Opinions are like draft grades — everybody’s got one! So let’s take a look at a sampling of the grades national analysts gave the Kansas City Chiefs for the players they chose in the 2020 NFL Draft. To remind you, here are the picks the Chiefs made:
- Round 1 (32) RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU)
- Round 2 (63) LB Willie Gay (Mississippi State)
- Round 3 (96) T Lucas Niang (TCU)
- Round 4 (138) DB L’Jarius Sneed (Louisiana Tech)
- Round 5 (177) DE Michael Danna (Michigan)
- Round 7 (237) CB BoPete Keyes (Tulane)
(Personal Pet Peeve: Why is that that grades for a team’s rookie acquisitions are based solely on the draft? Undrafted free agents also get their chance to make the team. Shouldn’t they be part of the calculus?)
Day 1 grade: A-
Day 2 grade: B
Day 3 grade: B
Overall grade: B+
Draft analysis: Coach Andy Reid found his all-purpose back in the first round (Edwards-Helaire), then took a chance on a couple of talented players with character (Gay) and/or injury (Niang) issues with great upsides on Friday night. Sneed is an outside corner who played safety as a senior to help his team. Not too surprised to see the Chiefs add Danna on Day 3 since they already have another former Wolverine (and similarly built edge rusher) in Frank Clark on the roster. Kansas City should be able to find interior offensive linemen to provide depth after the draft.
The Super Bowl champs entered this draft with only five picks, tied for the fewest in the NFL, and haven’t had much turnover this offseason. Kendall Fuller, Emmanuel Ogbah and Reggie Ragland are gone from the defense, but the stellar offense is almost entirely intact for another run. So while cornerback could have been addressed at the final pick in Round 1, I have predicted the Chiefs would take the first running back off the board there for the past few weeks. It made too much sense to get Patrick Mahomes another premier playmaker. And it turns out I just went with the wrong back.
Kansas City clearly liked Clyde Edwards-Helaire (32) over the other backs in this class, and I had the top four all rated within 20 spots on my Big Board. The 5-foot-7 Edwards-Helaire, the first back taken by the Chiefs in Round 1 since Larry Johnson in 2003, is a weapon in the passing game (he had 55 catches last season) and a powerful runner. He’s a perfect fit for Andy Reid’s offense, which will be scary again in 2020.
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (63) is a stellar athlete with some positional flexibility, but he had some off-field issues in college that caused him to drop. Could he be Kansas City’s starting middle linebacker, or will he be forced outside? Developmental offensive tackle Lucas Niang (96) had a hip injury that cut short his 2019 season, but I know there were some scouts who saw him as a potential starter in a couple of years. Kansas City took two defensive backs on Day 3, but I wasn’t particularly high on either and I’m surprised it didn’t take a corner earlier than the seventh round.
Edwards-Helaire is going to get a lot of snaps as a rookie, but I don’t see early contributors after that.
Best Pick: Second-round linebacker Willie Gay Jr. can be a major steal. He has first-round talent, but had some off-field issues at Mississippi State. The Chiefs did have a need there.
The Skinny: They took Edwards-Helaire in the first round, which is always high for a back, but he will fit their offense. Gay could be a steal and keep an eye on fourth-round safety L’Jarius Sneed from Louisiana Tech, who can also play corner. I was surprised they didn’t take a true corner earlier.
Favorite pick: Edwards-Helaire
Who cares about value? What about the fit?! Edwards-Helaire could be a monster in this offense, able to split out (68 career catches, three drops), make people miss as a runner and also gain tough yards. He’s clutch, feisty and electric. Chiefs fans will learn. Our prediction: It won’t be long before he has the second-best selling jersey in Kansas City.
Least-favorite pick: Danna
Danna really didn’t get a chance to showcase his skills after transferring to the Wolverines for his final season after a productive career at Central Michigan. He started one game and played well vs. Illinois but otherwise was lost in a deep rotation in 2019. There’s talent to be developed for sure, but we were about 50-50 on his chances of getting drafted, so Round 5 felt high.
Overall: The Chiefs had a good draft after winning the Super Bowl. They didn’t take a corner until Round 7, which was interesting, but Keyes was good enough to go much earlier. Still, the meat of this draft comes down to the first two picks and the potential for Niang to be a steal. Edwards-Helaire will be a standout immediately, and Gay — whom we mocked to the Chiefs in Round 1 — could be special if he stays focused. A nice group overall.
It may have surprised some that the Chiefs used their first-round pick on a running back, as well as the fact that it was LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire. But his skill set is a perfect fit for this offense, and Andy Reid could easily make him the second coming of Brian Westbrook.
In the second round, the Chiefs addressed a major need at linebacker with Mississippi State’s Willie Gay, Jr., an athletic defender with the ideal traits to be a three-down playmaker in today’s pass-happy league. Off-field concerns are worth considering with him, but on the field, he’s a stud.
TCU offensive tackle Lucas Niang was a huge steal near the end of the third round. He’s a starting-caliber blocker who could have easily come off the board a full round earlier. Day 3 was filled with off-the-radar players who will fight for roster spots, but the defending champs nailed their most important picks, even if they didn’t fill every need.
It’s rare to win the Super Bowl and not lose a bunch of guys in free agency, but that’s the position the Chiefs are in. Which means they entered this draft able to (mostly) draft for luxury instead of need.
Few probably expected the short-but-not-small Clyde Edwards-Helaire to be the first running back taken. But the LSU product has the type of burst, lateral agility and quickness to create his own space as a runner, and he is a diverse weapon in the passing game.
A gripe with this pick is that you can almost always find a quality tailback in the middle rounds (yes, that old song) and there were good defensive backs still on the board. That includes Alabama’s Xavier McKinney, who would have been an excellent replacement (stylistically) for underappreciated departed free agent Kendall Fuller. But let’s remember: You don’t get the 32nd pick without doing a few things right as a franchise. It’ll be interesting to look back on this one a few years from now.
Blocking for Edwards-Helaire will be Lucas Niang (though hopefully not soon, since the Chiefs, if they stay healthy, are sound and deep up front, leaving him in a second-string for at least 2020). Scouts are intrigued by Niang’s athleticism as a run-blocker, but there are some concerns about his footwork and quickness as a pass-blocker. This makes him like a lot of mid-round right tackles.
Willie Gay has prototypical linebacker size but, more importantly, he plays with sideline-to-sideline speed, which is something Kansas City’s linebacking corps lacked last season. This pick was made with the hope that the Mississippi State product will eventually play all three downs. Don’t be surprised if that happens sooner than later.
Edwards-Helaire was a beautiful luxury pick for Andy Reid, Brett Veach and the reigning Super Bowl champions. But Gay is the only other potential immediate impact player. Call out the Chiefs a little for not considering wide receiver and defensive tackle for 2021 contract contingencies and taking a long time before addressing cornerback.
Using a first-round selection on a running back usually isn’t the way to go in the modern NFL. But the Chiefs taking Clyde Edwards-Helaire at No. 32 was an exception. He’s a versatile player who will be a major factor in the passing game as he splits time with Damien Williams. It’s the sort of move a reigning Super Bowl champion that’s keeping its roster mostly intact can afford to make.
I’m very conflicted with the Edwards-Helaire pick at No. 32 overall. I’m against running backs in the first round because there are quality options in Rounds 2-4, but I can’t lie, this fit is dreamy and the Chiefs don’t have many needs — they are returning 20-of-22 starters. Edwards-Helaire has more value than just about all running back prospects because he’s so wicked as a receiver out of the backfield. I’m not talking about just turning check downs into first downs either. I’m talking as a legit route runner, not to mention his ability to run between the tackles. Edwards-Helaire will probably finish as a fantasy RB1 in this offense and will be seen as an “A” selection by the common fan, but the reality is a prospect like RB Darrynton Evans would have produced similar results and is a whole lot cheaper.
Gay is a complete wild card — he literally punched one of his college quarterback teammates — but he has quality-starter upside and could make rookie year starts. His 4.46 speed and 39.5-inch vertical are quite rare for someone his size (6’1/243), and he brings the wood as a tackler.
Niang could have been a first round left tackle prospect if he was healthy. He didn’t allow a sack in 44 games at TCU and moves well for a 6-foot-6 player, but Niang had hip surgery a few months back. If he rebounds, the Chiefs got a starter at a premium position at No. 96 overall.
Sneed played safety and corner in college but best profiles at corner in the NFL. He has 4.37 speed and a 41-inch vertical, and doesn’t have safety size. His athletic profile alone makes Sneed a worthwhile Day 3 selection, especially because it’s a major position of need for the Chiefs. There’s a non-zero chance he makes starts this season.
Grabbing running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round was a reach, but also one of the few needs the team had, as they had no consistency at running back until the playoffs last season. Betting on Damien Williams to show up in the playoffs like he did last season isn’t a bet that Andy Reid was willing to make. Their second pick was at linebacker, which was also a need, as the team was bad against running backs, both on the ground and through the air. Gay has good range and should start quickly and be an upgrade as long as he can stay out of trouble. After the first two picks filled their top two needs, they went with depth at tackle, secondary and defensive line. Overall, it was a successful draft for a team looking to run it back to the Super Bowl in 2020.
Day 1: Nevermind the value of a running back. Nevermind the replaceability of a running back. Those aren’t even what I want to focus on here with this pick. I am not arguing with who the Chiefs drafted here, either, as I’m a big fan of Edwards-Helaire’s game. What worries me about this is utilization. Having a first-round running back on the roster can lead to suboptimal decision-making — whether consciously or subconsciously. For Andy Reid, that’s calling more runs to justify taking a running back in the first round. For Patrick Mahomes, that’s looking to check down a little sooner because he knows Edwards-Helaire could make something happen. You have a special type of talent in Mahomes that the league has never seen. I don’t want to even take the ball out of his hands in favor of runs or ever have him doing anything other than keeping his eyes downfield looking for big plays.
From a natural pass-catching standpoint, he’s right there with D’Andre Swift. It’s just that D’Andre Swift is a better athlete… But you have Patrick Mahomes. You in no way, shape or form want to be throwing to running backs. You want to be throwing down the football field… You take a running back early when you think you have a roster that only needs a running back… This was a big surprise for me.
Edwards-Helaire ranked fourth among running backs and 81st overall on PFF’s big board.
Day 2: The Chiefs had one of the most uninspiring linebacker corps in the NFL last season. Gay changes that in 2019. He tested out on Isaiah Simmons levels of freaky at the combine with a 4.46-second 40 time, 39.5-inch vertical, and 11-foot-4 broad jump at 6-foot-1, 243 pounds. That would be one thing in a vacuum, but we’ve already seen it translate to the field with his 93.9 career coverage grade being the highest of any player in the draft class, regardless of position. We only got to see him in coverage for 293 snaps in his college career, though.
Gay ranked third among off-ball linebackers behind Isaiah Simmons and Patrick Queen on PFF’s big board, 39th overall.
Niang’s pass sets are tough to watch at times, but even with as un-aesthetically pleasing they were, he got the job done. That’s encouraging for when he does get some NFL-level coaching. He ranked 13th among offensive tackles and 112th overall on PFF’s big board. He also ranked inside the top-40 offensive tackles in overall grade in each of the past three seasons at TCU.
Day 3: Danna graded really well at Central Michigan in 2018, but his production dropped off quite a bit after transferring to Michigan in the summer. He can play the run and collapse the pocket a bit at the NFL level, but I’m not sure I’d ever expect more than that. The explosiveness isn’t quite there for his game to translate. He earned a 91.6 overall grade in 2018 and an 80.9 overall grade in 2019. He ranked 162nd on PFF’s big board.
Draft Grade: B-
Arrowhead Pride (Kent Swanson)
I had a strong B+ when I presumed the Chiefs were done picking after Danna. The final pick wasn’t souring my opinion of the class. When the Brett Veach moved back into the 2020 draft to acquire Keyes — chef’s kiss — I was beyond excited. The Chiefs double-dipped at cornerback to add athleticism, depth, competition and upside to a class that is going to need it short and long term. At least one of them is likely to pan out. They got impact day one starters with their first two picks — and upset defensive coordinators in the process with the addition of Edwards-Helaire. In between that the grabbed an offensive tackle that profiles as a future starter at pick 96.
This is my favorite class of Veach’s tenure as the general manager of the Chiefs. Between this year and last year, he’s on a heater.
Arrowhead Pride’s community grade: A (58% based upon more than 5,000 votes)