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Brett Veach explains how free agency set Chiefs up well for the draft

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Veach’s final address to the KC media included a great Andy Reid nugget, a scenario for drafting offense and why free agency will allow the Chiefs to go with the best player available.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Andy Reid has the best quarterback in the National Football League. And according to Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, he is acting accordingly.

Veach held his annual pre-NFL Draft press conference on Thursday afternoon, and moments after explaining how he has been so busy in the draft room he barely knows the Chiefs’ schedule, he shared one of the best Reid anecdotes we’ve heard since the head coach arrived in Kansas City back in 2013.

“I went in [Reid’s office] the other day—he had index cards like that thick,” Veach said, as he held his hand up to show reporters. “He called them, ‘My new Pat plays.’ He was excited. It’s fun to see him get excited like that.”

Reid and the Chiefs have reason to be. The 23-year-old Most Valuable Player of the National Football League is the leader of their club, and next week, they will have three of the first 63 picks in the NFL Draft.

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

“We know that we are close, and we have a pretty good team,” Veach said. “We know we were inches away to going to Atlanta for the Super Bowl. I think there’s no one more driven than coach (Reid) and our staff up there to get this thing. We aren’t trying to build for the future, we are trying to win now. We are going to stay aggressive. We are going to try to put the best roster we possibly can out there and there are some moves that you just can’t make, but I think whatever we can do throughout the course of this period and after this period, I don’t think we are ever going to stop to be aggressive and push the envelope here because we want to put Kansas City in the best position to win a Super Bowl.”

To do that, many assume that just like last year, the Chiefs need go with an all-defensive draft. The case often made is that if the Chiefs can get out of the cellar (No. 31 in yards per game) defensively, Mahomes will take care of the rest.

But the idea that the Chiefs will only end up with premium defensive players shouldn’t be etched in stone. Veach explained that through free agency, they have created a situation in which they feel they can comfortably take players they value the most in any given round.

Houston Texans v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“The things that you do in free agency protect yourself in the draft, so you don’t have to take a player you feel is a second or third-round value in the first round,” the Chiefs GM said. “Maybe some moves are big like the Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu) and some smaller moves. I think what you do is you protect yourself, and that’s really one of the key elements of free agency. You go in there and they all don’t have to be big-name splashes, but if you could get guys like a Bashaud Breeland or a Damien Wilson to protect yourself from over-drafting players. I feel like this year, with the exception of quarterback, I think anything’s on the table in that first round.”

Last year, Veach traded up three times to select Breeland Speaks, Derrick Nnadi and Kahlil McKenzie. Those trade-ups, his rumored deals at last year’s trade deadline and the splash free-agent signings of Sammy Watkins and Tyrann Mathieu have led the national analysts like NFL Network’s Peter Schrager to refer to him as a “riverboat gambler.”

But Veach was reflective on Thursday, explaining how he has learned to be more balanced on the fly.

“For me it’s just learning how to be passive more so than aggressive—I’m kind of wired to just go up and get a guy,” he said. “I think you learn something every year. That was tough (in 2018)—you don’t have a first-round pick and then you don’t pick until late in the second. It was almost like we entered last year with a third-round pick. These names go off the board and you get a little impatient, but it will be a little bit different this year when you have some more picks to work with... You could be more tactical in certain areas, but [I’ve] got a great staff around me. I don’t think any GM goes into the draft and just starts pulling off names all by themselves. They surround themselves with smart people and I have smart people around me, so I think it’s a good balance.”

Veach said he would be meeting with the offensive staff on Thursday and the defensive staff Friday to talk about the draft board. It is probably time to accept that the come next Thursday night, the first player called to Kansas City may just be on offense.

“We’re just looking to find another great player, period—offense or defense,” Veach said. “I think the cool thing about having the league MVP is he makes people around him that much better, so that’s a luxury we have. If we can get him another tool, we absolutely will, but I think in general, we’re just going to find playmakers on both sides of the football. I don’t think we’re going to be geared toward offense now because Pat is so good, but we’re also aware that Pat is so good, so if there is somebody out there who can make him even better, we’ll be all for it. But I think just in general, we just want to add playmakers, any way, and that includes special teams, too.”

Veach’s reflection might have even included a hint of regret for trading up as much as he did last year.

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs
Breeland Speaks looks on before the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

“You want to put yourself in a position where you don’t have to reach,” he said. “Because if you just didn’t have a capable starter, like a Bashaud Breeland, say, and you don’t want to draft a third-round corner where you can draft a first-round talent at wideout. I think you just want to stick true to the talent and stick true to the board. There are some young guys we like. The kid from Kansas State, (Byron) Pringle, I think we’re really excited about. He had that great preseason game last year, hurt the hamstring. He’s busted his tail in the offseason. He looks really good, so I think he’s a guy that can step up and surprise.

“I think we have some guys that are still here that maybe people don’t know about or realize that we know more about. But receiver, if there is a receiver that we like, early on we absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.”

The Chiefs still need defensive starters—no one would argue against that. But by Veach’s tone and words Thursday, there truly seems to be only one position you can rule out.

Reid has a thick stack of index cards to prove it.


Other relevant notes from Veach’s pre-draft press conference

  • Veach on the draft picks from last year being “scheme-versatile”: “I think the good thing about the guys we drafted last year is they were all scheme-versatile guys. Breeland (Speaks) was more of a 4-3 end and Dorian (O’Daniel) can certainly play Will. Schematically from a secondary standpoint, those guys are interchangeable. So, getting guys like Armani (Watts) and Charvarius Ward really apply across the board. But I think the guys we drafted last year they had scheme versatility last year when we drafted them. But I don’t think that was our intent last year. I feel like we are in a pretty good place.”
  • Veach on some of the contributions from the rookies in 2018: “Breeland (Speaks) was in a unique position as our first pick even though he was a second-rounder, playing a little out of position at 3-4 outside linebacker. When Justin (Houston) and Dee (Ford) had some issues, I guess it was when Justin went down, Breeland came in and played some pretty good football and was a little out of position. He logged a lot of snaps. Derrick Nnadi was basically a starter for us, he’s a really good player. We were going through some of our young guys just last week and that guy is a lot better than people think. He’s a really good player and Armani (Watts) got hurt. Then if you count Charvarius Ward in that mix too, all these guys I think stepped in and played, I mean Charvarius was starting for us at the end of the season. Our mindset is the same. We expect these guys to come in and contribute and if they’re not starting to log a lot of snaps for us during the course of the season.”
  • Veach discussed how he feels about the current state of the Chiefs’ cornerback position: “I think Kendall (Fuller) and what Charvarius Ward did last year are certainly positives for us and we have two guys that we know are good players. I think Bashaud, I mentioned in one of our in-house interviews that he went through that injury and toward the end of last year he started picking his game up. I think with a full offseason and OTAs—this guy has played in the league and started at a pretty high level. I think we feel pretty good there, but we certainly need to get better. We need to get younger.”