Going into the 2022 NFL Draft, there had been speculation that Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach would be calling multiple teams about making a trade to move up in the first round to acquire one of the top wide receivers.
The Chiefs ultimately did move up — but instead of selecting a wide receiver or defensive end, they traded up with the New England Patriots for the 21st pick, which they used to select Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie.
Speaking with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on Monday, Veach confirmed that the calls were made — but not for the reason that had been reported.
“We had talked about a couple of different scenarios,” he said. “I think I mentioned this in my pre-draft presser: I didn’t foresee just a monster move up. We had all this equity: two ones, two twos [and] two threes. You know, there’s so much value in that, when these seasons are so long, and there’s a battle of attrition. You have to have a deep roster.”
Veach said he and his team had decided to keep as much of their draft capital as possible.
“We wanted to be selectively aggressive,” he continued. “We went through a few different game plans. What made sense for us — in regard to adding to [our] defense — [was that since] we were sitting there at 29-30, we could make a small move. We talked about that game plan on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we were calling [teams]. I think [it was] from the Eagles at 18, the Saints at 19, 20 with the Steelers, 21 [with] New England, 22 [with] the Packers and so on.
“We really wanted not to have to do anything with 50 or 62. So we kind of looked at, ‘We do have two threes and two fours, so let’s look at those combinations. Where can that get us? It probably will get us 21-22 — but hey, let’s call these teams in front of us.’ Sure enough, New Orleans was receptive — but it had to involve 62.”
And that was somewhere that Veach didn’t want to go. So the decision was made: he and his team would go into the draft hoping to get a top cornerback — but they would “play it by ear.”
“We wanted to address the cornerback position,” explained Veach. “We thought there were some teams like Tennessee and Buffalo that would go corner. We thought [with] the [defensive end] group, the numbers played in our favor... whereas, [with] corners, during our process, we had a couple of guys — and we thought it would be iffy that they would get to 29 — so we were kind of committed to moving up to [get a] corner the whole time.”
But would the draft board fall the way Kansas City needed?
Veach said that because the Steelers didn’t want to discuss hypotheticals, it was pretty clear to the Kansas City war room that they would, in fact, take a quarterback with the 20th pick. Veach said that in a draft like 2022’s — with so few good quarterbacks — he believed that unless a particular GM was after one of them, they would be willing to discuss hypothetical situations.
“We had hypotheticals with every team. [But] one team that was very reluctant to talk hypotheticals was Pittsburgh. So that kind of basically confirmed what [we] thought.”
So the Chiefs didn’t have to worry about the 20th pick. Pittsburgh was going after a quarterback.
Then on draft day, Philadelphia — which at one time or another had held four of the five picks between 14 and 20 but went into draft day holding the 15th and 18th picks — traded into the 13th pick to select Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis.
Then the Eagles made a big move, giving the 18th pick to the Tennessee Titans for wide receiver A.J. Brown — which the Titans then used to take Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks.
And just like that, two of the teams that Veach thought would be competing for McDuffie were out of the picture.
“That kind of opened the door for us,” said Veach, “because I think they might have gone [with a] corner. But with them making the trade, we were able to double back [to] our conversation [with] New England and execute that.
“But it was really corner the whole time for us. I think it kind of prompted Buffalo’s move — because then, they moved up two spots to get the next corner. I think [if] we had just stayed there [at 29], both McDuffie and (Florida’s Kaiir) Elam [would have been] gone. So I think that was a strategy that worked out in our favor.”
In the end, the Chiefs got just the player they wanted with their first pick — and got the defensive end they wanted with their second one. It happened not only because the draft fell the right way but also because the Veach’s team had guessed right about some key points — and had done enough preparation that playing the first round “by ear” would work.