After the Kansas City Chiefs ruined just about every mock draft published over the last two months by trading their first-round pick (and a handful of others) for Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. on Friday, the question now becomes what the Chiefs will do with their second-round picks at 58 and 63.
A Football Outsiders evaluation that was published on ESPN.com over the weekend gives three takes on the subject:
Biggest need: Pass rusher
Frank Clark may not fully be living up to the deal to which the Chiefs signed him when they traded for him prior to 2019, but he is still a quality starter. Clark needs a partner on the other side, though.
Alex Okafor was Kansas City’s second-most productive edge defender in the sack department last year (3.0), but he is not returning. The Chiefs are left with Mike Danna, a competent 2020 fifth-rounder who is more of a run defender, and failed Cowboys first-round pick Taco Charlton. They need to add to this group by the time they get to training camp.
Prospects who might fit: Payton Turner, Houston; Jayson Oweh, Penn State
This is a solid evaluation. In fact, many of the now-outdated mock drafts of the last couple of months (including some by our Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad) have said that despite its obvious needs at offensive tackle, the team could take Oweh with the 31st pick. Whether Oweh would last until the 58th selection is open to question — but strictly on a basis of need, he — or a player like him — would be a good choice for the Chiefs.
Quiet need: Linebacker
The Chiefs spent a second-round pick on Willie Gay Jr. last year, but he did not immediately solve their problems. Gay was on and off the field throughout the year, which is not particularly encouraging considering the players ahead of him. Kansas City’s primary issue is how poor all of their linebackers were in coverage. Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson and Ben Niemann all saw at least 10 targets in coverage last year, yet none of them earned a success rate better than 43% on those targets. Gay also surrendered five catches on seven targets, per Sports Info Solutions. Of the group, Wilson is not returning in 2021. The Chiefs need a makeover at linebacker.
Prospects who might fit: Jabril Cox, LSU
Thanks to the Chiefs’ Super Bowl loss — in which the team’s weakness in offensive line depth was obvious even to casual fans — Wilson’s departure in free agency has largely gone unnoticed. Aside from the emphasis on offensive line during the free agency period, there are two other reasons this happened. The first is that Wilson was used most frequently in the base defense, meaning he was on the field for relatively few snaps in 2020; the second is Gay’s presence on the team. Still, the Chiefs lost a starting linebacker in free agency — and have made no free-agency move to replace him. That is indeed an opportunity for Gay to increase his role — but also an indicator the Chiefs could go after a player like Cox.
Not a need: Interior offensive line
Kansas City hit the interior offensive line hard in free agency in an effort to avoid having their entire 2021 season look like the Super Bowl. Joe Thuney, a former franchise-tagged player from the Patriots, headlines the Chiefs’ moves. Among guards with at least 500 total snaps in 2020, the only guard with fewer blown blocks than Thuney was four-time All-Pro Zack Martin.
Alongside Thuney, the Chiefs also brought in Austin Blythe (Rams) and Kyle Long, who is coming off of a sort-of hiatus year in 2020. Blythe is far from a superstar, and Long is a bit of a gamble, but both players should be immediate upgrades to some degree, with Long having some serious potential to return to Pro Bowl caliber.
As noted, the Chiefs are lousy with guards — although this analysis doesn’t even mention returning starter Laurent Duvernay-Tardif or third-year player Nick Allegretti; both are likely to be in the mix at right guard and center. But it’s important to remember that few of them are under contract beyond the coming season. If he wins the starting center job and plays well in the Chiefs’ scheme, Blythe is young enough to be considered for a multi-year contract — and the same is true of Allegretti. Except for Thuney, it’s hard to see most of the rest being in the Chiefs’ plans beyond 2021. So while it certainly won’t be among the team’s most important needs, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Kansas City invests a later draft pick in a developmental interior lineman.