The Kansas City Chiefs have made 16 selections in the NFL Draft over the last two years; nine of those players project to be starters in the 2023 season, and that doesn’t include promising linebacker Leo Chenal, secondary tight end Noah Gray or talented young cornerback Joshua Williams.
That core of players was a key part of the team’s run to a Super Bowl title, and that wasn’t by accident. The organization knew they had to surround quarterback Patrick Mahomes with inexpensive talent — something much easier said than done.
General manager Brett Veach executed the game plan, and that was admired by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah during a media call on Thursday. He expressed how big a fan he was of cornerback Trent McDuffie, defensive end George Karlaftis, wide receiver Skyy Moore, safety Bryan Cook and linebacker Leo Chenal.
He liked all of them before the draft, but another impact rookie did sneak up on him.
“I felt pretty great about their draft last year,” Jeremiah noted. “Now, if you had given me truth serum, I would not have predicted (running back) Isiah Pacheco had the role he had on a Super Bowl-winning team as a rookie. That was the one exception. I thought he was a good player, but I did not know he would do that and turn into an unbelievable bargain there in the seventh round.”
Jeremiah named six of the Chiefs’ 10 draft picks from last year; in every other NFL Draft under Veach, Kansas City has selected only six players total. The strategy to pile up picks and increase the odds of finding a hit is simple, but effective — especially when you have the organizational framework the Chiefs do.
“When you have, what, one, two, three, four picks in the top 62, that’s a good haul,” Jeremiah noted. “Brett Veach did a wonderful job of bringing guys in that were smart, athletic, and coachable. I give their staff credit because sometimes it’s not just your scouting staff being able to identify talent. It’s your coaching staff being able to develop that talent. I think the Chiefs coaching staff is one of the best teaching staffs in the NFL, and that was evident by the way they were able to get these young guys on the field early and get them up and running. They just got better and better as the year went along.”
Overall, Jeremiah sees the Chiefs as the standard for draft strategies centered around a big contract due to the team’s quarterback.
“I think they’ve kind of laid out the blueprint for teams that have paid their quarterback,” he emphasized. “This is how you have to do it. You’ve got to go out there, get extra picks. You’re not going to be able to pay everybody, but you need to hit on draft picks. So if you can get more of them and increase your odds, those are the cheap starters you need to round out your team.”
In order for the Chiefs to accumulate more picks in this year’s draft, they would have to trade down early — possibly from out of the first round and into the second round. It’s not what the people of Kansas City would want on that anticipated Thursday night, but Jeremiah could see the Chiefs sticking by their recent draft trends.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded back again,” Jeremiah remarked. “That wouldn’t shock me. They’re picking 31, 63, and 95 right now.”
If the Chiefs were to trade back, it would be because the top of the class at certain positions was empty by that point, and the next tier of prospects was not worth the draft slot. The wide receiver position could come off early, or get pushed down the board based on the value of other positions.
Either way, it sounds like something the Chiefs are monitoring.
“Playmakers is a way they could end up going,” Jeremiah pointed out. “I know they’ve been doing a ton of work on wideouts. I know they’ve looked at the top-end guys and some of those third-round type players. So I would be very surprised if one of those three picks is not a receiver just based off the work that they’re doing.”
“I think you also probably look at grabbing a tackle at some point in time with one of these picks,” Jeremiah continued. “With that in mind, I would not be shocked at all the way you describe what they did last year having more shots at it. To me trading back from 31, you know, that would make sense to me. If they did stick, I think you look at the wide receivers. I think you look at Quentin Johnston and at Zay Flowers if he was potentially still in the mix. I think they’ll come out with the first three picks with a receiver and tackle as two of the three spots.”
Listening to Jeremiah, it sounds like the Chiefs are focused mainly on offense with their early draft selections, and that makes sense. This is a team driven by scoring points and putting up yards, and there are still roles needing to be filled to make the unit whole.
They may have to wait and see which of the positions — offensive tackle or wide receiver — have an early run, and which stay around long enough for Kansas City to have a chance. If neither get pushed down, don’t be surprised if the team ends the first night on a sour note for fans in attendance, trading back and not making a selection on Day 1.