While the Kansas City Chiefs didn't have a first-round draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after trading it away for former Baltimore Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr., their divisional rivals did, bringing three intriguing new prospects into the AFC West. Here are my way-too-early thoughts on all three selections and how they impact the Chiefs going forward.
Pick 9: Denver Broncos select Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, Alabama
Look, this isn't Patrick Surtain II's fault. The son of former Chiefs cornerback Patrick Surtain, Surtain II is an electric player who will probably pick off Patrick Mahomes sometime in the near future. He's a super-talented player and a reasonable top-10 pick. And still, this pick is a massive blunder for Denver.
With their choice of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones both still on the board at No. 9, they decided to take a corner. With Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater competing for the starting quarterback job, the Broncos remain a distant third- or fourth-best in the AFC West, and they'll stay there until they find a franchise quarterback.
Pick 13: Los Angeles Chargers select Rashawn Slater, Offensive Tackle, Northwestern
I'm not going to go down the path of "No, really, this will be the year the Chargers knock off the Chiefs," but this pick is a slam-dunk for LA. They got their quarterback last year when they took a risk for Justin Herbert, and now he has Rashawn Slater, who is, in my opinion, the second-best tackle prospect in the 2021 draft class protecting his blindside. It's a perfect marriage and a clear step to take in order to maximize Herbert as he continues to grow.
Pick 17: Las Vegas Raiders select Alex Leatherwood, Offensive Lineman, Alabama
The Raiders attempted to bolster their evolving offensive line by taking Alex Leatherwood with the No. 17 overall pick, a pretty substantial reach on most draft boards. It remains to be seen if Leatherwood can play tackle in the NFL or if he'll move in to guard, and either way, I would have preferred Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw or Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins with this pick for Vegas. With Jenkins still on the board entering Day 2, the Raiders could have potentially landed Leatherwood with their next pick, at No. 48 overall, and gone defensive at 17, having their choice of the draft's top edge rusher or former Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley.
What do these picks mean for the Chiefs?
Unless the Broncos or Raiders really do land Aaron Rodgers, there's nothing they can do to become legitimate threats in the AFC West in one draft class. The Chargers, however, bear watching. There's a massive difference between "AFC West favorite" and "could be tough to beat twice every year," but the Chargers are firmly making their way to the second camp. From the Chiefs' perspective, I'd hope LA doesn't add another wide receiver to pair with Keenan Allen and as an eventual Mike Williams replacement with their second-round pick. They still have plenty of holes on defense and could add even more protection for Herbert on the o-line, but after years of being a bit of a mirage, the Chargers really do seem to be building a quality roster.