Brett Veach killed it.
Well - we think Veach killed it.
The above dichotomy is the brass tacks of evaluating a draft class before the rookies have played a down. Nothing is guaranteed - even how the first overall pick plays.
There is something that can be evaluated directly after the draft, however, and that is the process that a team used. For the first time under Veach, the Kansas City Chiefs’ draft process was nearly spotless.
How does one define “process”? That question is the eternal struggle for fans and football media personalities alike around this time every year. In the past, teams with seemingly poor processes and “bad” drafts have been surprised when those drafts turned into great players. The 2012 Seattle Seahawks are one of the most famous examples of a “bad” draft that turned out to be anything but that. That draft class contained Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, and Bruce Irvin and earned middling grades from the draft community.
The above postulation about process is a complicated way to say that examining a team’s process after a draft is using incomplete information, but is still useful. Even without having the knowledge of the best general managers in the league, it is easy to say that the Chicago Bears’ draft process this year was worse than the Baltimore Ravens’ process. Generally speaking, chasing outliers like 25-year-old rookie wide receivers in the third round is probably not a good idea.
When looking through this process-based lens, it's relatively easy to conclude that Veach nailed this draft.
The truth of the matter is many fanbases feel like their favorite team’s front offices were logical and calculated in the draft every year. So why am I sitting here saying that Veach had a great process this year? The simple fact is that Veach’s process was improved in every way compared to those of years past.
The first baseline improvement was selecting more players, period. The Chiefs have never had a lot of draft picks going into drafts so when Veach entered the 2022 NFL Draft with 12 draft picks, many assumed he would trade up many times and pair down his picks closer to the six draft picks he has selected in the past four drafts.
I, personally, did not love the idea of this pre-draft and wrote about why the Chiefs should be more precise when they traded up. While Veach did trade up twice, he also traded back once and still ended up taking ten players. He did not lose one of his top four picks in a trade, keeping premium selections in the meat of the draft. He still took ten good dart throws in a draft class described as “deep” by many. That is an example of good process when even NFL general managers have described the draft as a “crapshoot."
The players Veach bet on also make logical sense.
The 2022 draft was an oddity in recent history due to the age of many of the prospects. COVID-19 caused many seniors in college football to return for a fifth year due to having no playing time during their senior seasons. This means that there were a lot of age-22 and over players in this draft.
Of the five players the Chiefs took on Day One and Day Two of the draft, only one player (Bryan Cook, 22.5 years old) is over 22 years old right now. George Karlaftis, in particular, just turned 21 years old.
Not only are the new Chiefs rookies young, but they are also athletic. On ras.football, a site that generates height, weight and athleticism scores for all prospects in the draft, seven of the Chiefs' draftees graded out with elite athletic profiles. Only Cook (did not test), Skyy Moore and Darian Kinnard were lower than elite, and their athletic profiles were still acceptable.
This was the problem with draft picks Veach has taken in past drafts — picks like Breeland Speaks. Speaks was a bad athlete for the edge position in the modern NFL. The “modern NFL” part is key, as RAS numbers are compared to every prospect coming out of college since 1987. Modern athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger.
If a player is not at least a 50th percentile athlete, their profile for the modern NFL is lacking. Speaks was a 48th percentile athlete coming out of college. Being athletic is not a prerequisite to being an NFL player, but it sure makes it easier to be one.
It was also refreshing to see Veach target positions that are valuable in the modern NFL. The Chiefs' first three draft picks were cornerback, edge rusher, and wide receiver. There have been times in the past drafts under Veach where even with thin position groups at key positions, he went elsewhere. Look no further than the luxury pick of Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The best players at the most important positions are almost always selected higher. If a team wants a chance to draft one of these prospects, they have to select them early and often.
These philosophies seem simple: draft young, athletic players at valuable positions. However, we still see teams fail to do this over and over. Veach himself has not followed these principles. He seems to be improving, however, and that is a great sign.
That improvement in processing and executing a whole draft with those principles for the Chiefs' 2022 draft class is encouraging. Veach has slowly but surely improved his process in the draft as the Chiefs' general manager since the trainwreck that was 2018. That all culminated in a draft this year that hardcore Chiefs fans and national draft media alike love.
There is no guarantee that the Chiefs' rookies in this class become great players, but it is hard to knock the process that Veach used in this draft class. If Moore never develops into a good wide receiver, then it is hard to turn around and criticize Veach for the draft pick. Sometimes, players simply do not work out. That is the difference between this draft and past Veach draft classes. Past ones all had easy-to-spot question marks that even a regular, tuned-in person could question. This draft class is just so hard to nitpick.
The feeling of seeing Veach execute a great plan in the 2022 NFL Draft is what makes this Chiefs class stand out. Hopefully, that means great players are born from that great plan.