Now that it’s the first day of the NFL Draft, I feel the need to put some thoughts and predictions on record. Feel free to add your bold predictions and hot takes in the comments.
Oh, and don’t forget your copy of the KC Draft Guide. I’ll have mine handy Thursday night through Saturday for reference.
10 thoughts on draft strategy
1) As a reminder, best player available (BPA) is a fallacy. Reaches and steals only matter on draft day and for pundits. No team drafts without consideration of need and boards are highly subjective as a result. Expect every single team to announce after the selection that they got the “number one player on its board.”
2) It’s all about fit and roster construction. If the player fits what the team wants to do and makes the roster better, it is a good pick. The same player could “hit” or “bust” based on where he lands, as coaching staffs vary widely in what they are looking for and what they expect a player to do. Keep that in mind when players “slide.” If they don’t fit what the team is looking for, they might just let them continue to “fall.”
3) The real definition of value. If your guy won’t be available the next time you pick, he is worth the current pick. Period. Now, if they take a guy two or three rounds ahead of his projection, it means one of two things: The projections were way off (which happens), and/or they thought another team was going to take that guy before the Chiefs’ next pick (happens sometimes, but maybe not as often as general managers tell you after the fact).
See: Breeland Speaks. Either way, expect Veach to go get his guys based on his analysis of when other teams might take them.
4) The Chiefs (still) have more than one pick. Shocking news, I know. But, the more significant point here is that the strongest need doesn’t necessarily equal the first pick. They aren’t “ignoring” a position if they spend the 61st pick elsewhere. They might have just liked a player at a different position more and have a good feeling that they can address the need later in the draft or free agency.
5) Veach and Reid have done their homework. They have a well-researched draft board, and their board is NOT the same as yours or your favorite website’s board (see the KC Draft Guide). This year, there has been a little more discussion of the “horizontal board,” which is how teams can decide on two players with similar grades. It factors in position and upside across each round. In addition to the draft board, there is likely a “board” of trades that are on the table. We’ll never know what these boards look like, of course, but remember, the TV has a vertical list of “best available” on the screen, but that’s not reflective of how teams see it.
6) They’ll stick to their plan. It’s a safe bet that the Chiefs already have a pretty good idea of who they are planning to have on the roster by the end of the draft, so this is another reason they might not take a player who the “experts” say is “falling” on draft night. There’s likely a small group at each position that they like, and they’ll focus on filling out their “shopping list” with guys from each pool.
7) The Chiefs might be going quality over quantity. Now that they’ve traded out of round one by adding Frank Clark, they have shown they are willing to put multiple resources into getting just the right impact player. They are indisputably in “win-now” mode. To that end, they might prefer to walk away from the draft with three early contributors instead of seven depth/development players.
8) The draft is not done in a vacuum. It’s part of a broader multi-year plan that includes free agency, undrafted free agents, trades and the salary cap. We can’t judge the draft at least until we see the rest of the plan for this year. If they fail to address a position in the draft, there will be plenty of opportunities to fill in that gap before they line up Week 1. But we also can’t overreact to what each draft pick means for guys on the current roster. Example: taking a wide receiver doesn’t mean they are cutting Tyreek Hill; it is just part of the broader roster strategy.
9) Possible strategies that make some sense. They’ve added strength in free agency and trades, so perhaps they’ll draft for speed. Another might be that they’ve filled out their depth chart with competent players in free agency and they’ll swing for the fences in the draft looking for playmakers. They could deviate from the types of players they added in free agency to bring a variety of skill sets that might be missing from the roster.
10) The Chiefs enter this draft with few true needs. This is by design, and they try to do it every year. We all generally agree that the team needs another cornerback, wide receiver, tight end and safety, among other positions, whether it’s for depth or future development. I’ll argue that they’ve done enough in free agency and trades that they don’t have to address any of those spots, or at least they aren’t desperate enough that other teams will know their strategy on draft night. This roster is already a Super Bowl favorite as it stands Thursday before the draft. It will get better this weekend. If they had to line up and play tomorrow, they would still be favored against any team they face.
1) TWO of the first four picks will be for offensive playmakers. This team is built around Patrick Mahomes, and they will want to keep this offense explosive. They have substantial needs at tight end, wide receiver and (arguably) running back. Don’t be shocked if they invest early.
2) They will get a big cornerback that can play outside. This is the most obvious position that they will look to address in the second round. But it won’t be just any corner. No slot corners or undersized guys that “could develop into Steven Nelson.”
3) They might trade up in round two, Brett Veach is sure to be impatient by the time late Friday night comes around and he hasn’t picked yet. Even more likely, they’ll trade up from their fifth-round pick. It’s a really long wait from pick 84 to 167, and I’d argue this range is the last chance to add guys that are likely to contribute early.
4) Speed at linebacker should be a priority late in the draft.
5) They’ll address the positions we expect, but it might not be the names we expect. My final mock is below. I fully expect to be wrong about the names and right about the positions.
2019 Chiefs mock
61. Terry McLaurin, WR Ohio State: Watch for a wide receiver with significant speed.
63. Joejuan Williams, CB Vanderbilt: Again, looking for a cornerback with size.
84. Kahale Warring, TE San Diego State: Big need at No. 2 tight end for depth and Kelce insurance.
167. Mike Weber, RB Ohio State: Watch for a pass-catching running back with good balance.
201. Cameron Smith, LB USC: Instinctive MIKE linebacker (could bump Reggie Ragland off the roster).
214. Ulysees Gilbert III, LB Akron: Athletic WILL linebacker behind Dorian O’Daniel.
216. Paul Adams, OT Missouri: Need to start preparing for life after Eric Fisher and Mitch Schwartz.