In our final look at the draft results of the AFC West, we look at the Kansas City Chiefs and how they attempted to address their most pressing needs for 2018.
The 2018 NFL Draft was Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach’s first running the show after John Dorsey was shown the door before the 2017 NFL season. In free agency, Veach was aggressive grabbing a high profile wide receiver in Sammy Watkins, and attempting to address key losses and fill holes.
Even without a first round pick, the Chiefs were aggressive trading up in the second round with the Cincinnati Bengals. They traded their second (54th) and their third (78th) to move up eight spots. They also received the Bengals third round selection (100).
With the Move Up, The Chiefs Go for Pass Rush
With the move up the Chiefs selected Ole Miss defensive lineman Breeland Speaks. Linebacker Dee Ford is recovering from back surgery so the Chiefs decided to grab some insurance. Speaks is 6-foot-3, 283 pounds and can play either defensive end or outside linebacker in the Kansas City 3-4 schemed defense. While Chiefs fans were not thrilled with this choice, its actually a solid one. In this league you need three solid edge rushers. Speaks had 14 sacks for the Rebels before being drafted as an underclassman. If he pans out, and Ford returns to form, opposite elite pass rusher Justin Houston,the Chiefs could very well be back in the sack business in 2018.
A Whole Lotta Defense
The Chiefs focused solely on defense in the 2018 draft by choice. They traded up again for their second selection to nab Florida State’s Derrick Nnadi. The Chiefs traded their 86th and 122nd pick to the Baltimore Ravens for their 75th pick. Nnadi is a pure run-stuffing defensive tackle, which has been a need since Dontari Poe left after the 2017 season. The Chiefs gave up an average 118.1 yards per game in 2017 which ranked 25th overall. At 6-foot-1, 317 pounds, Nnandi should have the tools to clog the middle and should be rotating in from day one.
Dorian O’Daniel the linebacker out of Clemson was selected with the 100th overall pick. A pure hybrid coverage player, but its puzzling how the Chiefs will use O’Daniel. O’Daniel is 6-foot-1, 223 pounds which is the new norm for these hybrid type linebackers. He showed a strong aptitude for being a coverage linebacker with the Tigers which indicates a likely sub package role. He was also is adept on special teams which is more than likely where O’Daniel will see his first NFL action.
The Chiefs were 29th overall in pass defense in 2017, and that was with talented defensive back Marcus Peters on their roster. With Peters gone, the Chiefs selected safety Armani Watts with the 124th pick in the draft. That pick was acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Peters. The former Texas A&M star slipped a bit because of a poorer than expected NFL combine results, namely due to adding weight. The Chiefs expect that to be corrected in their strength and conditioning program. Watts is the Chiefs “diamond in the rough” selection. They seriously needed a safety to start opposite safety Eric Berry, who missed the entire 2017 season after suffering an Achilles injury in week one.
If Watts can find a proper weight for his 5-foot-11 frame, and build his strength, he could be the answer. Chiefs fans will watch this player closely considering they traded Peters to get him.
In the sixth round the Chiefs selected a quality sleeper pick in cornerback Tremon Smith. The former Bear from Central Arkansas was on a lot of day three draft boards, with many corner needy GMs looking to select him in round seven. Instead, the Chiefs pulled the trigger with their 196th pick. Smith, for a sixth round pick, has a solid chance to make the roster and could seriously press for starting nickel or dime back. In the mean time, expect to see this young man starting on special teams.
The Raider-Chief Rivalry Heats Up
Veach decided to stoke the fires of the Oakland Raiders rivalry by trading two seventh round picks to move up and select Tennessee’s Kahlil McKenzie. McKenzie, son of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, was more of a big athlete playing defensive tackle than a truly pure inside man. That’s precisely why his father had him working out for NFL teams at offensive lineman. It was widely expected that the Raiders were going to select McKenzie in the seventh round, but Veach could not resist taking the son of the Raiders general manager and their most hated rival.
Kansas City’s draft was panned by most of their fan base, and without a first round selection, and their aggressive trade ups, they just did not have the volume of picks they really would like. In the end, quarterback Patrick Mahomes is really their first round selection this year. How he performs running this offense will be the key to the entire Chiefs season.
The Chiefs won the division last year with quarterback Alex Smith at the helm, as well as the year before. When he led the Chiefs, KC had a top five offense, so the inexperienced Mahomes has big shoes to fill. The gunslinger from Texas Tech is a bit more loose with the ball, but also has a cannon for an arm.
Questions remain though for the Chiefs. Did they really fill holes? History will be their judge, but chasing Dorsey out the door could set back their franchise for years.