If there is one thing you can say about Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, it’s that he does not do things halfway. When he decides to do something, he dives in head first. This was evident last season when he decided to overhaul the offensive line — and it was evident this year when he decided that the Chiefs needed to get younger.
Armed with 10 draft picks, Veach set out to reinforce his roster with young, inexpensive, athletic players. Last season, the average age of a Chiefs player was 26.1. This year, it’s 25.6.
That may not seem like that much of a change. But it’s the difference between a top 10 oldest and a top 10 youngest roster.
“I think it’s one of those things,” Veach said of the team’s new youth during his press appearance on Wednesday. “I think it’s at the forefront [for] every GM.”
Veach noted that in the NFL, the makeup of the players on the field can change quickly.
“I mean obviously if you have an older roster, it’s on your mind,” he said. “But even if you have a younger roster, it’s on your mind. You’re always a few injuries away from having to bring in vets.”
Veach also pointed out that even if you have healthy young players on your team, you always have to be planning for the future.
“You’re always a few good seasons from players signing somewhere else. I think the ability to have young talent to grow and develop is at the forefront [for] every GM — and we were no different.”
In Veach’s mind, improving this roster started with reinforcing and replenishing the team’s defensive players.
“I think when looking at our season — and getting a chance to kind of review how we [could] get better — I think the defense was right at the forefront of just (again) adding youth and talent and athleticism.”
While he targeted certain players for their athleticism, Veach said the thing that has impressed him the most about the team’s young crop of new players is their work ethic: how they approach the way they practice and prepare for game day.
“I think the one surprising thing is that the group, as a whole, has shown that they’ve been able to come in here and A: [show] that the game isn’t too big for them — and they fit athletically and skillset wise. And B: that the coaches have shown the ability to put their trust in them and to work them in... I think it’s surprising to have such a big class and have a majority — if not all of them — kind of show that they’re ready to go.
“I think [for] a lot of that, the credit goes to the coaching staff for being able to get these guys up and running quickly.”
As long as the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, they will always want to surround him with as many offensive weapons as possible. But Veach said that sometimes the best thing you can do to help your offense is to build an aggressive, athletic defense on the other side of the ball.
“We’ll always be looking for ways to add talent to the offense with Pat,” he acknowledged, “but at the same time, we want to complement him and our offense with an athletic defense that has [the] speed to match up with all the great offenses that we see throughout our schedule.”
Veach said that his approach to constructing the roster is to retain the best 53 players. Every player — regardless of their previous role or position — has a chance to impress the coaches and make the team.
We don’t have to look any further than rookie running back Isiah Pacheco to find an example. Every step of the way, the former Rutgers back has impressed the Chiefs coaching staff — not just with his speed and athleticism or even how hard he runs. Veach said that he’s demonstrated a key ability in head coach Andy Reid’s offense.
“I think the ability to pick up pass protections and have reliable hands out of the backfield is certainly something that those guys have to show and demonstrate on a consistent basis,“ observed the GM. “And he’s been one of those guys.
“Again, with all these rookies to come in here and show that yeah, listen, they’re going to know how to run the ball when given the opportunity — but the blitz pickups, the protection checks and then just being consistent with their hands out of the backfield — is something from Day 1 that I think that Isiah has shown. And we’re excited.”
In Veach’s eyes, another player who proved himself is third-string quarterback Shane Buechele.
“At the end of the day,” said Veach, “we always tell the guys that once we get them here, we like to put the decision in their hands. Shane was one of those guys that played well and earned a spot on this roster.”
Regardless of where a player is the on depth chart, the general manager said that the expectation is clear: when their number is called, they should be ready to go. And he sees that in the players on his newly crafted 2022 roster.
“I think we have the same mindset with all those guys: that they’re going to be up and active. They’re going to be ready to help us out.”