Recapping Chiefs’ NFL Draft Class

 21 replies

“I forgot how to be a fan.”

This was where I was mentally in the playoffs last year. I didn’t write much about the season, but if I was being honest, I didn’t like last year’s team. I hated how they couldn’t put a full game together on either side of the ball, beat any legit team, or kept beating themselves in the dumbest ways. The team was talented and clearly a contender, yet it seemed the AFC potentially had passed them by for the year.

After the Super Bowl, my fanhood changed considerably. When you reach the mountaintop, you’re satisfied. Everything I had ever wanted as a fan turned into reality. All the butterflies, tears, and joy came together for one awesome moment. If that was the last football game I watched, I would’ve been perfectly happy.

The 2020 season was weird for me. It was the same team, and the Chiefs were clearly amazing. They were 14-1, it was the peak of Mahomes/Hill/Kelce, and they felt invincible. I had a unique experience watching that team. I got frustrated in spots but was never nervous. In fact, a lot of my experience as a fan came through frustration. I never got nervous, or elated, but instead, I just seemed mad. I had a hard time mustering the emotions to really care about last that Run It Back team. Even when they lost the Super Bowl, I had a hard time being upset. Part of that was seeing how the game went, but I really didn’t get sad. It was such a weird feeling.

The 2021 team was much of the same, but maybe even worse. I’ll be entirely honest; I despised last year’s team. I hated the energy, lack of consistency, and focus of that team. To start the season, the defense was legitimately terrible, and then it shifted to a terrible offense. They beat no good teams outside Dallas and played with a lack of care. I had a hard time mustering the energy to really care about the team, and I even went into the playoffs not giving a serious dedication to the result.

And yet…that all changed in that Buffalo game. I felt like a real fan again. I actually cared. I had butterflies in my stomach for the first time in years. Seeing Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes at the peaks of their powers, going for punch-for-punch, was truly something special to watch. I’m not sure I’ll ever top the joy I got watching that game. I wrote an article the next week talking about how Mahomes played the best game I had ever seen from a quarterback. I truly felt invincible and felt the Bengals didn’t have a chance.

And that’s also the first time I felt like a fan again. Why? I was sad. I legitimately was sad after that game. This wasn’t unique to me, all Chiefs fans were distraught after that game. It just didn’t feel possible with Mahomes. But, it was the first time since 2018 that I was sad over a Chiefs game.

This forced me to reflect; was it the team, or something with me? It could’ve been both. But, I was glad to feel that emotion again. It felt good to be a fan and not someone who’s super nit-picky and frustrated with the team all the time.

So, I was excited about the offseason. I wanted to see what moves the Chiefs made. I’ll keep my thoughts here brief because I want to get to the draft, but it was certainly a doozy of an offseason. I didn’t think there was a single chance that Tyreek Hill got out of Kansas City. When reports came up that day that the Chiefs were going to trade him, I was irate. If I’m being honest, I’m still mad. You will never convince me the Chiefs couldn’t have worked that out. Breaking up the Mahomes-Hill-Kelce trio when they’re all still in their primes didn’t make sense to me. I thought the return was fine, but I just don’t like lessening legit Super Bowl odds. Odds like these just don’t come every year, and it felt the Chiefs were taking a real step back.

But, none of that matters now. I can be mad, upset, sad, or whatever emotion I want to feel. You can be justified in that line of thinking. In the end, the measure of success from the Hill trade will be this draft. The Chiefs walked in with 12 picks and ended with 10. If the Hill trade works and these picks hit, the Chiefs are setting up a 2nd window that can last another five years. If it doesn’t, it’ll be a hard recovery to ever get back to legit Super Bowl odds. Obviously, none of my opinions matter until I see these players play, but I wanted to give my thoughts on the Chiefs’ selections. I didn’t have the time to watch prospects this year because of life, but I still was able to get some tape in and have some opinions. Here we go!

Pick 21: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (Trade up with 29, 94, and 121)

Let’s start at the beginning. When the Chiefs traded up on Thursday night, I thought they were taking Jermaine Johnson. Johnson was someone who fit the general archetype of what Spags/Veach is like from DL, and his fall was in the right range for the Chiefs to slide up and take him. So, when they took a tiny short-armed CB from Washington, I was surprised.

In general, I don’t love this pick, but I’m okay with it. I don’t love trading up for a non-outside CB. I know the Chiefs are saying he’s an outside CB currently, but I don’t see it. Given his lack of size and length, I feel like he’ll really struggle on the outside. To me, McDuffie is a slot player. He’s got the athleticism, football IQ, and toughness to succeed there. McDuffie had some awesome college tape, and I think his skillset translates there quicker.

While I liked McDuffie more than Daxton Hill, given hindsight, I would’ve just waited for Hill. If the Chiefs deploy McDuffie on the outside, I do have some questions. I think he’s talented enough to potentially make it work, but I’ll have to see it before I believe it. If they use him in the slot, I think McDuffie will have a long career, and while I didn’t love trading up, I won’t care if he ends up good. So, overall, I think this pick is perfectly acceptable.

Grade: B+

Pick 30: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

I am an Iowa Hawkeyes fan, so I got to see the terror of George Karlaftis up close. That guy was terrifying in college. I didn’t have time to keep up with all of the predraft process this year, but I didn’t understand the negativity behind Karlaftis. People on Chiefs’ Twitter were acting like this guy wasn’t good, and I simply didn’t understand why.

Karlaftis has some very impressive traits. He’s not super long, but he’s got excellent size and strength. His hands are some of the heaviest and quickest I’ve seen since I started evaluating prospects in 2020. He’s got a good first step, and while he’s rigid in the hips, he can mix in some inside counters. My preferred type of DEs are the powerful explosive athletes, and Karlaftis fits that to a tee, so it makes sense why I like him. He’ll never bend well, but there are other ways to win on the outside except for bend. Bend is overrated when evaluating prospects. Tackles are so athletic nowadays, you need more power to help crush pockets and keep contain on the QB. Even if Karlaftis struggles on the outside, the dude should dominate on the interior. His hands are so heavy against guards, and he can dominate with length and technique. I think Karlaftis can be a true difference-maker inside.

Karlaftis may not have the highest ceiling, but I think he was much closer to Aidan Hutchinson than he got credit for. He’ll need to clean up his run defense and some other issues, but Karlaftis is going to be a good DL for a long time. Maybe his ceiling is rushing more from the inside, but he’s easily got the power and twitch to make a real impact there. Regardless of where the Chiefs’ scheme goes over the next few years, Karlaftis will have a fit in the league. Any skepticism from the McDuffie trade-up is gone with this value. Great pick.

Grade: A

Pick 54: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan (Trade back from 50 for 54 and 158)

So, I have mixed thoughts about the pick. First, let’s talk about what I wanted from a WR this year.

When the Hill trade was made, there was a lot of talk about what type of WR the Chiefs should get. Jameson Williams was thrown around in a trade-up, and I didn’t like that move. I didn’t want the featured player of this offense to be a “clone” of Tyreek Hill. Running the same offense with a worse player rarely works out. Sometimes you get lucky with a trade like the Stefon Diggs-Justin Jefferson trade, but trying to replicate a Hall of Fame player has never worked. What I wanted was a true outside WR who could dominate with size and vertical speed. To me, the best option was George Pickens.

Pickens was available in round 2, but the Chiefs passed on him for Skyy Moore. Now, there were some red flags with Pickens in the process, so maybe that turned the Chiefs off. I don’t have that information, so the only thing I can evaluate is the player and role. I felt Pickens was the better player, while also feeling he could fill a more valuable role in the offense. In that sense, I wish the Chiefs had stayed put and got Pickens.

But, I’m perfectly okay with this move. Picking up an extra 5th while getting a good WR prospect who fits is a perfectly acceptable process. Moore is just a solid player. I don’t think he has any special traits, but he’s going to come in and contribute instantly. Watching his tape, Moore’s a better outside option than I felt in the predraft process. I think his best role is in the slot, but the ability to line up in different spots will endear him to Andy Reid. I think Moore’s ceiling is around 1100 yards, but he’s going to contribute instantly and give the Chiefs a boost offensively. Rarely do I call a prospect “bust-proof”, but Moore is the closest thing to that. So, overall, while I wanted Pickens, I’m content.

Grade: B+

Pick 62: Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati

This pick surprised me. I didn’t know how the Chiefs were going to value safety. Justin Reid felt like a potential Tyrann Mathieu replacement, but I was interested to see how much the Chiefs prioritized Daniel Sorensen’s role. With this pick, it’s clear that they wanted a serious upgrade at that 3rd safety spot.

I didn’t know much about Cook before Friday, but I do like the player. He’s got legit size and tackling ability. I don’t think he’s a great athlete, but he’s got good closing speed and surprising fluidity. I’m not sure Cook will ever be a good deep safety, but in the role Sorensen played – Blitzer, half-field safety, underneath zone defender – he’ll be an upgrade. It’s simple to say, but putting Cook in the Sorensen role will be an instant upgrade for the Chiefs. Having a competent safety in that role is such an asset that we really haven’t seen. Cook won’t have a high ceiling, but being an upgrade over Sorensen will have good ramifications for this defense. Good pick.

Grade: B

Pick 103: Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin

I’m a cynical man, but this is easily the best pick of the Brett Veach era for me. I loved Leo Chenal predraft. I thought he was the best linebacker in this class. No joke. That size, speed, power, and IQ combination is rare. Yes, he’s not a great coverage player, but that’s being seriously overstated. He’s perfectly fine in zone coverage. He’s smart and big enough to reroute WRs in the MOF. Do you know how many LBs can actually cover in man coverage? The list is way shorter than you think. The biggest thing with LBs is run instincts, tackling ability, and downhill blitzing ability. Coverage is obviously needed, but if you’re a solid zone defender, you’ll be perfectly fine in the league. Chenal is already there for me.

The athletic profile and tape were top 20 for me. I tweeted this out after the pick, but I strongly believe Chenal was a better prospect than Willie Gay or Nick Bolton. The Chiefs clearly valued those guys earlier, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Chenal is a better player than those guys. He carries all the best athletic traits they have in one body. He’s also a much more polished player coming in. I’m not sure why he fell, but I truly feel he’s going to be our best linebacker by the end of 2024. Home run pick.

Grade: A++++++

Day 3 Summary

I’ve already rambled on long enough, so here are some short thoughts on the Day 3 picks.

Joshua Williams: I absolutely love the athletic profile. His size and speed match Spags’s press scheme so well. He may take some time, but I love the swing on athleticism and size. Great pick.

Darian Kennard: I’m more skeptical about this pick, but I still like it. Great size, but I wonder if he has the speed to hold up at tackle. Still, he’s a cheap option that could potentially fill in at multiple spots. If he fills in at RT, awesome, but I’m not expecting him to. Good swing on pedigree though.

Jaylen Watson: Love the swing on athleticism and size

Isiah Pacheco: Speed at RB is always cool

Nazeeh Johnson: I’ll be candid; I have no idea who this is. Maybe he’ll be something, I don’t know.

Conclusion

I really like this draft class for the Chiefs. The two Day 1 picks are both going to be solid starters for the Chiefs at their worst. Even Skyy Moore and Bryan Cook will fill valuable roles for the Chiefs. What makes this draft have the chance to be truly special is the swings the Chiefs took with Leo Chenal and the Day 3 picks. If 1 to 2 of those hit (which I think they will), this class has a chance to be truly special. The Chiefs filled needs at high positional value with talented athletes with high football character. You can’t ask more from a draft. I might’ve taken different players, but I can’t complain about a single pick the Chiefs made.

Brett Veach wasn’t someone who prioritized positional value with high picks, but with a large amount of draft capital this year, he did more than ever. He got a cost-controlled DE, WR, and CB early. Those positions are in high need for every team, which requires a lot of capital to acquire those guys. Getting those positions filled with cost-controlled youth is such an asset as this roster gets more expensive. The Chiefs have a lot of salary cap room that can be open in the future, and with guys in these important roles, they can use that space to fill out their roster with stars in different spots to make their team more well-rounded.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the Chiefs to take a slight step back this year. While we’re all excited at their draft class, it’s still a ton of rookies. They’ll need time to develop, and they might not be able to fill those roles well enough to keep the Chiefs in serious contention. Still, as long as Mahomes and Reid are there, they’ll have a chance. Getting these rookies playing time can help the Chiefs add new elements to the team, and set them up for a second window. Other teams like Green Bay have tried this strategy, and while it’s a risky proposition, I feel this class has set the Chiefs up well as they approach this second window with Mahomes. I can’t ask for much more from Brett Veach. Well, I will ask that he takes a break and sleeps. Cause good God, that guy NEEDS it.

5 6 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
21 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
upamtn
05/07/2022 8:41 am

Nate, thank you SO much for the incredible assessments and I think you’re spot on … like you, it was hard at tmes to get excited about the Chiefs at time, and while the game against Buffalo was “one for the ages” the AFCCG was one to forget about (how the heck does a team blow a lead like that? totally “flat” in the 2nd half) moving forward was easy to do after that game, and I thought KC had a ton to do to “fix” what was wrong, and they did just that in the draft (IMO) … I was honestly pleased with the Hill trade and had ZERO issue with THE TRADE, esp the return in terms of draft picks … wasn’t sure how free agency would go down, but I think Veach got what he could that was affordable and was thrilled with the draft itself: the best is NOT trying to find an “exact replacement” for Hill, but rather making sure the “rebuild” is right for the team (and right for Mahomes: he’s going to have to be a “more complete” QB now in a way, and that’s a good thing, not relying on “one guy” to bail him out) defensively I think this team improved markedly with Karlaftis, McDuffie, Cook and Chenal (plus the FA Safety) … offensively new WRs (FA’s plus Moore) will help (and Kinnard in theory) … I think (hope) the team got about 5-7 newbies who can help the team be very successful for the next 3-5 years (at least) … and with another 10 picks next year (and another successful draft, we hope) there’s no reason for the Chiefs NOT to be in the upper echelons of the NFL for the next 5 years (or longer) Veach had a plan he stuck with it, and while it’s been “his team” for awhile now, this year (I think) he’s put an indelible stamp on it, one that should last for a long, long time to come … looking forward to 2022 season and how things progress super write-up and thank you… Read more »

Berserker
Berserker
05/06/2022 6:04 pm

Great point about the cost control aspect of those first three picks. That’s a very under-rated thing. With Mahomes now getting into the expensive part of his career, I’d hope we don’t see any more lower-salary positions picked in the first round for a long time. Like RB for example… I see two ways for Chenal to become a valuable player. One is if he is a legit pass rusher, like he was in college (8 sacks, 18.5 TFLs in just 11 starts last season), to make up for us only drafting one new edge rusher. I could really see that happening – he’s kinda reminding me of Clay Matthews, in my more optimistic moments. The other, much less preferable way he could contribute, is if Gay or Bolton miss significant time for injury or other. Barring those two eventualities, no matter how awesome-throwbackey he is, there’s just no path for Chenal to be more than a ST ace plus about 25% snapcount guy on regular defense. I agree with pretty much all your evals. Especially McDuffie. It’s eerie how similarly we both reacted to that pick. In fact, it took me about 18-ish hours and a good night’s sleep to come around to the conclusion that he wasn’t just a plain awful pick. But I think he’s going to be a good and valuable player, even if he’s not what we expected. I can see why those first two players, plus Cook, are particularly valuable to our team – they seem like they could be ready to play sooner than a lot of other good players we could’ve drafted instead. And this team needs that immediate contribution at those particular positions. I was doing a what-if, and saw how instead of McDuffie/Karlaftis/Cook, we could’ve easily gotten Jermaine Johnson, Dax Hill, and Martin Emerson… I mean, that wouldn’t seem a bad trade, would it? Even with the “they’re a Chief now so we must adore them no matter what” homerism that’s in all of us, it’d be real easy to argue that my what-if picks have significantly more long term… Read more »

MasterChief
MasterChief
05/06/2022 3:17 pm

Thanks for the write-up, Nate! Looking forward to more as the season goes on!

Budahmon
Budahmon
05/06/2022 2:39 pm

I like this draft. They have a strong rotation at DT with Jones, Nnadi, Wharton, Saunders, & Stallworth. The Edge is not bad with Clark/Karlaftis/Ingram and if Kaindoh can progress in Pass rush they may have something. Pass rush was not the problem, it was pass defense allowing completed passes within seconds of the snap. Also having 3 LBers with speed to blitz from their positions is something they haven’t had.
This draft addressed fundamental needs. I don’t think they reached for any player.

Berserker
Berserker
Reply to  Budahmon
05/06/2022 6:25 pm

I think that a good part of the glory that Allen gets for that playoff game should instead be directed toward our secondary as criticism.

They were awful in that game, especially late. Allen’s last go-ahead TD gets a lot of hype, but it was just a wide open busted coverage right down the middle of the field.

Compare that gimme play to the game winning route/pass/catch that Mahomes and Kelce put on the Bills’ local eye-talian hero (and pretty good player) Milano.

I don’t know exactly how much it hurt to lose Mathieu early in that game, but…for whatever reasons, I’m sure more than just one reason, our secondary was plain terrible. Charles Barkley terrible.

Our Dline does need work, still, for when Clark is “officially” gone, and whenever Jones misses time and for when his contract ends after next season. But I am cautiously optimistic about the changes to our secondary.

Tony Sommer
05/06/2022 1:25 pm

Berserker
Berserker
Reply to  Tony Sommer
05/06/2022 6:34 pm

I like Moore’s hands. He’s about 1-1/2 inches shorter than me (officially), but his hands measured about a full inch wider… I think I read somewhere he had the widest hands of all the WRs at the combine.

Given current roster, this team could do worse than add a sticky-handed, quick, tough slot WR. I’m looking forward to a rotation of Kelce/Juju/Moore vs opponents’ slot coverage.

Wichita Chief
Wichita Chief
05/06/2022 12:40 pm

You put into words kinda how I’ve been feeling. Sitting in the stands last year I kinda felt like I was watching teams of the past. Unlike the feelings I had that no deficit was too huge and we’d come back and be victorious. I felt no lead was enough for us to hold. Be it the defense was a swinging gate or the offense was a hot potato that went cold at any given time. I was at the point I just didn’t care. I felt that we’d peaked and just couldn’t shake the feeling we needed new blood (and coaching!) to sustain greatness. I have hope for the draft picks to mesh in and uplift. Time will tell.

Berserker
Berserker
Reply to  Wichita Chief
05/06/2022 6:36 pm

In retrospect, the run-it-back season was probably a mistake. Barely, almost made it work, but still a mistake in the end.

hoosierchief
05/06/2022 11:34 am

Great write up Nate!

Slayer0810
Slayer0810
05/06/2022 11:33 am

Thoughts on UDFAs? Obviously those 7th rounders were basically UDFAs, but I’ll be especially interested to see what Justyn Ross can bring to the table. If he ends up returning to his pre-injury form, he has a chance to be that Pickens sort of traditional outside receiver that we’ve been looking to get. Skyy may be fine outside, but he’s definitely more of a slot player naturally IMO. But if we could get at least one good-to-great outside receiver, the combo of that player, Travis and Skyy inside, and a dominant OL could make this our best offense of the Mahomes era (even without Hill).

hoosierchief
Reply to  Nate Christensen
05/06/2022 12:40 pm

I think Ross may turn out pretty good. the neck issue he had since birth, and it sounds like they fixed that. he just needs to recover from his surgery on his foot.

Berserker
Berserker
Reply to  hoosierchief
05/06/2022 6:41 pm

One of my 1st sergeants had a spinal fusion done in his neck. Continued to serve on active duty, doing regular PT tests and everything else that comes with it.

Although, since he was a 1st sergeant, obviously his PT tests were graded on the old-man end of the scale (“old” being relative to active duty army age, so mid-to-late 30s).

Tony Sommer
05/06/2022 10:26 am

Agree on Chenal. If he was draft 20 years ago he’d probably be a top 10 pick. But run stopping ILBs just aren’t valued the way they used to be, so even a great prospect like him is going to drop.

Also agree on Nazeeh Johnson. I tried to find something on him, but it turns out finding tape on Marshall safeties is difficult.

saints_chiefsfan1979
saints_chiefsfan1979
Reply to  Tony Sommer
05/06/2022 10:53 am

He had one of the highest PFF grades when covering the slot. 4.3 speed. Sounds like a STer

Tony Sommer
Reply to  saints_chiefsfan1979
05/06/2022 11:00 am

Nazeeh? That’s crazy for a 7th round pick.

saints_chiefsfan1979
saints_chiefsfan1979
Reply to  Tony Sommer
05/06/2022 11:12 am

4.37 forty. . I must have heard his PFF grades by one of those guys on the radio, but I know I read/heard that somewhere

Tony Sommer
Reply to  saints_chiefsfan1979
05/06/2022 11:23 am

I don’t think that PFF grade is right, there’s not much on him without paying but they had him 2nd team C-USA

https://www.pff.com/news/college-football-2021-all-big-12-team-offensive-defensive-player-of-the-year-bailey-zappe-western-kentucky-alex-wright-uab

saints_chiefsfan1979
saints_chiefsfan1979
Reply to  Tony Sommer
05/06/2022 4:21 pm

https://arrowheadguys.com/recapping-chiefs-nfl-draft-class/

Here’s his highlight tape from Marshal. One of the things that really stood out was his instincts. He reads and reacts well and shows off that sub 4.4 speed with his closing burst. That play at the 50 second mark his impressive. He gets turned around briefly in coverage but shows great recovery speed to break up the pass. So you definitely see his athleticism translate on film .

Second thing that stands out is the tackling…oh my…the tackling. I will give him this, he seems like a willing tackler. He isn’t a guest out there. He will come up and try to hit you at least. And he does wrap up. However, he is a drag down/hang on for dear life and hope my teammates can finish this off tackler. He doesn’t explode through guys. He seems to like to guys up high .. That needs to be cleaned up because you can’t play special teams playing like that and that is probably going to be where he has to earn a living at least initially to stick on this roster

KCChef
KCChef
05/06/2022 10:16 am

Anytime our Draft Doesn’t include a bunch of these ; ” ???!!! ???!!! ” … I’m Good with it … ; )

21
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x