COLUMN: A recap of the Chiefs’ draft

By: Chris Mitchell

The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, and the Kansas City Chiefs took the opportunity to bolster their roster with some day one starters and some players that could be a major factor in the team’s future. 

DAY ONE: Picks 21 (via trade with NE) and 30

The first day of the NFL Draft this year was all about defense for the Chiefs, much to the surprise of fans expecting them to reload at wide receiver after the team traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. What they ended up with instead were two Day One starter caliber players in defensive back Trent McDuffie out of Washington and defensive end George Karlaftis out of Purdue. 

McDuffie’s size might raise a couple of concerns (height and wingspan are a little bit below what GM Brett Veach usually pounces on), but his ball tracking skills, his willingness to get physical with pass-catchers, and his experience in press coverage (the most snaps out of any corner in the draft not named Sauce Gardner according to Pro Football Focus) makes him a player that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo gravitates towards like a moth to a light and has a very good chance of being a starting corner Week 1.

Karlaftis is an interesting case here and, again, is one of those players that Spags wants out on the edge. He may not have elite bending or bursting ability like you might see in an edge that could average double digit sacks per season, but what he lacks in those traits he makes up for in being a big fella with strong hands, incredibly sound rushing and tackling technique and a motor that would make the Energizer Bunny blush. He probably won’t be a home run hitter on the flip side of Frank Clark, but he will not make things easy for the opposing offensive line or the quarterback, which is something the Chiefs have desperately needed the past couple of years.

DAY TWO: Picks 54 (trade with NE), 62 and 103

Day 2 of the NFL Draft for the Chiefs was spent filling in the rest of the gaps on the roster with guys who have a little bit more to prove but nonetheless might be taking some decent snaps by the time the regular season kicks off this Fall. Rounds 2 and 3 pretty much checked off all the other major needs for the Chiefs. Need another wide receiver? Boom! Skyy Moore out of Western Michigan. Need another safety in the rotation to complement Justin Reid and compete with Juan Thornhill? Bam! Go get Cincinnati Bearcat Bryan Cook. Want another linebacker that specializes in laying the wood? Can I interest you in one Wisconsin Badger linebacker Leo Chenal?

The standout here is Moore, a wideout out of Western Michigan that you might remember from that time last season the Broncos came to Heinz Field and put on a stunning 44-41 upset of the Pittsburgh Panthers (Moore had 124 receiving yards and one touchdown in that game). What he lacks in blinding speed or home run YAC potential he makes up for with his ability to get down and dirty to come up with catches and shed the first tackler. He’s got some big paws and isn’t afraid to use ’em, he’s crafty off the line of scrimmage and he’s good at leveraging his strength and quickness against press coverage. His fundamentals in areas like blocking could use some fine tuning and he could use some help in getting to the point where he’s consistently getting good separation vs. pro corners, but if that pans out he could be a staple in the Chiefs passing offense for years to come, both inside and out.

Cook harkens back to the type of secondary player that Brett Veach tends to favor: He’s 6’2 with a long wingspan and was, for all intents and purposes, a tackling machine last year for the Bearcats. The First Team All-AAC safety in 2022 racked up 96 tackles thanks to his combination speed, physicality and solid tackling fundamentals. He hits hard and plays hard, and he might be KC’s free safety of the future if he and the coaching staff play their cards right.

Chenal’s coverage skills aren’t particularly stellar, but what he lacks in that department he makes up for in bringing the boom on every down like an angry heat-seeking missile. Whether it be in the running game or as part of a blitz package, he lays the wood. He’s got the tools to be an exceptional special teams contributor right out of the gate, with the upside of being a competent SAM linebacker to round out the team’s young, talented and low-key kinda scary linebacker corps.

DAY THREE (EVERY OTHER PICK):

The catch-all for pretty much every other round in the NFL Draft, here’s where you get your players that might see the field as special teams contributors or depth pieces on the roster diving into the practice squad. Here’s a few of those names to keep an eye on as we get closer to the start of the 2022 NFL season.

Kentucky lineman Darian Kinnard was KC’s sole fifth round selection at pick 145, and his profile boasts a legitimate chance to battle for a starting spot on the offensive line in due time. He spent most of his time with the Wildcats as a right tackle, but has enough flexibility to see some guard play if need be (a staple in nearly every lineman that plays for an Andy Reid coached team). He’s got the size and he’s got the power to go toe-to-toe with the premiere defensive threats in the SEC, many of whom either were already drafted or will get the call when they’re eligible. His technique could use some fine tuning, but with the stable of linemen already with the Chiefs, he should have ample time to work with Andy Heck and compete with Lucas Niang for that starting right tackle job.

With the departure of Charvarius Ward, the Chiefs needed to get on the ball to find their new outside corner of the future. In steps Fayetteville State cornerback Joshua Williams. He’s got the size, speed and physicality to bang with some of the talent he’ll be playing against on Sundays, but the biggest question mark around Williams is if he can actually hang with the big dogs. We’ve seen how he can play against Division II talent, but the NFL is a much different beast. So it goes with the transition from college to the pros no matter what level you play at, but don’t be shocked if Williams needs more time to hone his technique and learn from the rest of the secondary room before he’s ready to be a de-facto starting corner or something along those lines. 

Jaylen Watson out of Washington State also presents some tantalizing upside. As KC’s first pick out of the seventh round, he’s definitely got the size you’d want as an outside corner like his other peers in his draft class, and his experience in playing press coverage makes him stand out among other secondary pieces available at that point in the draft. You can never have too much depth at the cornerback spot, and Watson fills the role of a depth piece with a decent chance to see some real playing time if he plays his cards right.

Not to be outdone by the other sides of the ball, the Chiefs special teams unit were also gifted with some players who have some legit chances of being early contributors. Rutgers running back Isiah Pacheco plays with the type of “all gas, no brakes” approach that could lend well to seeing some burn as a returner. With Byron Pringle taking his talents to the Bears, the Chiefs could use someone who will just go when given the green light, and if he can work on his ability to make defenders miss when set up, he might be more than a potential return specialist. Last but not least, the Chiefs snagged Marshall safety Nazeeh Johnson with their last pick in the draft. He’s a big fella that ran a 4.35 40 meter in workouts, so one can imagine that there’s at least some way for a player with his kind of measurables to produce for the Chiefs. His path to some genuine defensive snaps may be longer, but he could see some serious time as a special teamer.

All in all, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to plug most of the gaps in their roster with players who have some genuine Day One upside on both sides of the ball, while also bolstering a secondary room that’s been hurting for talent as the team tries to avoid more heart attacks like the AFC Divisional Round game against the Bills this past season. Brett Veach is slowly but surely becoming one of the more savvy GMs in the league, and if this 2022 draft class lives up to their potential, it could set the Chiefs up for some serious long-term success.