The Kansas City Chiefs may not play a game this weekend, but you can still watch football through a Chiefs-colored lens.
On Saturday, college football has a full slate of big matchups with big-name prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft. There are four contests between ranked teams, and that doesn’t even include the game between USC and sixth-ranked Oregon to finish off the evening.
The Chiefs’ 2023 season is far from over, but it’s clear that the team has a few positions with long-term needs that must be addressed in the offseason: left tackle, wide receiver, and defensive tackle.
With that in mind, here are four potential prospects in next year’s class that are worth taking note of as you watch Saturday’s college football action:
Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu
Michigan at Penn State - 11:00 a.m., FOX
I start this off with a prospect who isn’t projected to be within range of the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick. Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu is a true senior who decided to return to school for 2023 after recognition as a draft prospect in last year’s cycle. That has led to an even stronger profile: The Athletic’s Dane Brugler recognizes Fashanu as the fifth-ranked overall prospect in his recent Top 50 Big Board.
Fashanu will be the gold standard of pass protection in this class, which features a strong group of offensive tackles; there are eight among the top 30 prospects for Brugler. So it’s important to know what the elite looks like and who deeper down the board can replicate that best.
Listed at 6 feet 6 and 317 pounds, Fashanu has yet to allow a sack or a quarterback hit this season. He has allowed pressure on 3.1% of his pass-blocking opportunities.
For comparison’s sake, Chiefs’ left tackle Donovan Smith is surrendering pressure on 7.7% of his pass blocks.
Miami (FL) defensive tackle Leonard Taylor
Miami at Florida State - 2:30 p.m., ABC
Miami interior defensive lineman Leonard Taylor is a true junior, one that didn’t crack Brugler’s Top 50 Big Board. However, he is a game wrecker, using the raw talent that made him a five-star recruit to disrupt opponents’ plans in the backfield.
Leonard Taylor III (@56reasons_) with the club/swim sack. Great job having a plan, attacking the hands & reducing his hitting surface! #passrush #gocanes #nfldraft— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) September 23, 2023
via @NMDgrant pic.twitter.com/5xtjpMGYxw
Despite only one sack and three tackles for loss this season, Taylor is generating pressure on 12% of his pass-rush snaps. He is coming off a true sophomore campaign where he amassed three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
He is a block defeater, someone who won’t be held up by an individual block for long. His penetration and disruption would fit into the Chiefs’ defense where defensive tackle Chris Jones currently plays, shooting into the B gap rather than trying to absorb double teams.
He becomes a much more intriguing prospect if the team doesn’t resign Jones this offseason.
Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell
Texas at TCU - 6:30 p.m., ABC
The Chiefs should be looking for downfield ability to add to their receiving corps this offseason, so Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell needs to be on the radar. Originally a three-star recruit playing at Georgia, the true Junior has blown up in his first season at Texas. Brugler ranked him 42nd in his Top 50 Big Board.
Mitchell has racked up 576 receiving yards and eight touchdowns through nine games, averaging 15.6 yards per reception. Seven of his eight scores have come on passes thrown 10 or more yards in the air.
Listed at 6 feet 4 and 196 pounds, Mitchell has the size and explosiveness to play on the perimeter and make tough catches downfield. The Chiefs have invested in receivers who can make plays after the catch on quick passes, but it’s time to look at upgrading the downfield threats in the receiver room.
Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin
USC at Oregon - 9:30 p.m., FOX
The other deep threat playing Saturday evening may sacrifice some size for even more juice downfield. Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin has had an incredibly productive season, totaling 946 yards and 10 touchdowns through nine games; he is averaging 16.3 yards per catch. He came in ranked 31st among Brugler’s Top 50 Big Board.
For a receiver listed at 6 feet 3 and 187 pounds, Franklin gets down the field in a hurry, accelerating out of his release and creating separation constantly. His deep speed has translated to three scores on passes of 20 air yards or more this season.
Franklin has flashed more than just speed; he has also made multiple tough catches this year.
If the Chiefs indeed focus on a play-making receiver for deeper throws, there may be a few options to choose from in the class.