After a promising season devolved into one of disappointment in 2017, Kansas City finds itself at a crossroads as the NFL Draft approaches. How well General Manager Brett Veach manages the team’s draft capital will go a long way towards how Andy Reid will fare in his sixth season as head coach.
Kansas City goes into the draft with six picks, but no first rounder. That was sacrificed last year so that the Chiefs could move up to select Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is being handed the team’s reins heading into 2018.
Ultimately, this draft will be partially judged on what kind of quarterback Mahomes becomes. That doesn’t mean that the Chiefs plan on coasting through the draft process. In his limited time on the job, Veach has proven that he’s not afraid to make moves. Besides trading starting signal caller Alex Smith to Washington and problematic defensive back Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams, Veach also brought in wide receiver Sammy Watkins and linebacker Anthony Hitchens in free agency.
Already there are rumors (courtesy of NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah) that Veach is interested in making a trade that would allow Kansas City to come away one of the draft’s top cornerbacks by moving up into the early second or late first round.
Barring a trade, what will Kansas City do once they finally get to join the party in Dallas on Friday night? Here’s our best guess as we wait for the Chiefs to go on the clock.
Kansas City Chiefs 7-Round Mock Draft
2nd Round, 54th Overall – Carlton Davis, Cornerback, Auburn
After allowing 365 yards a game and 21.2 points per game in 2017, there is a clear need for the Chiefs on defense. Veach himself admits as much going into the draft. With Tamba Hali released and Justin Houston nearing 30, adding a pass rusher to a unit that managed only 31 sacks last season would certainly have merit.
Still, there’s a reason that there are rumors about the team moving up for a corner. Even though the Smith trade brought back Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs defensive backfield needs reinforcements.
To be in the mix for corner prospects like Central Florida’s Mike Hughes or Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver, Veach probably would need to move up. If they stay put (and if no edge rusher inexplicably drops), Davis makes sense. Being 6′ 1″ and 206 lbs, Davis is able to press at the line. An All-SEC selection, with 11 pass breakups last season, he’s also used to a high level of competition.
He needs to refine his technique, but if that weren’t the case, he wouldn’t last until the 54th pick. With his physical skills, Chiefs’ secondary coaches Emmitt Thomas and Al Harris should be able to coach him up.
3rd Round, 78th Overall – Nathan Shepherd, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle, Fort Hays State
The Chiefs will be hoping that one of the edge prospects like Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard or Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter slip to this pick, which was acquired from Washington in the Smith trade. In this scenario, however, they get a player to pair on the defensive line with Chris Jones.
A Canadian, Shepherd has a fascinating backstory. He worked a variety of jobs after high school, including working in a factory, for two years before being offered a chance to play at tiny Fort Hays State in Kansas.
He played primarily inside in college, but he has the size (6′ 5″, 315 lbs.) and quickness to play end in Bob Sutton‘s 3-4.
Despite the Division II background, Shepherd showed well during Senior Bowl week. He’s been rising up draft boards and would probably be going significantly higher if he weren’t already 24-years-old.
3rd Round, 86th Overall – Ian Thomas, Tight End, Indiana
Kansas City has one of the best tight ends in football in Travis Kelce. However, look no further than the Chiefs’ playoff loss, when the Pro Bowler was lost to a concussion, to know that their depth at the position needs attention.
Thomas, who lost both of his parents while still in grade school, is a work in progress. He began his career in community college before making his way to Indiana. As a senior, he put up fairly modest numbers, with 25 catches for 376 yards and 5 touchdowns.
However, he showed steady improvement during his time in Bloomington, including, most importantly for Kansas City, with his blocking. He won’t be ready to contribute immediately, but the Chiefs have time to let him learn from Kelce.
Fourth Round, 122nd Overall – Mason Cole, Guard/Center, Michigan
Offensive line is never off the table when Kansas City is picking. Reid, an offensive lineman in college, has an affinity for the big uglies.
While the Chiefs’ starting offensive line is mostly set, the team did lose versatile backup Zach Fulton to Houston. Plus, there is no such thing as too much O-line depth in the NFL.
Cole started at left tackle as a true freshman for the Wolverines, and later moved inside when the team needed him to. That multi-positional experience will serve him well in the pros.
At 6′ 4″ and 305 lbs., he projects to the interior line in the NFL. Based on his college experience, though, he could probably handle any role on the line in a pinch. He could grow into a starting center, but even if his ceiling turns out to just be a swing guard/center, that’s plenty enough value in the fourth round.
Fourth Round, 124th Overall – DeShon Elliott, Safety, Texas
Elliott decided to strike while the iron was hot after a junior season in which he made All-Big 12 and first team All-American. That might have been a miscalculation since, under closer inspection, some scouts are looking at him as a one-year wonder with a significant number of flaws.
With Eric Berry returning from an Achilles tear, along with Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray still in the fold, the Chiefs are in decent shape at the moment. This isn’t the first major injury for Berry, though, and the team could use some youth in the mix everywhere in the back end of their defense.
Elliott has tight hips and struggles with lateral quickness. But, he’s also not afraid to play physical and showed himself to be a fairly heady player last season. At the very least, he should be able to contribute on special teams right away while he gets acclimated to the pro game.
Sixth Round, 196th Overall – Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Inside Linebacker, Western Kentucky
Iyiegbuniwe entered the draft after his red-shirt junior season, in which he totaled 116 tackles. Solidly built, the Bowling Green, Kentucky native has good speed, clocking a 4.6 40-yard-dash. That athletic ability should come in handy when he’s asked to cover slot receivers and tight ends in the pros.
The biggest knock on Iyiegbuniwe is that he lacks focus and can be blocked a little too easily. In the sixth round, though, those concerns aren’t the same red flags that they are earlier in the draft.
The Chiefs have Reggie Ragland and Hitchens holding down the starting inside linebacker positions, but, at this point in the draft, a team is looking for depth.
Iyiegbuniwe should be able to help on special teams right out of the gate, which is another area of need for Kansas City. Anything more would just be gravy.
7th Round, 233rd Overall – Jordan Lasley, Wide Receiver, UCLA
Based on talent, Lasley should be going in the early rounds of the draft. Of course, in the NFL, physical gifts are only one part of the equation. The UCLA product has a history of suspensions, along with a couple of minor arrests, during his time in Westwood. Worse, he has gained a reputation for not being particularly remorseful for his transgressions. NFL teams are willing to overlook mistakes, but they’re less willing to stomach a pattern of stupidity where no lessons are learned.
Then again, the Chiefs were willing to look past some significant red flags when they brought Tyreek Hill into the fold, and Reid has a history of giving second chances.
Lasley is explosive but he also dropped way, way too many passes in college (21 during the last two seasons). Couple that with his indiscretions and he’ll be waiting a long time for his name to be called in Dallas.
The Chiefs are in good shape at the skill positions, but Lasley is the type of risk that could pay off big as another weapon for Mahomes.
7th Round, 243th Overall – Siran Neal, Cornerback, Jacksonville State
Neal played both corner and safety in college which might help him make the roster as a later round pick. And, unlike Lasley, Neal is by all accounts a great guy. Unfortunately, he’s also already 24-years-old and played in the Ohio Valley conference.
A team might take a chance on Neal earlier than this, but there is also a history of similar defensive backs without a clear role lasting till the very end of the draft. Of course, there’s also a history of similar players providing a nice return on investment.
If he gets to either of the Chiefs seventh round picks, he’s worth taking a flyer on.