The Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 season is over — and as difficult as it is to rid ourselves of the bad taste left by the AFC Championship game, perhaps looking ahead to the NFL Draft can help ease some of the pain.
One of the more significant issues that crept up over the season was the performance of the safety group. Early in the season, Daniel Sorensen saw the field much more than Juan Thornhill — which was perplexing, to say the least.
Beyond that, Tyrann Mathieu’s star power was painfully absent from the AFC Divisional Round win, when he left the game early with a concussion. Now that Mathieu’s contract is set to expire after March 16, his role may need to be filled. But it is worth noting that both general manager Brett Veach and Mathieu have expressed interest in the All-Pro safety remaining in Kansas City.
With fellow safeties Sorensen and Armani Watts set to hit free agency, both depth and starting-caliber talent need to be added anyway. But how will the Chiefs go about doing so?
Veach has already vowed to bolster the defensive line — much like he did to the offensive line last offseason — so where could he be eyeing safety help?
Thornhill is the only player with gameday experience at safety who is currently under contract for 2022 — although Zayne Anderson and cornerback-safety tweener Devon Key are also on the roster.
When you look at the names hitting the market from Kansas City, Mathieu is most likely to be back in 2022. Watts’ contributions on special teams may spark some conversation about whether he will re-sign with the Chiefs. Sorensen’s experience with the team and memorable moments — both positive and negative — will forever be etched in the memories of Chiefs fans, but I expect him to be elsewhere next season.
There are solid options for Veach to explore in the free-agent market.
- Jessie Bates III
- Quandre Diggs
- Marcus Williams
- Kareem Jackson
- Terrell Edmunds
- Xavier Woods
- Jordan Whitehead
- DJ Reed
- Tracy Walker
Bates — if he does leave Cincinnati — will be a hot player who could be a first-priority signing for multiple teams. His price may be too high for the Chiefs — but he is, in fact, a top-tier safety in the league. If he does turn out to be an unrealistic option, veterans like Diggs or Jackson would be valuable pieces for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit.
If the Chiefs want to get more youth, there are also players like Edmunds (a first-round pick in 2018) or Williams. You can check the full list here. One or more of them could be coming to Kansas City.
The NFL Draft
If free-agent money is pumped into the defensive line, then the draft could be where the Chiefs will look to find star power at safety. At the 30th pick, Kansas City has options who could come in and compete for a starting safety job on Day 1.
- Daxton Hill (Michigan)
- Jaquan Brisker (Penn State)
- Lewis Cine (Georgia)
- Verone McKinley III (Oregon)
- Jalen Pitre (Baylor)
- Bryan Cook (Cincinnati).
All of these players could add depth — and could be starters down the road.
But let’s take a closer look at one in particular:
Daxton Hill, Michigan
Hill is a marvelous prospect, possessing top-notch speed that allows him to cover a lot of ground. He is physical in the running game — and can cover the slot, as well. He doesn’t create a lot of turnovers, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make game-changing plays.
Check this INT from Daxton Hill pic.twitter.com/3mTn5qVabm— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) February 11, 2022
Quarterbacks and pass rushers should push some excellent football players down the draft boards. If Hill does tumble to pick 30, this could be a somewhat unpopular pick — but it could ultimately prove to be a wise one.