KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs’ draft board should be set by now, leaving last-minute strategy meetings before the 2016 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night.
While the Chiefs have seven total picks this year, one course of action sure to draw discussion between general manager John Dorsey and his staff during the draft surrounds working around not having a third-round selection.
Kansas City forfeited the pick after the NFL denied the Chiefs’ appeal for violating the anti-tampering policy. The league ruled in March the Chiefs had improper contact in 2015 with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was then a free agent, resulting in the Chiefs losing a third-round pick in 2016, a sixth-round pick in 2017 and imposed monetary fines.
Dorsey, who said he has 180 players on the draft board, didn’t appear too concerned with overcoming the obstacle of a lost pick.
“I’ve been doing this for what, 25, 30 years, I approach every draft the same way I’ve ever done it and that’s the beauty of this whole thing,” Dorsey said. “Every draft is different and we prepare for every scenario, whether it be Round One, Two, Three, all the way down to Seven. We have meticulously prepared ourselves to process everything and do what’s best for this organization moving forward and that’s kind of how I go about it.”
Nevertheless, the forfeiture of a third-round pick means the Chiefs have just two picks within the top 100 players drafted, barring a trade to move back into the third round.
And the third round since 2013 has been kind to Dorsey, who selected tight end Travis Kelce, running back Knile Davis, cornerback Phillip Gaines, wide receiver Chris Conley and cornerback Steven Nelson.
Not having a selection in the third round leaves less room for error.
“Well, you always want to hit,” Dorsey said. “Good personnel guys want to hit their picks. That’s what you do; you try to create the best options for the organization in every specific round.”
Dorsey will have that opportunity to build on a team coming off an 11-5 season with the 28th overall pick when the first round of the draft begins Thursday at 7 p.m. CT.
The second and third rounds occur Friday starting at 6 p.m. CT, and the draft concludes with the fourth through seventh rounds starting Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.
The three-day event will air live on the NFL Network and ESPN.
CHIEFS’ DRAFT PICKS
* Acquired via trade that sent safety Kelcie McCray to Seattle Seahawks in 2015
Players re-signed: ILB Derrick Johnson, OLB Tamba Hali, DE Jaye Howard, DB Jamell Fleming, ILB Frank Zombo
Frachised: S Eric Berry
Free-agent signings: OT Mitchell Schwartz, WR Rod Streater, LB Jonathan Massaquoi, LB Efe Obada, LB Tautvydas Kieras, S Jimmy Wilson, S Stevie Brown, LB Andy Mulumba, WR Mike Williams
Players lost: CB Sean Smith, G Jeff Allen, OL Donald Stephenson, QB Chase Daniel, S Tyvon Branch, G Ben Grubbs, DE Mike DeVito (retirement), S Husain Abdullah (retirement)
Unsigned from 2015: LB Dezman Moses, WR Jason Avant
The Chiefs as of Tuesday have $782,809 in available cap space, according to the NFLPA.
The Chiefs have 78 players – 38 on offense, 37 on defense and three specialists – on the roster ahead of the draft, leaving the team 12 players shy of the 90 maximum allowed on an offseason roster.
Five players return from injured reserve: Running back Jamaal Charles (knee), cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee), tight end James O’Shaughnessy (foot), inside linebacker Justin March (knee) and guard Paul Fanaika (back).
Players recovering from offseason surgeries are outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), outside linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and punter Dustin Colquitt (knee).
Hali and Colquitt are present for the offseason workout program, while the Chiefs are optimistic Houston will play in 2016 after he underwent an ACL procedure in mid-February.
|Quarterback (3)||Alex Smith, Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray|
The Chiefs could bolster depth to have four signal callers on the roster before training camp, but whether the addition comes through the draft remains to be seen.
Smith, who turns 32 on May 7, has three years remaining on his deal, while the Chiefs invested a fifth-round pick on Murray in 2014. Additionally, the Chiefs are high on Bray, evidenced on a two-year extension last summer despite Bray never playing a regular-season snap.
It is also important to consider the complexity of coach Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense, so any quarterback added to the roster will need time to develop and won’t have an immediate impact.
Murray and Bray have had time to develop and should have a grasp of the offense, which will enhance the battle to be Smith’s primary backup with the departure of Chase Daniel, who signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
|Running back (5)||Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware, Knile Davis, Darrin Reaves|
Davis, who enters the final year of his contract, could be the odd man out after the Chiefs signed West and Ware to contract extensions and it wouldn’t surprise if a trade occurred during the draft.
Still, the Chiefs need running depth to get through organized team activities (OTAs) when considering Charles isn’t expected to be on the practice field until training camp at the earliest.
|Fullback (2)||Anthony Sherman, Trey Millard|
The Chiefs don’t need to draft a fullback with Sherman firmly entrenched as the starter.
|Wide receiver (11)||Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, Rod Streater, De’Anthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond Jr., Fred Williams, Da’Ron Brown, Kenny Cook, Kashif Moore, Mike Williams|
The Chiefs have adequate depth on paper for training camp, but Wilson and Hammond enter the final year of their contracts. Streater and Mike Williams are signed to one-year contracts.
Adding another wide receiver either through the draft or signing an undrafted free agent to bolster competition is a likely route.
|Tight end (5)||Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, James O’Shaughnessy, Brian Parker, Ross Travis|
The Chiefs are set at the tight end position with Kelce and Harris are locked in with contract extensions.
O’Shaughnessy, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2015, is expected back healthy after landing on injured reserve with a foot injury last year.
|Offensive Tackle (5)||Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz, Laurence Gibson, Reid Fragel, Curtis Feigt|
The Chiefs have a decision looming on Fisher, who enters the final year of his rookie contract. The team could lean to exercising a fifth-year option on the left tackle by the May 2 deadline or eventually sign him to a contract extension.
Schwartz, who signed a five-year deal during free agency, stabilizes the right side of the offensive line, but the Chiefs need depth here and need to identify the swing tackle.
|Guard (5)||Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Jah Reid, Zach Fulton, Jarrod Pughsley, Michael Liedtke|
With Ben Grubbs and Paul Fanaika released, the Chiefs are set for a battle royal at the starting guard positions heading into training camp.
Duvernay-Tardif started 13 regular-season games at right guard in 2015, while Reid offers versatility and drew 10 starts at right tackle during the regular season and one at right guard during the postseason in place of Duvernay-Tardif, who dealt with a concussion.
Fulton, in particular, can be the swing guard. He started all 16 games at right guard during his rookie campaign in 2014, and then started three games at right guard and two games at left guard in 2015. Fulton also started two games at center in the postseason.
|Center (2)||Mitch Morse, Daniel Munyer|
The Chiefs have solid depth at the center position after drafting Morse in 2015 and Zach Fulton can move to center if needed.
|Defensive end (4)||Allen Bailey, Nick Williams, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Dominique Davis|
The Chiefs’ front three – Bailey, Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard – is one of the NFL’s most underrated defensive lines.
The Chiefs like Williams and Nunez-Roches, but it wouldn’t surprise to see the team add a defensive end to boost competition.
Of note, the Chiefs hosted at least four defensive ends – Roy Roberston, David Onyemata, Destiny Vaeao and Kyle Peko – on predraft visits in the past month.
|Nose tackle (5)||Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, David King, Jimmy Staten, Alameda Ta’amu|
Poe, who plays this season in a fifth-year option, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The Chiefs have depth behind Poe with Howard, who returns on a two-year deal and can play outside, but the team could lean to adding another versatile interior defensive lineman.
|Outside linebacker (9)||Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Frank Zombo, Cameron Gordon, Jonathan Massaquoi, Tautvydas Kieras, Efe Obada, Andy Mulumba|
How the Chiefs approach the outside linebacker position depends greatly on Houston’s recovery from a mid-February ACL procedure.
The team is optimistic Houston will play in 2016 and have Hali and Ford to fall back on, but it wouldn’t hurt to plan for the worst-case scenario by bolstering depth.
|Inside linebacker (6)||Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March, Tyrell Adams|
How much longer the 33-year-old Johnson, who signed a three-year deal in March, can play remains to be seen and Mauga has two years remaining in his contract.
The Chiefs looked to the future in 2015 by drafting Wilson and Alexander, and the team is also high on March, an undrafted free agent out of Akron, who returns from microfracture surgery on his right knee.
|Cornerback (7)||Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Jamell Fleming, Marcus Cooper, Keith Lewis, Deveron Carr|
The top three cornerbacks project as Peters, Gaines and Nelson. Cooper, who is in the final year of his contract, offers staring experience, while Fleming is expected to move to safety.
Still, an NFL team can never have enough cornerbacks in a modern pass-happy league, so it is realistic to expect the Chiefs to add another cornerback, especially with Sean Smith now with the Oakland Raiders.
Other factors to consider at the cornerback position include Gaines’ recovery from ACL surgery and Nelson’s development.
|Strong safety (4)||Ron Parker, Jimmy Wilson, Stevie Brown, Jordan Kovacs|
Parker is a mainstay in the starting lineup and the Chiefs signed Wilson and Brown to fill the void given the departures of strong safety Tyvon Branch, who signed a free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and free safety Husain Abdullah, who retired.
Wilson and Brown, both of whom are on one-year deals, are likely to rotate between strong and free safety in the numerous sub-packages the Chiefs utilize.
|Free safety (2)||Eric Berry, Daniel Sorensen|
Berry’s franchise designation carries a $10.8 million price tag.
|Punter (1)||Dustin Colquitt|
The Chiefs won’t be in the market for a punter, as Colquitt, one of the NFL’s best, has two more years remaining on his contract.
|Kicker (1)||Cairo Santos|
Santos enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $600,000 in 2016.
|Long snapper (1)||James Winchester|
The Chiefs aren’t drafting a long snapper, but Winchester enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $525,000 in 2016.