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The case for the Chiefs taking an offensive tackle in round one

Examining some “less obvious” options for the Chiefs early in the 2020 draft

NCAA Football: Tulane at Houston Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the contributors of the KC Draft Guide, I have seen my fair share of mock drafts. Most contain a linebacker or a cornerback in the early rounds. Some have a running back or an offensive lineman, and even fewer still — after my own heart — pick up one of the draft’s top safeties.

One of the positions I haven’t seen this offseason in the early rounds is offensive tackle. It makes sense, as the Kansas City Chiefs have two good offensive tackles under contract in Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Even though this is an excellent offensive tackle class, the Chiefs are strapped for picks and need contributors. Drafting a tackle — potentially to redshirt for a year — seems unlikely for a team that’s trying to #RunItBack.

So then, why are the Chiefs interviewing one of the draft’s top tackles?

Josh Jones has plenty of round-one buzz. He looked fantastic at the Senior Bowl, is a long player that is an excellent athlete and has one of the higher ceilings of a very high-ceiling offensive tackle class. Jones has primarily played left tackle in his time at Houston, and the 6-foot-7, 310-pound player is very likely at his best fit there rather than inside.

The Chiefs have interviewed or looked into other offensive tackles as well, having formal interviews with LSU’s Saahdiq Charles, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Robert Hunt and Kansas’ Hakeem Adeniji. However, most of those players are looking more like interior offensive linemen at the next level, particularly for Andy Reid.

So what to make of Jones — a player who is definitely meant to be on the outside? Well, the Chiefs — and the rest of the NFL — know that quality offensive tackle play is hard to find. It’s also a position that takes time to develop and adjust to the NFL’s speed and strength. With that in mind, it actually might make some sense to draft a tackle of the future in 2020.

Yes, the Chiefs are asset-starved in the draft. Yes, it runs counter to an offseason full of “now” moves meant to take advantage of a chaotic offseason. But if the Chiefs want to keep Patrick Mahomes healthy and upright after they make him the highest-paid player in the history of the league, they could do a lot worse than addressing his blind-side protector early.

Jones needs a lot of work to be trusted to keep Mahomes clean, as will any tackle taken at the draft spot that the Chiefs will likely be in for the foreseeable future. Expecting a rookie to step in immediately is therefore unlikely, and quality left tackles rarely hit the open market in free agency.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs’ current offensive tackles are not getting any younger. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will be 32 at the start of the 2021 NFL season and left tackle Eric Fisher will be 30. That’s not ancient for the offensive tackle position, but Chiefs general manager Brett Veach hasn’t offered long-term contracts to players over 26 — let alone over 30. Fisher, in particular, is one to watch, as he’ll be in the last year of his contract in 2021 and can save $11.5 million against the cap.

The Chiefs may view Jones similarly to some of the other offensive tackles in the class and look to move him inside, even if only for a season or two. However, there has been no indication that the NFL views him as anything other than a tackle. While neither Schwartz nor Fisher is in dire need of replacement this season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Chiefs could target a high-ceiling prospect to redshirt in a top-tier offensive tackle class.

It may not be the most conventional move in the eyes of most Chiefs fans, but if the Chiefs could land an offensive tackle of the future to protect the franchise’s biggest investment ever, few would argue with the return on the investment.

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