The Kansas City Chiefs are playing a dangerous game.
With no NFL-proven left tackles on the roster heading into the NFL Draft, the Chiefs seem to be backing themselves into a corner that forces them to pick a tackle with the 31st overall pick. With the Chiefs' current projected starter at left tackle being either Martinas Rankin or the loser of the Lucas Niang vs. Mike Remmers battle on the right side, it is hard not to think the Chiefs should secure a top tackle prospect at all costs.
That desperation might lend credence to the argument that the Chiefs should not take an offensive tackle with the 31st overall pick.
It is possible that the Chiefs will not love the value of the offensive tackles that will be left at the 31st overall pick. While this offensive tackle class is very good, at the 31st overall pick there might be problems with arm length, raw technique, or a litany of other issues. If the Chiefs truly believe only the top four offensive tackles are surefire starters day-one in this class, why reach on an offensive tackle at 31 and lose out on a chance at a better player?
This is the conundrum the Chiefs have found themselves in due to the uncertainty at left tackle for 2021 and beyond.
While picking the best player available is not always fun for NFL fans because that player might have a diminished role in their first year, it is a good idea for roster-building. Roster turnover in the NFL is severe.
For example, the Chiefs only have 13 players under contract in 2023. By that point, the Chiefs will have needs at multiple positions, maybe even some that are considered a strength right now. Any rookie drafted in the 2021 draft would still have two years left on their rookie deal going into the 2023 season.
In reaching for an offensive tackle, it is possible the Chiefs are passing on players they have much higher on their board. This concept will vary in practical use based on the Chiefs' board, but if the highest offensive tackle left on their board at the 31st overall pick is the 20th-best player on the board at the time, the Chiefs will lose a lot of value by selecting that tackle. Reaching for these players over and over is how teams build rosters with depleted talent, which happened to the New England Patriots last year.
The reality of the Chiefs’ situation is that their big board will be driving what happens. Only a select few will know what their board looks like. If there are multiple offensive tackles highly rated on their big board at 31, then it is a great marriage of value and need. In that situation, the Chiefs should definitely take that offensive tackle.
If there is not a tackle high on their big board, then they should look elsewhere.
The Chiefs are not a team that only has a hole at left tackle. The roster, as a whole, needs a young talent injection before the current young talent on the Chiefs runs out. The Chiefs cannot afford to keep reaching and reaching. If a player like safety Trevon Moehrig is available at 31 and the Chiefs have him rated as a top-20 player, take Moehrig. Sure, you signed Daniel Sorensen, so what? He is a free agent in 2022, and so is Tyrann Mathieu. What if the team is not able to come to a resolution with Mathieu? Now you have your insurance in Moehrig for the worst-case scenario and an incredibly strong top three at safety. The Chiefs are shielded from the NFL roster turnover at safety in this scenario.
The Chiefs have needs rivaling offensive tackle this year as well. The Chiefs’ roster is not one player away from being deep with talent at every position. Wide receiver and edge defender are both still large needs as the current starters slated for those positions are Demarcus Robinson and Taco Charlton. These two players are good depth players but not players you should expect to be starters. Would it be smart to pick a tackle buried in your big board over a player like Rashod Bateman if he fell to 31?
While this class did end up a bit disappointing for tackles likely to be selected around the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick, the second-round depth at offensive tackle is staggering. Instead of the 31st pick being the place to pick the Chiefs’ next offensive tackle, doing so at the 63rd overall pick can make sense as well due to the draft class. On top of the fact that there might be a sizeable step down from the top four tackles to the rest of the class (the four being Rashawn Slater, Penei Sewell, Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins), the rest of the class might not even be startable on day one.
If the Chiefs are forced to sign Russell Okung or Alejandro Villanueva after the draft for any offensive tackle they take, targeting the developmental tackle the team loves later than the 31st overall pick makes more sense.
As said earlier, the entire scenario of the Chiefs not taking an offensive tackle at the 31st overall pick is completely based on their big board. The scenario where I personally would not take an offensive tackle is a realistic scenario on draft night. Many of the tackles the Chiefs were likely to consider at the 31st overall pick measured out with short arms, as relatively poor athletes, or started tumbling down boards over the course of the pre-draft process. Now, the possibility the Chiefs will not love an offensive tackle at the 31st pick is a real (and frightening) possibility.
Only time will tell what their internal strategy is when it comes to protecting the blindside of Patrick Mahomes, but if the value isn't there at 31, they should start their draft somewhere else.