a second corner later in the draft that may need more time to develop.

Potential Chiefs fits: Byron Murphy, Amani Oruwariye, Justin Layne, Trayvon Mullen, Jamel Dean, Isaiah Johnson

Safety (scheme-specific picker’s market)

NFL: Combine
Delaware defensive back Nasir Adderley
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to the cornerback market, the safety market may lack star power, but there should be contributors that fit teams throughout the draft. Teams likely have dramatically different views on each of the safeties, depending on what their scheme demands from the position.

Strategy- use a pick only if it’s an upgrade: The team was planning on bringing Earl Thomas in to play free safety, with Tyrann Mathieu at strong safety. That tells me they were interested in upgrading both safety spots. Nothing has really changed since then, so it’s entirely possible they’ll look to replace Lucas, Watts or Sorensen with a more dynamic rookie.

Potential Chiefs fits: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Nasir Adderley, Juan Thornhill, Amani Hooker, Darnell Savage, Malik Gant

Special teams

Look for special teams ability in all position players, but there’s no need to draft a kicker, punter or long snapper this year.

Based on the above market assumptions, the Chiefs draft could look something like this:

Round 1: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE — the team has shown it’s a priority to load up on pass rushers, and Ferrell is the best fit.

Round 2: Darnell Savage, S — looks like a potential upgrade; can be a playmaker.

Round 2: Trayvon Mullen, CB — one of that second tier of corners; has the physical tools to get into the Chiefs rotation at some point.

Round 3: Mecole Hardman, WR — versatile and dynamic playmaker that Andy Reid can get the most out of.

Round 5: Foster Moreau, TE — he’s a blocker now, could develop as a receiver; fits nicely as the Chiefs second tight end.

Round 6: Terrill Hanks, WILL— converted safety fits the need to cover running backs in today’s NFL.

Round 6: Bruce Anderson, RB — a receiving back to complement (not duplicate) who is on the existing roster

Round 7: Saivion Smith, CB — adding a big developmental corner late in the draft to build depth at the position makes all the sense in the world.

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