Handicapping the Chiefs 2017 draft by position

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs have 10 selections to spend in the upcoming NFL draft, and that currency could go a long toward providing the missing element to help the team sustain a deep playoff run in 2017.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson outraces a South Carolina defender during his team's victory on Nov. 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy Clemson University Athletics, ClemsonTigers.com)
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson outraces a South Carolina defender during his team’s 37-32 victory on Nov. 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy Clemson University Athletics, ClemsonTigers.com)

But how likely are the Chiefs to target different positions? Here’s a breakdown of how possibility the Chiefs target each group during this weekend’s draft:

The Chiefs appear destined to select a quarterback during the draft with only the timing up for debate. Do the Chiefs use their stockpile of picks to move up in the first round, or do they hope the top tier QB of their choice falls to No. 27?

Perhaps the Chiefs use a second-round pick on a less praised quarterback, or instead uses a late-round developmental project. All options are on the table.

The 2017 draft is deep at running back, and an impact player in the backfield could spark the Chiefs offense. The team’s rushing attacked ranked in the middle of the pack last season. Even when the team steamrolled for a season-high 238 yards against Denver in week 15, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West accounted for 97 yards on 27 rushes while wide receiver Tyreek hill and quarterback Alex Smith totaled 141 yards on 10 carries. The Chiefs can use depth at RB, but also may be in the market for a workhorse to carry the load.

Fullback Anthony Sherman signed a restructured contract last month to reduce his cap hit for the 2017 season. Cutting Sherman, still one of the top fullbacks in the league, would actually harm the team’s available cap space. Sherman stands eligible for free agency after the season, however, and the Chiefs may be in the market for a fullback among undrafted free agents for training camp.

Wide receiver is another position where teams cannot stockpile enough talent, but the Chiefs appear deep at the position for now. The team returns six receivers from last year’s team along with prospect Seantavius Jones. The Chiefs certainly want more receivers for training camp, and the team has shown interest in several receivers in the draft. Outside of a player with immediate impact ability, it’s hard to find an available roster spot in this group.

The Chiefs are top heavy at tight end, with All-Pro Travis Kelce and three other returning tight ends. The team also added free agent Gavin Escobar to the mix. The team doesn’t necessarily need a tight end, but the team might be in the market for an upgrade, particularly for a blocking tight end.

The Chiefs remain very comfortable with their top six offensive linemen. Four of the teams starters are locked up long-term, including last year’s fouth-round pick Parker Ehinger who returns from a knee injury. The Chiefs also return swing tackle Jah Reid, and have a large group of veteran backups on the roster as well. Offensive line doesn’t appear to be an immediate or long-term need, but Dorsey has a history of finding overlooked gems late in the draft along the offensive line.

The release of veteran Jaye Howard increases the likelihood the Chiefs target the defensive line during the draft. The Chiefs do not lack for bodies along the line — the team currently carries eight defensive lineman. But outside rising second-year player Chris Jones and veteran free agent Bennie Logan, the group has plenty of question marks. The Chiefs appear particularly light at depth at defensive tackle behind Logan.

General manager John Dorsey carries a reputation for drafting for future needs, and perhaps no longterm outlook on the roster remains more cloudy than who will rush the passer in 2018. The team has yet to make a decision on Dee Ford’s option year for next season at an approximate cost of $10 million. Tamba Hali remains under contract, but will be 34 next season with a cap hit of just $1.583 million to release. Justin Houston also has a potential contract out if the team must cut costs. The Chiefs certainly need depth at edge rusher, and Dorsey  drafted Ford in 2014 when Houston’s future with the team hung in the balance.

Inside linebacker poses another opportunity for drafting for future need while providing insurance for the coming season. Derrick Johnson turns 35 this season and is recovering from his second ruptured Achilles injury. Ramik Wilson performed ably in Johnson’s absence, but Justin-March-Lillard missed much of the season with an injury. There are several high-impact inside linebackers who could go in the first and second rounds without as much value in the later rounds.

Dorsey ranks this year’s cornerback class as the deepest in 10 years. The Chiefs experience with injuries a year ago illustrated that you can never have to many guys that can cover. The team seems a lock to go cornerback at some point in the draft, and the depth of this year’s class creates value in the middle to late rounds when the Chiefs picks are bountiful.

Safety may be among the team’s deepest positions with veterans Eric Berry, Ron Parker and Daniel Sorensen returning. The team also carries last year’s fourth-round pick Eric Murray. Safety doesn’t appear to be a significant position of need for 2017 or beyond.

The Chiefs recently re-signed the reliable Cairo Santos for the 2017 season. His cap hit of $1.797 million is reasonable for his production. Taking a chance on a rookie kicker poses risks for a team with lofty playoff ambitions.

Dustin Colquitt is in the final season of a five-year contract that makes him the highest-paid punter in the league. He carries a cap hit of $4.9 million, but saves $4.1 million if released. Colquitt also remains one of the top punters in the league and is a reliable kick holder as well. Replacing Colquitt this season is possible but not likely.


Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.