Following a grueling scouting process (that was likely truncated by celebrating a Super Bowl victory), Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach spoke to reporters Thursday. His comments from his annual pre-draft press conference give some insight into the direction his team might go when its time on the clock starts on Thursday night.
‘Pockets of talent’
Kansas City fans may not want to hear Veach’s assessment of where the draft’s talent lies; the Chiefs appear set at the three position groups he highlighted.
“I think it’s a good defensive back class,” he claimed. “I think it’s a lot of corners. Every year you go to the Combine, and you have a group of guys in [Round] 1 and a group of guys in [Round] 2 — and then usually they kind of work themselves up either higher on a tier or lower on a tier.
“And it seems like all those guys in that second wave of corners went to the Combine and ran a 4.3. The numbers were crazy. These are all big, athletic, fast corners. I think it’s a really good draft in the defensive backfield — and I think there’s depth late in the linebacker position, [and the] tight end class is good.”
According to Veach, defensive back is the position teams will use to judge the draft’s talent as a whole.
“I think it may be viewed to some teams as really deep,” he predicted, “because if you need a DB, I think you’ll think it’s a really good class — and if you’re pretty good at that position then you might say that it’s a thin class.”
For the first part of his tenure leading Kansas City’s front office, Veach had a reputation for bypassing cornerbacks. Last year’s draft — in which he traded up in the first round for cornerback Trent McDuffie before selecting three more corners — should stunt that narrative.
“I know there was some joking that we didn’t value that position — and we’ll just find them late,” Veach admitted, “and I think it really speaks more to us. It’s a good problem to have, but we pick late — and sometimes those corners aren’t there. Either the draft doesn’t have the numbers — or the guys that fall later in Rounds 1 or 2 just maybe for some reason don’t fit our medical or character [standards].”
Even though the team of loaded up on defensive backs one year ago, don’t expect Veach to shy away from the position if he sees value there.
“If we have opportunities like we did last year with McDuffie, we’re going to do it because we value that position,” he stated. “If we’re unable to get a corner, we know how hard those guys are to find [and] how expensive they are in free agency.
“I think that was part of the process [last year]. Let’s throw numbers at this. Let’s work with the coaches. Let’s take a look at corners. Let’s really condense those numbers down and have [real] dialogue here — and not be afraid to take multiple guys.”
Player value between teams
For three days next week, 32 teams will select 259 rookies across seven rounds. What makes the process unpredictable is how differently each team will rank the talent. Veach has an idea where the variance from team to team really starts.
“The first 50 guys are probably consensus guys,” he observed. “I think once you get past 50, there is a smaller deviation — but then once you get to the third round it’s ‘all bets off’ — and there’s guys that we have in the seventh round that go top of three and vice versa.”
The architect of two Super Bowl champion teams believes the Internet has had an effect on scouting for the draft’s top talent.
“You’ll get some curveballs here or there in Rounds 1 or 2,” Veach admitted, “but the numbers aren’t super high. I think it may have been more likely back in the day — but now, with social media and all the mocks, there’s no secrets any more. Some guys that you think that, ‘This guy’s going to be a steal here in three,’ it’s likely by the whole time the process ends, it’s consensus across social media that this guy is going in one.
“Maybe it doesn’t necessarily mean a guy jumps from three to one, but the guy is not a sleeper, or what have you, or a small school guy. There’s just so much coverage in every aspect of this. I mean the Pro Days get live networks coming down there doing live feed. So there’s not a lot of secrets, so it’s been less over the years.”
Top 30 visits
Arguably the draft process’ biggest misnomer is Top 30 Visit. The term implies it is reserved for the draft’s elite talent. In truth, it is simply the number of on-site draft prospect visits each team is permitted. As usual, the Chiefs used a large portion of their visits to learn more about some of the draft’s less-heralded prospects.
“Most of these guys we’re bringing in weren’t invited to the Combine,” Veach observed. “The great part about the Combine is you get to interview the guys [and] you get to work them out — but they go through pretty extensive medical [evaluations].
“The guys that don’t get invited, you don’t really have anything. You don’t have any updated imaging on them — or MRIs, X-rays, what have you. So, all these guys that we think are draftable prospects, I think, ‘First, let’s bring them in.’”
Top 30 visits for players who were invited the Combine sometimes suggest red flags from earlier in the process.
“There’s also a handful of guys that we like,” Veach explained, “and maybe we just didn’t get a great first impression [from them] when we met with them at the Combine. So we like to spend that time to just cross our T’s and dot our I’s. And there’s been times where we bring guys in and we weren’t comfortable with them [during the] pre-Combine process, weren’t comfortable with them at the Combine — but we liked the tape so much, let’s make sure one more time.”
Veach shared a recent example of a Top 30 visit changing the team’s opinion of a player — and Chiefs fans should be thankful Jaylen Watson’s story unfolded as it did.
“He was a guy that I think that we met at the Combine — and we weren’t sure that [he] would be a great fit,” recalled Veach. “But we liked him, and we wanted to bring him back in. And we had the Combine medical on him already, but he was a guy that we brought back into the facility last year and both my staff and the coaches kind of did a 180 on him. You just take him out of the Combine environment, he had a chance to kind of just relax — and he’s been through a lot in his career trajectory.
“But that was a great example there where I don’t think we were comfortable drafting him in any round after the Combine. [But] we brought him in here, and it was just a completely different story. We fell in love with the kid and we were super excited to draft him — and he’s done a great job for us.
“So it’s one of those things. Just let’s be sure on the guys that you like. And it can go in both ways. It can potentially take a guy off the board — but could also put a guy back on the board.”