Whether you like them, love them or despise the picks, there is always a method to the madness. The point is to take a step back from whatever your evaluation of the player is and put yourself into the shoes of those making the pick and see if you can determine why they are now in Kansas City.
Let’s discuss how these three new players fit with the Chiefs.
Georgia WR Mecole Hardman
Mecole Hardman is a recently-converted wide receiver from cornerback who is still developing his game. He possesses track-level speed, as fast as 4.24 laser timed in the 40-yard dash, and that dynamic ability is evident at every level. With the current roller coaster that is the Tyreek Hill situation, this type of player only makes sense.
While Hardman is still developing all of the nuances to play wide receiver, his ability to affect the game on special teams as a returner, big plays down the field and with yards after the catch make him a natural fit in Kansas City. The parallels to Hill’s athleticism, college film and even size are going to be significant points of note as the Chiefs appear to be setting themselves up to be able to move on from Hill. Hardman likely starts as a rotational player working mostly on “gadget” plays and from the slot with the hope he follows a similar developmental path as Hill.
Speed, plays in space, dynamic plays, that's Hardman— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) April 27, 2019
- Looks ball into hands, not at defenders, during drop step
- Immediately squares to the defender and explodes at him
- Acceleration to daylight
- Subtle angle adjustment and erases the defender's angle
- Contact balance--> TD pic.twitter.com/WhoCeLE3my
Virginia S Juan Thornhill
Juan Thornhill was a fan favorite leading up to the NFL Draft for a ton of teams, including the Chiefs. His elite athleticism and ball production in college make him easy to love as a player and his upside is phenomenal. He has experience playing corner in college and moved to safety as a senior, where he arguably had his best season. Not afraid to play near the box and physical, Thornhill shines with his football IQ, angles and ability to create game-changing plays. He doesn’t have a ton of tape available playing as a single-high safety, but he profiles as a good free safety that has some man coverage skills.
The Chiefs’ safety position, much like last year, has a logjam at the second spot with a team full of role players who may be best suited as third safeties. Enter Thornhill, who has real starter potential at safety and should make that push very early in his career. Brett Veach has said they see him as a “true center fielder” and you could see why given his athleticism, ball skills and IQ. The Chiefs now have their “deep” safety in Thornhill to go along with the matchup, “box” safety in Tyrann Mathieu, where he can get back to hunting.
Thornhill is a playmaker. Good eyes, gets over the nine route quickly without any other threat. Ball is late to the back shoulder but Thornhill does a good job playing with the ball in front of him, cuts off the WR and shows good ball skills. pic.twitter.com/Ocrs0CKfF6— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) January 21, 2019
Western Illinois IDL Khalen Saunders
Khalen Saunders was the favorite of nearly everyone at the Senior Bowl because of his engaging attitude, awesome interview and entertaining play. There is some “bull in a china shop” to his game, but the top-end, first-step quickness and lateral agility from a man his size is excellent. He looks like a quality penetration or pass-rushing interior defensive lineman at the next level, as he adjusts to the level of competition and cleans up his body.
The Chiefs have built a proper defensive line rotation, especially with defensive ends that have the power and physicality to kick inside but are lacking a true backup 3-technique. Chris Jones takes plenty of breaks, and that’s fine, but the Chiefs do need some more dynamic players on the interior during those reps. Saunders profiles great into that role, which will allow him to develop parts of his game that need work coming from such a small school but also showcase his natural ability.
Khalen Saunders, DT #99, is a small school prospect that may have some length issues to NFL teams but he more than held his own at the Senior Bowl and flashed huge potential on tape.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) February 10, 2019
- ++ athlete
- Expl 1st step
- Good power/rotation str
- Quick, effective armover
- High upside pic.twitter.com/8JbUaEDWgs
Everyone looking from the outside of a team’s draft wants to focus on best player available.
In practice, teams can rarely go that route, as there has to be a plan for a player in place or it doesn’t work or make sense. No matter how we feel or evaluate these Chiefs picks, there is a clean line of thinking as to why they were selected for by Veach.
Sometimes, putting players in perspective is as easy as asking, “What does the team see them doing at the next level?”
When the answers are this crisp and clear, that is a good sign.