KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs enter this week’s NFL draft with eight selections but aside from the players the team collects this week, the real question focuses on how many of those draft picks the club actually uses over the next three days.
General manager Brett Veach has shown a willingness to make moves to get the players that he wants, and the draft appears no different. But Veach also understands the draft is all about currency, whether that is moving picks now or collecting picks down the road to spend later.
Case in point, Veach made two moves late in the preseason last year, sending future picks for linebacker Reggie Ragland and offensive lineman Cameron Erving. Moving back in this year’s draft to collect future picks fits Veach’s method of operation.
The first question right off the bat focuses on whether the Chiefs stand pat with the 22nd pick of the second round, No. 54 overall, or make a move up to late in the first round. Veach has made it clear that if a player the team covets falls, he’s willing to make a move. If an ideal fit KC’s needs, a top-15 player such as cornerback Jaire Alexander or safety Derwin James that fits a team need fell to No. 28, Veach might make a move.
More likely than not, don’t expect the Chiefs to stand pat and take eight players at the spots below. Veach appears likely to make moves, whether it’s moving up to acquire specific targets or moving back to collect collateral for the future.
But if the Chiefs did stick with the eight picks they have, here’s one way it could play out.
Round 2, pick 22, No. 54 overall: Edge rusher Josh Sweat, Florida State
Sweat may be one of the most debated players in the draft this year. The 6-foot-4, 251-pound rusher has the size and athleticism needed in an edge rusher. He blazed through the combine with a 4.53 40-yard time, topped all edge rushers in the vertical jump and ranked in the top 10 in several categories. He currently lacks the strength of Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo but makes up for it with size. The question NFL team’s have centers around his left knee. He suffered a dislocated kneecap and multiple ligament tear in high school that prompted him to wear a knee brace during his college career. But his college production – 12 1/2 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in his last 24 games – along with his combine numbers should ease concerns if his medicals check out okay. A potentially explosive player off the edge. Fort Hays State’s Nathan Shepherd or Stanford safety Justin Reid would also be good fits here if available.
Round 3, pick 14, No. 78 overall: CB Anthony Averett, Alabama
The Chiefs might need to make a move to grab Averett, but it would be well worth it to get a physical, athletic corner such as this. He’s on the edge size-wise at 5-foot-11, 183 pounds but broke up 17 passes with an interception his two years as a starter for the Crimson Tide. Played primarily right corner but should have the speed and strength to play the slot as well, which fits the Chiefs’ needs. His uncle Bryant McKinnie was a first round pick as offensive tackle for Minnesota in 2002.
Round 3, pick 22, No. 86 overall: Edge Dorance Armstrong, Kansas
Another edge so early in the draft? You can never have enough corners and edge rushers, and the Chiefs have a short-term and long-term need here. Armstrong produced for the Jayhawks with 15 sacks, 34 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles the past three seasons. His 6-foot-3, 257-pound frame fits the position well. Going with Sweat and Armstrong would allow the Chiefs to refocus Tanoh Kpassagnon along the defensive line, where his size and physical abilities might a better long-term fit.
Round 4, pick 22, No. 122 overall: TE Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
Perhaps the best combination of target size and inline blocking skills among this year’s tight end class. Didn’t blow away the competition with just 28 catches for 381 yards and six touchdowns for the Fighting Irish, but he posses the fundamentals to serve as the blocking tight end the Chiefs have needed the past couple of seasons, particularly in the red zone. He might emerge as an overachiever in the pass game, but the Chiefs don’t need him to be a star receiver if he can seal the edge when necessary.
Round 4, pick 24, No. 124 overall: S Tarvarius Moore, Southern Mississippi
Moore seems to always find himself overlooked, but he shouldn’t get missed in the draft. Moore went to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi after failing to draw interest from Division I schools. He found himself overlooked again without an invite to the combine, but he flashed at his pro day with a 4.32 40 time. Shows speed and willingness to tackle, but better in the box and against the run right now than reading pass coverage. But the athleticism is there, and with a bit more strength on his frame and mentor such as Eric Berry, could develop into a strong player.
Round 6, pick 22, No. 196 overall: OL Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
The Nigerian-born Okorafor doesn’t turn 21 until August and moved to the United States in 2010, starting high school at age 12. He’s still a project, but earned first-team All-MAC honors the past two seasons. At 6-5, 320-pounds, he might be a good fit to consider moving inside. We’ll see if Brett Veach continues the John Dorsey tradition of drafting college left tackles and putting them at other positions along the line. After all, the Chiefs already have a college left tackle project who checked in at 6-foot-5, 321-pounds at the time of his draft – starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Round 7, pick 15, No. 233 overall: WR Byron Pringle, Kansas State
Age works against Pringle – he turns 25 in November – but the 6-foot-1, 203-pound receiver plays the position with physicality and is just the kind of receiver who could thrive with Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball. Needs to prove he can hold on to the football, but his athleticism in the seventh round makes it worth taking a chance late the draft.
Round 7, pick 25, No. 243 overall: CB Michael Joseph, Dubuque
Okay, so this seems like the kind of guy that Dorsey might take for Cleveland, given that Joseph won the Cliff Harris Award award to the best small college defensive player of the year for Division III Dubuque in Iowa. But the 6-foot, 187-pound Joseph has the size and his 35 passes defensed with 15 interceptions this past three seasons prove the ball skills. He’s a feel-good story of rags-to-riches making it to the NFL, but he possesses the talent to play and thrive.