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Trade up, trade back or stand pat: what will the Chiefs do in the first round?

It’s one of the biggest questions as Kansas City prepares for the NFL Draft.

New Chiefs general manager Brett Veach knows he has challenges ahead David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

It’s now less than three weeks until the NFL Draft begins at Kansas City’s Union Station on Thursday, April 27.

As Commissioner Roger Goodell opens the event, he’ll be standing scant feet from where the Kansas City Chiefs have celebrated two Super Bowl victories in the last four seasons. As he speaks, we’ll be more than ready to find out what the team’s general manager Brett Veach will do in the opening round.

Trading down

One of the key questions that has been debated is whether he will trade out of the first round. As our Price Carter noted in these pages on Monday, there’s been a widespread belief that since Kansas City is hosting the 2023 draft, owner Clark Hunt has expressly forbidden Veach from trading the Chiefs’ first-round pick.

This idea took root last May when Veach made a joke to that effect during his post-draft press conference. In November, Hunt backed up his GM’s version of their conversations on the matter, insisting that the supposed prohibition was a “standing joke” between them.

“If there’s a transaction that makes sense for the club,” said Hunt, “I’m certainly not going to stand in the way of that.”

As Price showed in the mock draft he published earlier this week, there’s a solid argument that trading back might be the team’s best course of action.

But not everyone agrees that’s what the team will (or should) do.

Trading up

In a roundtable article published by ESPN Plus on Friday, reporters Jeremy Fowler, Matt Miller and Jordan Reid discussed some of the latest news (and rumors) about the upcoming draft. Reid had a nugget about Kansas City.

“We saw them trade up for cornerback Trent McDuffie last year (No. 29 to No. 21),” he noted, “and I could see general manager Brett Veach moving up again this year. With 10 draft picks — and a roster that doesn’t have many open spots — it makes sense if the team sees an opportunity to land an impact player. Kansas City has holes at offensive tackle and edge rusher, two positions that are plentiful in the first round. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs move up from No. 31 into the early 20s for a top-tier prospect at one of those spots.”

Two key things to take away from Reid’s note.

One is that when viewed from the outside, Kansas City’s roster already appears to be in pretty good shape. (That’s an impression you can also get from Bill Barnwell’s ESPN piece from last Thursday, in which the Chiefs were not among the teams he listed with significant roster holes).

The other is that both of the positions where Kansas City could use help will have plenty of talent available in the first round. In such a situation — especially if a repeat of last year’s situation with McDuffie occurs — trading up could make a lot of sense. It’s not hard to imagine that Veach might once again pull the trigger on a player for whom he has a first-round grade, but has unexpectedly fallen within his reach.

In fact, a four-round mock draft released by NFL.com’s Chad Reuter on Friday has the Chiefs trading up to the 25th pick by sending Pick 95 to the New York Giants. Whether Veach would make that move to acquire Tennessee wideout Jalin Hyatt, however, is open to question — especially considering that the Volunteers’ offensive tackle Darnell Wright, Oklahoma tackle Anton Harrison, Boston College wideout Zay Flowers and TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston are all available at 25.

And if the team did reach up to grab Hyatt at 25, it seems unlikely it would select Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents at 63 — rather than Auburn EDGE Derick Hall, Alabama tackle Tyler Steen, LSU EDGE B.J. Ojulari or Maryland tackle Jaelyn Duncan.

But hey... everyone’s draft grades are different, yes?

Here’s the point: if Veach’s grades give him what looks like a golden opportunity to move up in the first round, it will be possible for him to do so — even though he won’t once again be entering the draft with an extra first-round pick. Reuter’s idea — swapping Picks 31 and 95 for Pick 25 — is a dead-even trade in both the Jimmy Johnson and Rich Hill draft value charts. In the more-modern Fitzgerald-Spielberger and John Dixon charts, the deal would give the Chiefs additional value equivalent to a late fourth-round pick.

The bottom line

The most important factor in determining whether the Chiefs will change position at the end of the first round will be how Veach’s player grades align with what’s taken place so far. While we can make some educated guesses about what those grades will be, there’s no way to really know how they will line up.

Should a player with a first-round grade fall within his reach, Kansas City’s GM is almost certain to attempt an aggressive move to land them. But if Veach’s phone rings — and there’s a larger-than-expected number of players with second-round grades available — his boss has made it clear he won’t prevent the GM from taking some extra swings. Otherwise, the Chiefs are in a good spot to stay at 31 — and take the best player available to them.

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