Let’s round up some grades.
NFL.com’s day-two grade: A
The Chiefs sent three picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark earlier this week. Clearly, they viewed him as a better fit for their new defensive scheme than Dee Ford (who they traded to San Francisco this offseason), and Clark is indeed a superior player. The guaranteed money in his new contract is reportedly all in the first three years of the deal, so it’s set up to potentially give the Chiefs some salary cap flexibility just as Patrick Mahomes’ rookie deal is due to expire. They did give up two premium picks to land Clark (No. 29 overall this year, a second-round pick next year), though, and will have to hope he stays out of trouble off the field.
WR Mecole Hardman
Hardman was a combine superstar. He ran a 4.33-second 40 and stood out in receiving and quarterback drills, demonstrating smooth athleticism and natural receiving skills.
Unfortunately, much of Hardman’s tape consists of him almost making big plays. Hardman operated mostly out of the slot for the Bulldogs but isn’t the kind of nifty-shifty receiver who becomes a big-play threat on screens or reverses in the NFL. He lacks the route-running craft to create consistent separation and doesn’t snatch tight-window throws away from his defenders.
This is definitely a pick where you say if something happens with Tyreek Hill it’s a ‘B-.’ I think this is a reactionary pick. I think there were better options. Parris Campbell or Riley Ridley would have been better choices. He wasn’t even the best WR on his team, Ridley was.
Analysis: After losing Chris Conley and given what is happening with Tyreek Hill right now, the Chiefs needed to replenish the speed in their receiving corps. Mecole Hardman isn’t Hill, but he has a similar skill-set. That will help Kansas City move on from the troubled receiver. Still, you have to wonder if the Chiefs really needed to trade up to land a receiver.
Analysis: Chiefs first pick of this draft is a speedster and a returnman. Think they’re worried about the future of Ty Hill?
The elephant in the room is what is Tyreek Hill’s future in KC, and they attempted to draft his replacement here. Hardman is extremely fast, running a 4.33 40-time. A lack of production in a Georgia offense where it’s hard to get targets can be somewhat forgiven, but the 70.4 overall grade is harder to overlook.
Bye bye, Tyreek Hill.
And, tacitly, THERE’S the Chiefs’ answer to the Tyreek Hill problem. It’s an important answer because this offense was built predominantly around Hill’s unique talent. It’s unfair to expect any player to provide what Hill provides (provided), but stylistically, Hardman can stretch the field and stress the defense in multiple ways.
Analysis: Hardman can start in the slot and become a speedy impact player for a Chiefs offense suddenly looking for more explosiveness.
This is a telling pick with the future of Tyreek Hill in the NFL very much up in the air. Hardman has a lot of the same electric ability and is a blur with the ball in his hands. He’s new to the position, having switched over from defense early in his Bulldogs career, and will be more raw from the outset. But his yards-after-catch and return ability are intriguing. In time, he could be Hill’s replacement and fits what Andy Reid loves in quick playmakers.
S Juan Thornhill
Thornhill was a high school quarterback and basketball star who started his Cavaliers career at corner before moving to safety last season. He appears to lack the quick hips and short-area burst to be an effective every-down cornerback in the NFL. But there’s a lot to love about Thornhill as a safety: He diagnoses pass patterns effectively, is dangerous with the ball in his hands, sifts through open-field blocks as a run defender and can cause disruption when attacking off the edge.
I like safeties who have been corners at one time in their careers, and Thornhill played that spot at times for the Cavaliers. That gives him range in the middle of the field. He can also play some slot corner if needed.
Analysis: One of my favorite defensive backs in the class, Juan Thornhill sort of reminds me of another Chiefs safety: Tyrann Mathieu. Both are explosive athletes who can play any role in the secondary. Kansas City needed more playmakers in the defensive backfield and they just added one.
Analysis: Very good athletic safety, who some penciled in he first round. Like he safeties that went just ahead of him h dropped to late second. The Chiefs get a solid piece for a much-needed secondary.
Over the past four seasons, the Chiefs are the only team that played Cover-1 over 40% of the time, the switch to former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was a signal that they were going to move to a more balanced coverage scheme which Thornhill fits.
Juan Thornhill is exactly what the Chiefs’ defense needs. He’s a versatile, athletic defensive back that split time between safety and cornerback during his college career.
Expensive new safety Tyrann Mathieu is versatile … which means the Chiefs needed to find another versatile safety—and with Daniel Sorensen being mostly a dime linebacker, Kansas City looked in the draft. Thornhill, like Mathieu, can play both safety spots, as well as slot in nickel and linebacker in dime.
Kansas City had a need in the back end, where depth was ravaged by injuries last year. Thornhill could start from Day 1 alongside Tyrann Mathieu.
A productive, three-year starter, Thornhill was an interesting study as a prospect. He looked like the type of player who could step in early in his career on tape, but some NFL coaches told us that he might need time to adapt to NFL-caliber defensive concepts. New coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is fond of using three-safety alignments, and Thornhill has nickel cover ability, so expect the Chiefs to throw him right into the fire and see how he fares.
DT Khalen Saunders
The Chiefs allowed 5.0 yards per rush last season, the second-highest figure in the NFL, and they lost a pair of critical games, in part, because of the Patriots’ ability to downshift into ground-and-pound mode against them.
Saunders is best known for: a) doing backflips in viral videos; and b) becoming a father during Senior Bowl week. (Follow @KhalenNOTKaylen on Twitter for updates on the baby and Saunders’ chicken nugget-based parenting philosophies).
He is a power player who will fit nicely in their defense. They have to get better against the run and he will play inside with their move to the 4-3.
Kansas City was exposed on defense last season, playing a big role in coming up a possession short of the Super Bowl. A player from an FCS school, Saunders had a lot riding on the Senior Bowl where he proved he belonged, earning his 47th overall ranking on our big board.
Saunders showed out at Senior Bowl practices with outstanding strength and ballerina-like balance. Plus he can do a backflip at 324 pounds.
Kansas City’s run defense has been perplexingly poor over the years. A change in scheme (from Bob Sutton and his 3-4 to Steve Spagnuolo and his 4-3) will help, but so will adding new bodies up front. Scouts like Saunders’s suddenness.
Saunders plays with fire and a quick twitch. How he responds to NFL strength will determine his longevity with the Chiefs and in the NFL.
A Missouri-bred prospect (across the state in St. Louis) and one of our favorite players to watch in this year’s class, Saunders was a big fish in a small pond who was used up and down the line – and even standing up on occasion, as well as being used as a moonlight offensive weapon. He’s a sawed-off defensive lineman with eye-opening athleticism, a better prospect than Raiders 2018 second-rounder P.J. Hall, who has similar dimensions.