We are just less than six weeks away from the 2022 NFL Draft. Every year, the NFL Draft sees the first round proceed with a blue-chip prospect many anticipated coming off the board sooner than later, but as the picks roll in, the player sits in the green room or at home with his family members and your agent, an uncomfortable grin on their face as the clock rolls on. What some team views as not an important team need becomes a great value for another team. Here at Chiefs Focus, our gurus, Caleb, Charles aka Chuck and myself are putting together our own version of the draft board and we will get that together. In the meantime, I have been on my research searching for what possibilities that Chiefs general manager, Brett Veach could be going for in the draft.
Recently this past week, The Kansas City Chiefs received extra two compensatory picks in April’s draft. One as the result of executive Ryan Poles being hired as the Chicago Bears GM and another as a result of Damien Wilson exceeding expectations with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That could give Veach the option to move up in the draft with the picks he has in his arsenal. If he does? Will it be for a future WR2 with knowing we have Mecole Hardman and now Juju Smith-Schuster (about time) on one year deals? Maybe but I believe after listening to Veach’s press conference after the AFC Championship loss, I think he knows our defense was one of the more talked-about stories last season. Even though the Chiefs had one of the best defensive units in the second half of the season, things quickly fell apart once the playoffs arrived. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs trade up from the No. 30 pick at the 2022 NFL Draft to get a defender who can step in right away.
Here are the names if they move up the board on draft night who could make an instant impact for the Chiefs in the future.
Chiefs have a big hole at left cornerback. Charvarius Ward has a new home. The now-former Chiefs cornerback is heading to the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs will need to add cornerbacks to a room that is now light in depth — L’Jarius Sneed, DeAndre Baker and Rashad Fenton are the only cornerbacks with significant 2021 snaps under contract. One of those players that the Chiefs could consider is trading up for LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley is arguably the best man-coverage cornerback in the cornerback class, and that will be coveted by almost every team in the NFL. Stingley played in just 10 games over the last two years, offering flashes of his upside rather than sustained play. Regardless of season, he’s long, loose and extremely athletic. Steve Spagnuolo and the Chiefs defense are no different, as a strong man-cover corner could open up some blitz packages and allow the defense to play more single-high safety coverages. Stingley’s effort level — particularly in run support and defending screens — will definitely be a cause for concern for Spagnuolo, but the structure and accountability within the locker room should help him to return closer to his 2019-20 levels. He gives me Stephon Gilmore vibes.
The last time the Chiefs draft a corner in the first round from Washington, they drafted my guy Marcus Peters. I have his jersey at home. The next in line might be McDuffie and I won’t blame Veach for taking a gamble on him. He’s a beast on tape. 3-year starter whose average size is overshadowed by skillful ruggedness, allowing him to contest throws from a variety of coverages. McDuffie is a dream candidate for every team in the NFL. He has the athleticism, footwork, ball skills, and intelligence to be a high-end starter from his first day in the league. His ceiling is sky high and should result in a true lockdown corner within his rookie contract. His overall profile and versatility in zone and man coverage would be a perfect fit in Spagnuolo’s scheme. He would remind him of Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins.
There a vacancy is left within the Chiefs’ starting linebacker rotation, following the release of Anthony Hitchens. Nick Bolton and Willie Gay are both will be the best young linebacker duo in the league. If the Chiefs were to select a linebacker, it has to be someone who is a coverage-based player who offers some of the transformative athletic versatility that teams search for in this modern style of today’s NFL. Georgia’s Nakobe Dean is widely considered among the top linebackers in this draft, if not the best. He didn’t work out at the NFL combine, so much of the buzz around the pro day was focused on Dean’s performance. However, this is one of the leaders from the National Championship Bulldog team. Dean has impressive instincts, football intelligence and is extremely fast, though we still are not sure how fast. Dean’s biggest knock throughout the NFL draft process will be his lack of size, but does that matter? Dean is 6-foot, 225-pounds. But is built to stop playmakers in space. Dean’s speed and coverage ability could allow him to play like a box safety similar to how the Chiefs have used Daniel Sorensen and several other NFL players.
Dean is an ideal fit as a Steve Spagnuolo WILL linebacker. His athletic profile and ability as a pursuit linebacker would fit well on early downs to help contain speed backs while he develops his gap discipline. Dean would be a perfect fit in coverage in sub packages, while still being able to trust him as a run defender. If Dean is available for the Chiefs, Spagnuolo might be pounding the table to get a true three-down linebacker.
The 2022 defensive end class is deep, and Purdue’s George Karlaftis is that guy that could be a game-changer for our defense. This move would be like when the Chiefs drafted Dee Ford when we had Justin Houston and Tamba Hali but this time it would be worth it. The highly touted-Edge rusher has good power and a relentless motor to keep the heat on offensive counterparts throughout the game. Karlaftis’ best production came in 2019, as he missed half of Purdue’s 2020 season and saw teams focus more energy toward stopping him in 2021.
His size, length and explosion allow him to move up and down the line and affect the run and pass. As an edge setter, he does a good job punching and gaining extension to keep contain and break off blocks to chase. He has the flexibility and explosion to shoot into the backfield and produces a lot behind the line of scrimmage. Just like the way Matt Judon was developed by Joe Cullen.
The Chiefs invest heavily in the long, strong and stout defensive ends that play all over the line. If the Chiefs draft him, Karlaftis likely starts his career as a sub-package rusher utilizing his athleticism and letting him perfect one aspect at a time, but the ultimate ceiling is high. Karlaftis would fit right into that mold, and they can afford to develop his skill set as a rookie and reach that ceiling.
Utah star linebacker Devin Lloyd took a major step toward his pro career when he participated in the NFL scouting combine last week. There’s the question if Lloyd or Georgia’s Nakobe Dean is the top inside linebacker in this year’s draft?
Highly productive and highly physical, Lloyd could create interesting discussions in draft rooms as teams work through his process versus production. He is a strong tackler both inside and outside his frame. Lloyd has an extremely high motor and doesn’t take plays off. He plays behind the line of scrimmage and gets downhill well on stretch runs to come up with the tackle for loss. Lloyd has experience at MIKE and WILL linebacker.
Lloyd is a higher fit than a lot of linebackers in the class due to his size, versatility and above-average athleticism. He will need some refinement in his game particularly when reading his keys and in his coverage drops but he fits the Steve Spagnuolo type of WILL linebackers. If the Chiefs can unlock the player Lloyd was at Utah on a regular basis, he’ll be a downright steal at his draft position and Lloyd, Bolton and Gay on paper looks right scary to opposing offenses who face us.