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4 high-upside injured players the Chiefs should consider drafting

With 12 picks, Veach and company can afford to take a big risk for a high reward down the road.

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

After trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, the Kansas City Chiefs now hold 12 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. The team is currently scheduled to select twice in each of the first four rounds, with four more selections in Round 7.

However, even with heavier-than-usual roster turnover, there will not be room on the final 53-man roster for 12 rookies. Chiefs general manager Brett Veach — who has never selected more than six players in a draft— is expected to entertain trade-up opportunities. But if Veach cannot find a trade to his liking, there are several very talented injured players he may be wise to consider. With so many picks — and currently 10 selections in the 2023 draft — the Chiefs have the luxury to gamble on top talent that may not be ready to contribute this season.

The Tennessee Titans benefitted from this strategy in the 2019 draft when they selected defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. Simmons — who entered the draft process as one of the top prospects — tore his ACL while training for the combine, putting his rookie season in doubt. The Titans wisely saw the value and drafted him with the 19th selection. Simmons missed the first part of his rookie season, but he quickly established himself as a defensive cornerstone. The Chiefs are uniquely positioned to take a Simmons-like swing and may see value in these players.

Alabama WR Jameson Williams

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Most readers need no explanation of Williams’ situation; he was expected to be the first receiver drafted until tearing his ACL during the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 10. Most draft analysts expect him to be off the board before the Chiefs’ first selection at pick 29. Selecting Williams likely will still require an aggressive trade-up by Veach, which mock drafts have started to reflect.

Why trade up for a player who may not see the field until 2023? Williams would offer the best chance to replace Hill with comparable elite talent. Whether beginning in late 2022 or 2023, a Patrick Mahomes-to-Williams combination would be among the most deadly in football.

While Williams claims to be ahead of schedule in his recovery, realistically, a team cannot count on getting anything from him this season. The Chiefs’ experience with safety Juan Thornhill — who has never looked the same after an aggressive recovery from an ACL repair in 2020 — may serve as a reminder that being medically cleared is only one step in recovery from serious injury.

Alabama WR John Metchie

Chick-fil-A Kickoff - Alabama v Miami Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Metchie is in a similar situation to his teammate Williams, suffering a torn ACL on December 4 in the SEC Championship game. Arrowhead Pride’s Bryan Stewart did an excellent breakdown of Metchie’s potential fit in Kansas City on The AP Draft Room.

Metchie caught 96 passes in 2021 before the injury, and he is lauded for an advanced route tree and high football IQ. Being a month further along and with less value attached to raw speed, Metchie is more likely to contribute this season.

In a deep receiver draft class, Metchie was never expected to be a first-round pick, though he likely would not have lasted long into Round 2. While the optimism about his recovery is encouraging, missing the first part of the season remains possible. If he were available for the Chiefs in the second round with the 62nd overall pick, he would present great value.

Michigan EDGE David Ojabo

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Michigan at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ojabo’s situation is most similar to that of Simmons in 2019. After a breakout, 11-sack season, Ojabo suffered a torn Achilles tendon while working out for scouts at Michigan’s pro day. Ojabo was expected to be a top-15 selection before the injury.

With a pair of selections at the end of the first round, the Chiefs would have to consider taking the EDGE rusher. At 6 feet 5 and 249 pounds, he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine. The Chiefs simply rarely are able to find an Ojabo-caliber athlete at their normal draft postion.

Recent advancements in medical procedures have seen Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers and former Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher return to action mere months after Achilles surgery. Ojabo’s recovery is unlikely to be as aggressive.

After living in Nigeria and Scotland, he had only just begun playing football when he was recruited to Michigan. He was always anticipated to have an extended transition to the NFL. Missing the offseason and training camp will likely cost him a chance to contribute even late in his rookie season. A team is still likely to gamble on his profile late in the first round — and his injury and required development give a potential fifth-year option for Ojabo’s rookie contract more importance.

LSU LB Damone Clark

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 LSU at Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Clark appeared set to be the latest LSU linebacker to be drafted in the top 50 — joining Devin White of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Patrick Queen of the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, he will miss his entire rookie season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery to replace a herniated disk. While spinal surgery is frightening for an NFL prospect, he is expected to make a full recovery and be ready to play in 2023.

Though the Chiefs have invested heavily in linebacker the previous two drafts, a day three flier for Clark could help with future roster decisions. He would have a chance to establish himself in 2023 — when Willie Gay Jr. may be approaching free agency, and the team may be considering a costly extension for Nick Bolton.

Poll

Which Chiefs draft decision would you prefer?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Trading into the top 20 to select Jameson Williams
    (931 votes)
  • 39%
    Selecting David Ojabo at the end of round one
    (1247 votes)
  • 22%
    Selecting John Metchie at the end of round two
    (703 votes)
  • 9%
    Selecting Damone Clark in round four
    (286 votes)
3167 votes total Vote Now

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