Situation: The Chiefs have a fairly stacked roster with very few holes heading into 2023 draft. As of this writing, they are projected to have either 11 or 12 picks, most likely more than they would sign to their 53-man roster. Veach and company have 5 options:
1. Trade for an established player
2. Trade up
3. Stay put & draft a player
4. Trade down
5. Trade forward and up
Strategy 1: Trade for an established player
The most talked about established player the Chiefs could trade for is DeAndre Hopkins. I don’t see this happening but maybe depending on how OBJ and Frank Clark situations pan out. It could be interesting to kick the tires and see what AZ would want for their aging stud.
Veach has done this several times already. It did not go quite as planned with Frank Clark (except when "playoff Frank" shows up). OBJ has been up and down. Early returns on Kadarius Toney are more promising if he can stay healthy.
Strategy 2: Trade up in the draft
Most people predict that Veach will use several of these picks to trade up and "get his guy" both because that seems to be his tendency and because "What else is he supposed to do with them all?" Trading up has allowed him to hit on 2 gems: Mahomes and McDuffie. Trading up to get your guy does have its downside:
1. The Dunning Kruger Effect: You don’t know how stupid you are. You could be wrong and the guy’s a bust. Corollary: You don’t know how stupid other people are. As one example, 9 teams passed on Mahomes (10 if you count Buffalo trading their pick).
2. Stuff happens: The guy could be unable to play because of injury or other circumstances.
3. Black Swans are real: You don’t know what you don’t know. The guy may have been there anyway if you’d just waited.
4. Opportunity Cost: You miss the chance to draft the player(s) from the pick(s) you traded away.
We all agree the trade up in 2017 for Pat was a massive success, a positive black swan, and that Veach was behind it even if Dorsey was still GM. From the looks of it so was trading up in 2022 to get McDuffie. What about other trade ups?
In 2018 Veach went up and got Breeland Speaks, a 6’13" 285lb DE out of Ole Miss. They traded the Bengals picks #54 and 78 for #46 and 100. (So technically this was a trade up and a trade back.) Cincinnati drafted All Pro S Jessie Bates at 54. Tampa Bay selected Carlton Davis at 63. Houston took Justin Reid at 68. 49ers took All-Pro Fred Warner at 70. Speaks barely saw the field and was cut before the end of his rookie contract.
Also in 2018 the Chiefs traded up for Pick #75 to get Derrick Nnadi. The Ravens used pick #86 from the Chiefs on All-Pro TE Mark Andrews. The Chiefs missed out on Sam Hubbard, Michael Gallup, Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Noteboom, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Alex Cappa before picking again at 100: Dorian O’Daniel. Yes, 2018 was an epically bad draft for the Chiefs.
In 2019, Veach traded up to draft WR Mecole Hardman out of Georgia. Tyreek was in the midst of some legal troubles, and the Chiefs wanted to have "speed" insurance if the Cheetah when to jail and/or received a suspension. By focusing in on Hardman and his speed the Chiefs missed out on: DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, and Terry McLaurin, all drafted later that same year. Mecole may have been there at pick #61 anyway. If not, having any one of those other 3 would have been a fine consolation prize, am I right? Plus, they would have kept their 5th round pick #167. Some of the guys taken after 167 and before the Chiefs next pick? Darius Slayton, Cole Holcomb, Gardner Minshew.
So 5 trade ups: 1 generational player, 1 quality starter as a rookie with room to grow, 2 bad misses plus the guys they missed out on by not having their original picks. Mecole would have been a wash without the trade up but is a small miss when you factor the trade in along with the players the Chiefs may have gotten later and then with their other pick.
It would be silly to say "never trade up." Mahomes. That’s the reason you trade up.
In this draft, is there a reason to trade up? Is there going to be a chance to grab a transcendent, can’t-miss player at OT (preferably the left side) or pass-rusher? I would accept arguments also for pass-catcher or a coverage guy. Then again, if we’re talking Ray Lewis or CMC, I’d even take a LB or RB. However, I would like to return to the Dunning Kruger Effect: You don’t know how stupid you are. NFL GMs and scouts are no exception. Chris Jones went in the 2nd. Tyreek Hill in the 5th. Justin Jefferson went after Jalen Reagor. 198 players were selected before Tom Brady. San Francisco traded up to get Trey Lance, and now it looks like Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy could be their long-term starter. This is why staying put and letting the draft come to you can be such a brilliant option. It’s also why being willing to trade back and acquire more picks a la Belichik is a brilliant option. It gives you more swings because sometimes you’re going to miss (Mecole, Speaks, CEH, O’Daniel, etc.). It’s also why drafting two guys for 1 starting spot is a great option.
In 2022, the Chiefs had a higher draft grade on Joshua Williams than Jaylen Watson. Which is better? They’ve been battling for snap supremacy. It seems like maybe Watson the 7th rounder is currently in the lead. Will it always be that way or is it just differing developmental curves? What if the Chiefs had traded up to get Williams and didn’t have the pick to get Watson?
In 2021, the Chiefs drafted Trey Smith after Cornell Powell. Smith looks like a future All-Pro/Pro Bowler. Powell was on the practice squad in 2022. In 2020, the Chiefs drafted L’Jarius Sneed after CEH, Willie Gay, and Lucas Niang. Sneed is the best of the bunch. In 2019 they drafted Nick Allegretti after Darwin Thompson. Allegretti has been quality depth on the interior of the O-line. Darwin couldn't make a difference on the field. In 2016, they double-dipped at WR, drafting Demarcus Robinson in the 4th before taking Tyreek Hill in the 5th. The first is a journeyman. The second an All-Pro. Those are some very good examples of why trading up and losing picks should be the exception rather than the rule.
Strategy 3: Use the pick to draft a player
This is of course the most common strategy employed by GMs because it requires little work. When it’s your turn, draft a player. Done. In the case of the Chiefs having so many picks for what appears to be so few roster spots, let’s go through the various scenarios of "drafting a player without room on the roster" from worst to best:
1. "The losing lottery ticket": He competes for a roster spot in camp and loses. You cut him and he’s gone. You get no compensation whether someone else picks him up or not.
2. "Trade bait": You trade him for future assets like what happened with Rashad Fenton this year going to ATL for a conditional 7th rounder.
3. "Insurance policy": He makes the practice squad giving you added depth should something happen to a guy on the roster. Ex. Cornell Powell.
4. "Trade to fit": You trade him for another player that fits your roster better. Ex. 4th rounder Parker Ehinger for UDFA Charvarius Ward in 2018.
5. "roster depth": He makes the roster as a capable backup. Ex. Nick Allegretti-7th round
6. "Surprise starter": He becomes a starter at some point. Ex. Isaih Pacheco & Jaylen Watson-7th round.
7. "More than a starter, a star": He becomes a building block for the organization. Ex. Trey Smith-6th round
8. "The Jackpot": He becomes a top player at his position. Ex. Tyreek Hill-5th round
Strategy 4: Trade back for more picks
This strategy appears the least likely in the Chiefs current situation, but I wouldn’t entirely rule it out. I know some people are upset that we landed Skyy Moore and missed out on George Pickens with Veach’s only trade back in 5 drafts. Perhaps it was a mistake. Will anyone be upset if Moore takes off in year 2? Or if Kinnard becomes a starting OT/OG? Or both? I doubt it. The reasons for trading back to gain more picks are all laid out above. If the Chiefs get a good enough offer, I’d have no problem trading back. Here are some of the Chiefs Day 3 picks since 2019: Rashad Fenton, Nick Allegretti, L’Jarius Sneed, Trey Smith, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson, Isiah Pacheco. The Chiefs have shown a consistent ability in the last 3 years to find solid players in the 4th round or later of drafts. Why not take more swings? Why not bring in more bodies? At best they become stars. At worst they’re gone for nothing. More than likely they’ll fall somewhere in between bringing more depth or being traded. And finally…
Strategy 5: Trade forward and up
In a win-now league, this is the "Warren-Buffett-against-the-grain option." This year the Chiefs have more picks than they need. Instead of using multiple picks to trade up in this year’s draft, why not trade some of this year’s picks for next years? General rule of thumb in a win-now league is that next year’s pick is worth one round less than this year’s. That means a 2023 5th rounder is worth a 2024 4th rounder. Could the Chiefs do this a couple of times in this year’s draft? Why not? If the Chiefs are content with their depth for 2023 and confident in their scouting, then they can slide some of this year’s draft capital to next year with the added bonus of "trading up" by a whole round or more if you assume that the majority of the Chiefs trade partners will have worse records than the Chiefs in 2023 and therefore better picks in the 2024 draft. We haven’t seen Veach use this strategy yet, but he did use the reverse of this strategy in 2020 to draft BoPete Keyes in the 7th for the Chiefs 2021 6th rounder. 2023 could be the year. And it could set the Chiefs budding dynasty on an even more firm foundation.
For all his success picking solid contributors, Veach has yet to draft a stud pass-catcher (although a healthy Toney could be that guy), a stud OT (maybe Niang or Kinnard?), or a stud pass-rusher (however Karlaftis may be on his way there). Will this be the year? Will it be through a trade up? Letting a guy fall to KC? Or trading back for even more picks? If he’s going to keep hitting on late-round picks, I would love to see Veach pull off one or more trades forward and up to keep the dynasty rolling. What do you think?