KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ahead of his first NFL draft as general manager, Brett Veach called counterparts around the league to let them know the Chiefs were “open for business.”
A year later no one needs that reminder, but Veach can't help himself from making calls and sending texts just in case.
“I think over the last few days, I spoke to two or three guys yesterday, I spoke to two or three guys today,” Veach said Thursday just one week before the start of the 2019 NFL Draft. “They’re just making sure that you’re alive and 'Hey, here’s my number, it didn’t change and let us know, we’re interested in trading up or down.'”
The Chiefs enter the 2019 draft in a different situation than they did a year ago. The Patrick Mahomes trade left the Chiefs without a first-round selection in 2018 , forcing Veach to get creative.
“That was tough not having a first-round pick and then you don’t pick until late in the second,” Veach said. “It was almost like we entered last year with a third-round pick. These names go off the board and you get a little impatient. It will be a little bit different this year when you have some picks to work with.”
Veach made three deals in while selecting six players during last year's draft. A second-round (No. 54 overall) and a third-round (No. 78) selection went to Cincinnati to move up eight spots in acquiring edge rusher Breeland Speaks. Later that night, Veach moved from No. 86 overall in the third round to No. 75 in grabbing defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, sending a fourth-round pick to Baltimore.
On the third day of the draft, Veach made one final deal, turning two seventh-round choices into a sixth-round choice for offensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie.
Yet despite the flurry of deals, the lesson Veach learned from last season was that sometimes it's OK to sit tight and wait.
“For me, it's just learning about how to be passive, I guess, more so than be aggressive, because I'm kind of wired to just go up and get a guy,” Veach said.
The Chiefs' eight selections in the draft include the No. 29 overall pick in the first round along with three other selections among the first 100 picks. The Chiefs currently hold a first-round choice and two second-round picks in both this year's and next year's draft.
That currency provides Veach options. He also spent the free agency period filling holes at safety, cornerback and linebacker so he doesn't feel cornered into make a bad trade.
“I think it’s good to have (the picks), but I think it would have to make sense for us because those are premium picks and you don’t just want to give those away,” he said. “I think just having the flexibility and the options I think is really what any GM wants, to have choices to make.”
When it comes to making a draft-day deal, every team has their own pick value chart index. The charts are designed to help teams weigh the trading of draft picks, but there's a catch – all team's have different charts.
“It’s amazing how when you call on draft day it’s like, this should be an even trade and it never works out that way,” Veach said. “The team always thinks you’re ripping them off or a team calls us, we always think they’re ripping us off. It’s amazing.
In 2017, the Chiefs sent the No. 27 overall pick along with a third-round selection and their first-round choice in 2018 to move up 17 spots in selecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Was that a bad trade?
“No, we got a pretty good deal there,” Veach laughed.
Veach's reputation and the Chiefs' strong supply of drafts picks this year and in 2020, begs the question if a draft-night trade to move up in the first round is in the offing. That's why Veach makes his calls now, to open the dialogue just in case.
“But there’s really nothing that can be anything concrete because no one knows how the first 25 picks are going to go,” Veach said. “I typically do the same thing, let us know. I think the good thing to do now, though, is to not get too far ahead of yourself, but you can talk about value.”
Once the draft begins unfolding, that's when trade talks take on new urgency and the value proposition arises. If Veach believes a player is a top-10 talent and begins tumbling down the draft, his philosophy logically dictates making a move. Conversely, if the Chiefs sit tight at 29 and don't see the difference-making player they want, trading down might become a more attractive option.
“I think once you get closer you can have more concrete and firm dialogue on what it would take to do something if we get into that position and whether that happens or not, you have to wait and see how the cards fall.”
A successful draft for Veach achieves yin-yang balance between aggression and passivity. But there's a reason conventional wisdom expects the Chiefs to move up in the first round on draft night.
“You've got to stay true to who you are, that's kind of what got you here,” Veach said. “But at the same time, you learn and you can be more tactical in certain areas.”