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How the Chiefs could draft without an early-round DE or WR

By first filling other needs with smart free agency moves, Kansas City could take a more focused approach to the draft.

Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, I wrote about two free agents the Kansas City Chiefs could sign this offseason: defensive end Romeo Okwara and wide receiver Josh Reynolds. Signings such as these would give the Chiefs additional flexibility in the coming NFL draft — especially in the first couple of rounds.

Now — with those two players (theoretically) signed to the team — let’s look at what a Chiefs draft might look like:

Note: To avoid drafting the same eight players every week, I use a random number generator to mix up the positions being drafted so that we can get fresh perspectives.

Round 1: Dillon Radunz | OT

Three sentence scouting: Highly athletic, flexible offensive tackle prospect who does a good job meeting all of the proper set points as a blocker. Radunz is a more polished run blocker than the pass protector — but the upside for the former he showed at the Senior Bowl has pushed him up the draft boards. He can step in and play early — although expectations should come with plenty of ups and downs.

Why: With both Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz injured, there is a clear need for an offensive tackle who can play right away. When you compile tiers of tackles based on their ability to play now and the ceiling they could attain, there is quite drop-off that occurs around the end of the first round. Weighing this slight reach for an tackle against missing out on a Day 1 starter with an above average ceiling slants slightly toward the reach. In Round 2 and Round 3, better players at other positions will be available.

Round 2: Peter Werner | LB

Three sentence scouting: A versatile linebacker with experience playing as a SAM and MIKE who ended his college career as the ultimate flex piece as Ohio State’s WILL linebacker. Werner is incredibly sound both in the box and outside the hashes — and while fitting the run or covering big receiving options in man coverage. He may not be elite in any specific role, but his high football IQ and good play in every facet of his position would lead to early improvement for Kansas City.

Why: I’m not one to usually draft a linebacker early for the two years in a row, but the groundwork for this pick was laid last year with the selection of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Much like the running back position, there is a chance the Chiefs are tired of trying to piece together the linebacker position. Instead, they could be looking for a single player who could play on every down. Werner’s upside may not appear exceptionally high, but his ability to be a plus player on any down — and in any role — is going to be coveted.

Round 3: Brady Christensen | OL

Three sentence scouting: Playing at left tackle in college, Christensen may profile best as a power tackle — or even an interior offensive lineman — at the next level. His athleticism is adequate on the edge, but it’s his sound technique and footwork that allow him to function at such a high level in pass protection. His hands carry a good pop — and land with power — so a slide inside while continuing to add mass in his lower half could add a new level to his ceiling.

Why: While I understand the desire to draft a more experienced interior offensive lineman, there is a chance the Chiefs like the current group more than the consensus suggests. With Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff returning in 2021, Andrew Wylie as an restricted free agent and both Austin Reiter and Keleche Osemele likely not requiring much to bring back, the interior of the offensive line could look similar to what it was in 2020. Bringing in a third young tackle to go along with Radunz and Lucas Niang just maximizes the line’s versatility in case one of these players looks better at guard — or doesn’t pan out as anticipated.

Round 4: Jaelon Darden | WR and Paulson Adebo | CB

Why: Both Darden and Adebo are team-specific selections that could be made to replace current starters in the future. Darden is a dynamic wide receiver with excellent deep speed and special teams value; he could fill the role into which Mecole Hardman hasn’t yet grown. Adebo is a big-bodied, physical cornerback with quality ball skills who should be able to be part of the succession plan across from L’Jarius Sneed on the outside.

Round 5: Elerson Smith | EDGE and Paris Ford | S

Why: Continuing the trend of drafting high upside prospects who could develop into starters, Smith is a long, dense and explosive defensive end who showed a ton of improvement at the Senior Bowl — and even the ability to play both outside and inside. Ford is a little less developmental. He’s an experienced safety who excels playing downhill. Both are likely looking at limited roles in the NFL — but as a dedicated pass rusher and a third safety, they could easily fill those niches.

Round 7: Brendan Jaimes | OL

Why: Don’t get caught up in Jaimes’ listing as an offensive tackle. His best NFL fit will be likely be inside as an offensive guard. He’s an adequate (but subpar) athlete on the edge, but he shows incredible grip strength and lower body power. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has always had a soft spot for tackles who can translate inside at the next level. As a late-round flier, Jaimes looks like a guy who could be perfect in that role.

Takeaway

The main point here is that the draft and free agency should work hand in hand. With the right choices in March, what happens in April can be more focused. This is by no means an entire offseason — we will get much into much more detail when the time comes — but it’s a demonstration of one direction the Chiefs could go. The key is to marry free agency and the draft, so the team can find both short and long-term answers across the board.