No general manager is perfect. They all have swings and misses on their draft resumes. For the Kansas City Chiefs’ Brett Veach, someone like Breeland Speaks would headline that category. On the other hand, executives also (hopefully) have picks to hang their hats on. For Veach, guys like Juan Thornhill, Mecole Hardman and Rashad Fenton fit the bill. What separates great drafters from good ones, though, is consistency in finding value and team fit.
In the first round, Veach went out and got LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire to turn one of the league’s best offenses into a flat-out juggernaut. The fit couldn’t have been much better, as even quarterback Patrick Mahomes called for the pick to be made. As day two of the draft approached, I predicted that cornerback and linebacker would be areas of emphasis. Although I went one-for-two on that, the Chiefs still made two terrific picks.
At 63 overall, Kansas City selected Mississippi State’s Willie Gay Jr. A player who had off-the-field issues in college, Gay should benefit from playing under head coach Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Having influences like Tyrann Mathieu on defense will also help a ton. Gay is uber-athletic and plays with a chip on his shoulder, drawing comparisons to Chiefs legend Derrick Johnson. He gives the defense an injection of talent that’s been sorely missed at the linebacker position.
As the board began to take shape and we got closer to pick No. 96, Twitter was pounding the table for the Chiefs to take Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall. He projects to be a great fit in Spagnuolo’s system and has talent well above his draft slot. Rather unexpectedly, Veach chose TCU offensive lineman Lucas Niang. Once everyone got over the shock suffered as a result of the team passing on Hall, they quickly realized how smart their general manager truly was.
All along, Veach has talked about creating a 2020 roster that can compete for a championship, but also building for the future. Gay could start in year one and has a sky-high ceiling. Niang didn’t allow a sack in college and figures to be an eventual replacement for either Eric Fisher or Mitchell Schwartz. In the meantime, his versatility allows him to get reps at guard until his full-time position is ready. If it weren’t for injuries, he likely would’ve been a first- or second-round pick.
There’s a common theme here. The Chiefs don’t seem to be worried about the downsides of their picks. They’re aware of them, but if they see a player they like, their eyes are set. Edwards-Helaire had a poor combine. Gay has character concerns. Niang’s 2019 tape wasn’t as good as the year prior. None of it mattered, though. Veach, Reid and the rest of the staff are confident enough in their abilities to develop these players and turn them into winners.
Championship teams have little margin for error. The Chiefs have a target on their back. If Veach continues to draft as he has, things will remain that way. Ahead of day three, look for a cornerback to join the team’s 2020 draft class. Whether it’s Hall, Louisiana Tech’s Amik Robertson or someone else, taking a defensive back would be wise. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Chiefs’ draft task force, though, it’s that it makes firm decisions and doesn’t care all too much about outside opinions.