INDIANAPOLIS — If the NFL Draft is akin to opening up presents on Christmas day, the NFL Scouting Combine might equal the excitement of Black Friday for a football personnel junkie like Chiefs general manager Brett Veach.
"There’s a lot going on, so you don’t get a lot of rest, but you get a ton of information, you get to see a lot of great talent out there," Veach said at the Combine Thursday.
For Veach, the most enjoyable part of the week comes during the evening when the club hosts formal interviews with players from 6 to 9 p.m. The team can conduct up to 60 15-minute interviews where they meet players to learn more about them, quiz them on their football IQ and investigate potential red flags.
"I think we watch so much tape, you kind of know what the player is off tape," Veach said. "But that’s not always the metric of success. But who they are is a big deal and how they’re wired and what their makeup is. And at the end of the day, what’s going to make them great or not."
The interviews allow Veach to measure how passionate players are about the game and how they treat others.
"Really that process at night and trying to dig into who they are and how they're wired is really the most important thing we get out of this," he said.
Chiefs targeting secondary
With Steven Nelson a pending free agent, Veach has cornerback high on his priority list during the offseason.
"We're certainly going to be aggressive in that area," Veach said.
The Chiefs also might address their need at safety by scanning the draft class for cornerbacks.
"I think you're starting to see a lot of trend of corners projecting them to safeties," Veach said. "We've had a lot of discussions with a handful of players in this class about their skillset at corner and can you transition to safety."
Veach lives by the popular adage that you can never have enough cover guys, and with offenses getting more creative identifying mismatches, the need for cover safeties increases.
"I certainly think you're starting to see that trend of guys projecting corners to safeties and getting as many cover guys on the field as possible," Veach said.
Steve Spagnulo's protypical defender
Veach says there is no mystery to the kind of defensive players that new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo craves — "big and long and athletic," Veach said.
"Guys that play with a high motor, guys that are smart, passionate, love the game," he added.
Veach knows Spagnuolo well from their time together in Philadelphia, and he believes the coordinator won't be wedded to a single defensive style or approach and will be willing to mix up what he does.
"I think the one great thing about Steve is he's going to put players into position to make plays and I don't think he's going to be pigeon-holed into any one idea or concept," Veach said.
But when it comes to procuring players, his tastes run classic and basic.
"I certainly think that Steve will put probably a little bit more of an emphasis on size and length for sure," Veach said.
Running back job Damien Williams' to lose
Damien Williams started the 2018 season buried on the depth chart behind Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware, but he finished the campaign with the best five-game stretch of his career, earning a new contract and winning the starting job in the Chiefs backfield.
"He just needed an opportunity, and when the opportunity presented itself he kind of took it and ran with it, and that's why we extended him," Veach said.
With Hunt gone and Ware a free agent, the Chiefs might find themselves in the market for a young running back in the draft. Veach spoke highly of several backs, including Georgia's Elijah Holyfield.
"I think you guys know that are in the KC area, I kind of have a thing for 220-pound backs that can run and catch and block, and he fits that bill so he's certainly an intriguing player," Veach said.
But right now, Williams has the hold on the team's starting running back job.
"I would certainly say going into this offseason, going into the '19 season, it's Damien's job to lose," Veach said.
Scouting the AAF
The Alliance of American Football has emerged as a surprising hit, and Veach considers himself a fan of the league.
"I think it's a cool opportunity for us to see those guys in a competitive environment and kind of see where they are and how they've developed," Veach said.
The players in the AAF aren't new to Veach and his scouting staff. The league is full of players the team scouted in college, evaluated at the combine and in some cases spent time with the Chiefs in the offseason and training camp.
"There's certainly a handful of those guys that we have liked, and maybe for one reason or another, roster depth or not having enough space, we weren't able to acquire those guys," Veach explained. "So there's a lot of players out there, and there's probably a handful of those guys that had they not been with an AAF team, they might be on our 90 already."
The Chiefs are obtaining game film from the AAF for review each week and plan to attack the league the same way they scour the Canadian Football League and smaller colleges.
"We'll have guys dedicated to that and continue to look in every way possible to find players and keep adding talent to our team," Veach said.
New opportunities for Speaks & Kpassagnon
Two players who stand to have much to gain from Spagnuolo's preferred 4-3 scheme are Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon. While Speaks played 40 percent of the team's defensive snaps, Kpassagnon saw himself on the sidelines for much of the season, taking part in only 115 plays last season.
But Veach sees an opportunity for Kpassagnon to reestablish himself in his third season working with new defensive line coach Brendan Daly.
"I think him and Breeland are more of your traditional 4-3 D-ends, and I think that we’re excited for Steve and Brendan Daly to get their hands on Tanoh and Breeland and see what they can do," Veach said.
The Chiefs drafted Kpassagnon with the intention of transition him from a defensive end with his hand on the ground to a standup edge rushing linebacker. Now the team plans to kick him back inside on the line.
"But we’re excited about him and the scheme change," Veach said. "I think it’ll play into the skill set."
Rookie impresses Spagnuolo & company
Spagnuolo and his new defensive staff have wrapped up their initial review of the team's 2018 game tape, and the first player who stood out might surprise — rookie cornerback Charvarius Ward.
"I know it's been early on with this process with our new defensive staff, but he's one of the first guys they mentioned," Veach said, "so that was certainly again encouraging, and we're excited for him."
Ward didn't arrive in Kansas City until after a week before the season started, but he quickly worked his way onto special teams and served as the team's nickel back closing out the season. Veach says offensive coordinators may find tendencies and weakness to exploit once Ward puts more work on tape, but he believes the cornerback possesses a unique skill set.
"He's big, he's long, he's fast, he's athletic, he's tough," Veach said. "It was really encouraging to see him come in early on and contribute on special teams. That's a very good indicator with these young guys that maybe don't start right away. Their ability to come in right away and make a presence on special teams is typically a good indicator, but we're excited about the possibility with him."