In what can only be described as a wild Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, Brett Veach and the Kansas City Chiefs made the right move and came away with two players who should immediately contribute.
Charles Robinson @CRob5769
Lead Writer – @ChiefsFocus
Where do you ever start after a night like last night?
In what was one of the wildest NFL Drafts in recent memory, the Kansas City Chiefs walk away after night one having selected Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie (Duff Man) with the 21st overall pick, and Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis (Karl) with the 30th pick. Nicknames and impact on the field are something we still have to iron out, but Brett Veach and Co. addressed two immediate roster needs with two players who figure to be day one starters for Kansas City. If we left it at this, we’d be selling the entire draft process short. Let’s recap the action from last night.
The draft kicked off as we all expected – with Roger Goodell appearing on stage to a chorus of boos from the crown in Las Vegas. He did his damndest to curb this by bringing out NFL legend Marcus Allen (of Raiders and Chiefs fame), Darren Waller, and Derek Carr – whose new haircut makes me think he should consider going back to the Marv from Home Alone look. As expected, the Jags took Georgia’s Travon Walker number 1 overall, Detroit followed by keeping Aidan Hutchinson in Michigan, and Derek Stingley and Sauce Gardner went 3 and 4 to Houston and the Jets respectively. Pretty chalk for what we all expected to happen going into the draft.
Picks 5, 6, and 7 saw the third elite edge come off the board when the New York Giants selected Kayvon Thibadeaux from Oregon at 5, and a pair of offensive tackles followed with NC State’s Icky Ekwonu going to Carolina at 6 and Alabama’s Evan Neal to the Giants at 7.
From pick 8 on, things started to get very interesting, and it began to become clear that the Chiefs might not be in the business of trading up for one position in particular. When Atlanta selected USC’s Drake London at 8, it spurred a series of events that would keep the rest of the draft as action packed as anyone could have asked for. Six of the next eleven picks off of the board were wide receivers, with London at 8 to Atlanta, Garrett Wilson from Ohio State at 10 to the Jets, his Ohio State teammate Chris Olave at 11 to the Saints in a deal that sent the 16th, 98th, and 120th pick to the Washington Commanders, Alabama (and former Ohio State) wide receiver Jameson Williams then went 12th to the Lions who traded up from the 32nd spot and also sent pick 34 and 66 to the Vikings. Even though Philadelphia’s trade up to 13 was to take Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, they had made a move moments before trading the Titans the 18th and 101st overall picks for the services of one AJ Brown.
From there the Commanders too Penn State standout Jahan Dotson at 16, Tennessee used the 18th pick secured in the AJ Brown trade with Philadelphia to nab Arkansas’s Treylon Burks, and just like that all of the wideouts who were unanimously considered first round talents were off the board. Also off the board was the popular fan theory that Brett Veach and the Chiefs would make a move up the board to grab one of these wide receiver prospects.
Just because the receivers were gone did not mean that Brett Veach wasn’t still plotting a move. Shortly before the Steelers selected University of Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick (the only QB taken in Round 1), it was announced that the Chiefs had traded the 29th , 94th, and 121st overall selections to the Patriots to move up to the 21 spot. With that pick, the Chiefs took Washington corner Trent McDuffie.
McDuffie graded out as a first round, day 1 starter with most major draft outlets, and was almost universally considered the third best corner in the draft. He was a three-year starter at Washington and a rugged, chippy, energetic defender. He’s been classified as a downhill player at corner who is not afraid to hit, and described as an “itchy, twitchy” trigger guy who excels at closing throwing windows and making plays on the ball. In Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, I’d expect McDuffie to start out mostly in the slot with his size, but ultimately as he learns the scheme and gets used to the speed of the game at the NFL level be able to shift outside and become a CB1.
The best part about the pick? It was pretty well known that Buffalo had a draft crush on McDuffie in the pre-draft process. He was their guy at 25 if he was there, and the Chiefs jumped ahead of them to grab him. Score one for the good guys. Buffalo ultimately traded from 25 to 23 (deal with the Ravens that sent pick 25 and 130 to Baltimore) to take Florida’s Kaiir Elam – a fringe first round prospect who is bigger than McDuffie, but did not show the same flashes in his college career. You can read more about McDuffie’s scouting profile here.
So the Chiefs have a corner to plug in as a starter on day 1 of the 2022 season, the next move is obviously edge, right? Right. With the 30th pick, the Chiefs took Purdue’s George Karlaftis. Karlaftis was all over draft boards, ranging from the top 10 on some to late first round where he ultimately ended up. The word used around the league to describe Karlaftis is one that should excite fans in Chiefs Kingdom – relentless. A league scout described Karlaftis like this to me last night – “George has rush ability. Hard charger. High motor type of guy. Complete meat head. Loves ball.” For a defensive lineman, I don’t know that you can get a more glowing review.
Overall we saw 9 trades last night that included picks and current players changing teams (AJ Brown to Philadelphia and Hollywood Brown to Arizona). Players like Malik Willis, Nakobe Dean, Andrew Booth Jr, David Ojabo, and Breece Hall still await their turn to get the call from one of 32 teams. Tyler Smith (Cowboys) and Cole Strange (Patriots) probably didn’t come into the evening with much of an expectation of being selected, but they’re first round draft picks forever as of last night.
So where do you grade out the Chiefs first round? That’s an easy answer – you don’t. Grading a draft pick before you get to training camp or the regular season is incredibly pointless. Who knows how these guys are going to turn out? Did some teams likely get better? Sure. The Jets picked three players who appear to be able to contribute right away as rookies. The Giants got a franchise offensive lineman and an edge with incredible upside. The Eagles picked up a proven receiver in AJ Brown and added the best defensive tackle in the draft. We’ll see how the AJ Brown $100 million deal works out with Jalen Hurts throwing him the ball, but I digress. Baltimore did what Baltimore does and ended up with the best safety and best center in the draft. And the Chiefs were patient and picked up two starters at positions of significance and need in the first round.
The second round kicks off tonight at 6 PM central. The Chiefs will have picks 50 and 62 in the second round, as well as the 103rd selection later on in the third. There are still a number of players – wide receivers, interior defensive lineman, edge rushers, linebackers – that the team could pick up on day 2 who could not only become starters, but massive contributors to the 2022 Kansas City Chiefs. The fans were paying more attention last night than they will the remainder of the weekend, but Brett Veach and the Chiefs front office are still locked in and will undoubtedly continue to transform and improve the roster as we inch closer to the 2022 season.