The 2021 NFL Draft is here, but there probably won’t be too much excitement for fans of the Kansas City Chiefs on opening night. The Chiefs are one of four teams that do not currently have a first-round pick. In fact, there is only one other fan base that will have to wait longer than Chiefs fans for their team’s first scheduled pick: the Houston Texans, who don’t have a selection until the third round.
After the trade for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., the Chiefs’ are scheduled to select at pick no. 58 and no. 63 in the second round, then they won’t select again until the final pick in the fourth round. Obviously, we could see the Chiefs trade picks and move around, but they’ll most likely have two selections on Day 2 — Rounds 2 and 3 — regardless.
The lack of early selections doesn’t mix well with the list of positional needs the Chiefs have. Here are some thoughts:
- I believe defensive end should be a priority.
- The cornerback room could use another body.
- A team fit at center could be a valuable selection, but in general, offensive line is still important to address.
- A tight end with more receiving upside could be tempting.
- The linebacker unit could use an influx of younger talent for depth.
The one positional need I left off was wide receiver. In my opinion, the need for another above-average talent at receiver is as big as any position I listed — but I’m not convinced the Chiefs will address it this weekend. I broke down three reasons the wide receiver position may be avoided entirely this draft cycle:
1. The current depth chart
The Chiefs have a unique amount of NFL experience in their wide receiver room right now. We know Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle — but they also added wide receivers Tajae Sharpe and Antonio Callaway this offseason.
The 26-year old Sharpe was signed to a one-year deal in March; he’s had three separate seasons with at least 25 receptions and 300 receiving yards — all with the Tennessee Titans between 2016-2019. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings for 2020 but wasn’t able to earn any type of role for unknown reasons.
Callaway signed a reserve/future deal with the Chiefs this offseason. He caught 43 passes for 586 yards and five scores in 2018 for the Cleveland Browns, but off-field issues have limited his play over the last two seasons. In last Friday’s presser, general manager Brett Veach specifically mentioned Callaway’s “athletic skillset” as something they’re excited about.
That’s six wide receivers with some level of legitimate NFL experience. If you want to include Marcus Kemp’s multiple seasons of special teams contributions, that’s seven. Besides those names, there are players on reserve/future deals with potential: Second-year receiver Maurice Ffrench is the lone undrafted receiver from last offseason still with the team. Chad Williams is a 26-year old, former third-round pick that put up 17 catches, 171 yards, and a touchdown for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.
It may not be top-heavy, but this is as deep a wide receiver unit as the Chiefs have had entering a draft in the Veach era.
2. Draft history
In the three drafts Veach has headed for the Chiefs, he has only selected a wide receiver once: Mecole Hardman, the second-round selection in 2019. That pick happened under unique circumstances: The 2019 draft took place in the midst of an investigation of Tyreek Hill, who was dismissed from team activities on draft weekend while the organization gathered more details on the situation. With the lack of clarity on Hill, the Chiefs may have selected Hardman as a precaution to Hill not returning to the team.
If there was no investigation on Hill, do the Chiefs even draft a wide receiver that year? It’s impossible to tell, but as I mentioned before, it’s the only time the position has been addressed with a draft pick in Veach’s GM career.
3. How the draft shakes out
With only two scheduled picks on the first two days of the draft, the Chiefs have to spend that capital wisely. If the right prospects at other positions fall to them on Day 2, the team could justify passing on wide receiver for those needs. It could be a defensive end that really fits their scheme or an interior offensive lineman with first-round talent that falls due to medicals — like Alabama’s Landon Dickerson.
They may address offensive pass-catchers in another way too: the second-round could be the hot spot for tight end prospects like Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble or Miami’s Brevin Jordan — who the Chiefs have met with this offseason. Could the team value tight end more than wide receiver if the right player is there?
If the team does use their first two picks on other positions, is there enough value to take a wide receiver with the final pick of the fourth-round or later? The Chiefs have a need for a receiver that can contribute immediately — and they won’t get that later in the draft. They have enough depth players that can play on special teams.
If the Chiefs pass on a wide receiver with their first two picks, they may not address it at all. They only have four picks after the two second-rounders — and plenty of other positions that could use a draft pick.