Chiefs 2024 NFL Draft Defensive Line and CB Preview

Should Kansas City bolster an already talented defense in the draft, who are some prospects to keep an eye on?
Nov 25, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. (51) celebrates a sack of Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) during the first half of the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium.
Nov 25, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. (51) celebrates a sack of Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) during the first half of the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium. / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

The Kansas City Chiefs boasted one of the league's best defenses last season, however, defensive success is less predictive year over year.

Even with most of the same pieces back, the Chiefs will likely look to add more talent to that side of the ball throughout 2024 NFL Draft weekend. Two positions that specifically need help are interior defensive line and cornerback.

It's hard to see the Chiefs moving up in the first round for a defensive player unless it's one of the true blue-chip prospects falling. If Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean is available at 32, Steve Spagnuolo and his staff would likely press hard to select him. DeJean is an elite athlete who is a jack of all trades. He can play boundary corner, in the slot or at safety.

That versatility is something that Kansas City lost this offseason with L'Jarius Sneed. Pairing DeJean with Trent McDuffie could lock down the secondary for years with great, young chess pieces. Two other corners who could be available at pick 32 are Kool-Aid McKinstry and Nate Wiggins. While Wiggins amazes with his 4.2 speed, McKinstry fits more of what the Chiefs want to do because of his physicality.

Breaking down the 2024 NFL Draft interior defensive line class

Jer'Zhan "Johnny" Newton could be an exciting pick to bolster the pass rush in the first round. His ability to get after the quarterback may be the best in the entire interior defensive line class. He has a lot of pass-rush moves that allow him to win and he's exceptionally technically developed. There are question marks about his run defense discipline and a foot injury that held him out of the pre-draft process, but his pairing with Chris Jones would be terrifying for opposing offenses on passing downs.

Darius Robinson is another first-round prospect that could be an option for the Chiefs. He's not a traditional interior defensive lineman, but he played there early in his career at Missouri. Kansas City can have him play on the edge on run downs, then kick him inside to rush the passer. The athletic testing may scare some off, but the comparison to Charles Omenihu is evident.

The Chiefs may target these positions on the second day of the draft after addressing the offense in round one. Rounds two and three are the sweet spot for interior defensive linemen. The Chiefs brought in Michael Hall Jr., an intriguing name, on a top 30 visit. He's one of the younger prospects in the class but is also traditionally undersized. However, Hall is a constant headache for the opposing offense. He's a disruptor as a pass rusher and run stopper with his quickness.

A few other names that are great fits on the second day of the draft are Kris Jenkins, Maason Smith and Leonard Taylor III. They can all be every-down players and have untapped potential that Joe Cullen could maximize.

As for Day Three interior linemen, the Chiefs have expressed interest in local kid Khristian Boyd who profiles similarly to Khalen Saunders. His juice off the line of scrimmage and ability to hold up against the run makes a solid foundation as a rotational piece. Fabien Lovett and Jowon Briggs visited Kansas City and can be cheap options at nose tackle for years. They don't have the upside of others, but they make a ton of sense as run-stoppers. Lastly, Gabe Hall is extremely toolsy. His long arms, size and athleticism could provide one of the higher-upside swings on the draft's final day at the position.

Breaking down the 2024 NFL Draft cornerback class

Regarding cornerbacks, the Chiefs could attack it in round two with TJ Tampa or Max Melton. Tampa is a long, physical cornerback that seamlessly fits Spagnuolo's system. He can play press-man coverage on the outside, filling the role Sneed leaves behind. His willingness to come down and tackle in the run game is also a must in this defense.

Melton is an incredible athlete who possesses smooth coverage ability. While not being the biggest of players, he plays with excellent toughness and physicality. He will also have the flexibility to move inside in certain situations. Two other names that fit the Chiefs' profile are Cam Hart and Khyree Jackson. They are more likely to be options in the third round but are long, physical, athletic cornerbacks who can go into press man and carry receivers vertically.

In his history as a general manager, Brett Veach has only taken one cornerback before the draft's third day. Therefore, it may be Saturday when the Chiefs look to attack the position and add to the room. The Florida State duo of Renardo Green and Jarrian Jones had success facing some of the top receiver prospects throughout the season. Their physical profiles present attractive options late in the draft.

Elijah Jones out of Boston College has the athletic profile that the Chiefs have sought out and had success with, like Joshua Williams. Two Day Three prospects Kansas City has met with throughout the process are Chau Smith-Wade and Qwan'Tez Swtiggers. They could be late targets that they believe fit into the scheme well.

Read More: Chiefs 2024 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Position Preview


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Zack Eisen

ZACK EISEN

Zack Eisen was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He is a current college student majoring in Business Administration. Zack writes for Arrowhead Report and is a contributor to the Roughing the Kicker Chiefs Podcast. Follow Zack on Twitter at @zackeisen21.