After bolstering O-line, Chiefs target other needs

Herbie Teope
Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach watches on the sidelines before the start of their NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns.

Whatever the Chiefs had in mind on their draft board a month ago before Thursday night's first round of the 2021 NFL Draft went out the window last week.

The trade for two-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown effectively took care of that.

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach engineered a deal by sending a 2021 first-round pick, a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for Brown, a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 sixth-round pick. The transaction obviously means the Chiefs are sitting out the first round, but that's far from a worst-case scenario.

"I think if we just stick to our board, and that's why teams continually update and revise and tweak that board knowing where they can kind of attack it," Veach said during his pre-draft news conference last Friday, less than two hours before striking a deal to acquire Brown. "I think that mid-two-to-early-three area is going to be a hot zone."

Perhaps the general manager provided a hint on what was happening behind the scenes, but the Chiefs will have two picks in the second round to add to their roster, in addition to four more picks in the fourth through six rounds.

The pressing need for an offensive tackle, specifically one to protect quarterback Patrick Mahomes' blindside, no longer exists. Possessing two picks within the first 100 players, though, means the Chiefs can still land a talented player at other position groups — such as wide receiver, defensive end and/or linebacker — capable of contributing immediately.

And just how good is that pocket in the second round, given the fact that some draft prospects elected to return to school?

Apparently strong enough for Veach to later double down on the talent level expected to be available.

"I think that early-to-mid-three, two, three area is really the hot zone," he emphasized. "There is more of a fall off this year just because the numbers are down."

Also, likely down is the quantity of players that the Chiefs are considering in the looming overall selection process. In a normal year, most team general managers prefer to have between 180 to 220 prospects on their draft boards. But with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the pre-draft process in 2020, Veach admitted last year his draft board was slightly decreased from the norm.

This year might not be different, especially when considering the Chiefs didn't have the benefit of the annual NFL Scouting Combine like in 2020.

Veach did not go into what he has now on the team's draft board. He admitted, however, that the lack of a scouting combine, inability to host pre-draft visits, including medical evaluations, and absences of private workouts on a prospect's college campus during the continued and fluid COVID-19 environment provided a roadblock.

"There are certainly some alterations that we had to work through," Veach said. "The biggest challenges are the medical. At the combine, certainly we get everything verified, and we talked before about athletes all running on the same surface and everything kind of being uniform. "This year was a little bit challenging, but I feel good about where those measurements are. Some of the bigger challenges, though, are really medial-related. The numbers were down in regard to how many guys we were able to get at the combine and get our docs' hands on."

Nevertheless, the Chiefs adapted to the obstacles and leaned on head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder to help navigate the medical evaluation process to where they are comfortable before being on the clock to select a player.

"It goes back to our faith and trust in Rick," Veach said. "And fortunately for us we have one of the best."

Barring a trade to get back in the first round, which kicks off Thursday at 7 p.m. CT, the Chiefs aren't scheduled to make a selection until Friday night, which is for the second and third rounds. The draft concludes Saturday with the fourth through seventh rounds, starting at 11 a.m. CT.

As it stands now, the Chiefs don't have a pick in the first, third and seventh rounds. Given Veach's history and aggressive nature in the draft, however, would anyone be surprised if the Chiefs aren't done on the trade front? The three-day NFL Draft will air live on the NFL Network, ABC, ESPN and ESPN Deportes.