Is it just me or has the NFL offseason gotten shorter over the last five years? Can you guys believe it’s combine week? Draft season is coming in hot and nothing illustrates that more than over 300 draft hopefuls arriving in Indianapolis looking to impress prospective employers with their skills. It’s the most highly publicized and talked about job interview out there.
With so much of the talk surrounding scouting players and the NFL draft becoming more technical and reliant on analytics, it can feel like there’s no place for the average fan that’s newer to the process or doesn’t get into all of that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I personally love that more of this type of content is available and I am a constant consumer of it, but I also don’t consider myself a draft nerd by any means. I’m not into doing endless mock drafts or spending hours studying various players, but I can still find some enjoyment out of this time of year, so I’m going to share what I’ll be using to find that enjoyment as a Chiefs fan and I hope you can use it to find some as well.
Why Should We Care?
For normal NFL Fans, this might feel like a question that shouldn’t need to be answered, but Chiefs fans aren’t normal NFL fans right now. First of all, there’s those two Super Bowl championships in the last four years. All of that success makes it easy for fans to overlook the grind the team goes through to achieve the greatness we enjoy. Championships aren’t only won on the field, they’re a year-long process that includes many elements working together to build the amazing product we see on Sundays. The NFL Draft is one of those elements and the combine is the most important event of the draft season outside of the draft itself. A successful draft season helped put the Chiefs over the top in 2023 and will continue to be a crucial part of the Chiefs’ plans because…
Our General Manager, Brett Veach, is a scout at heart and this is the time of year he made a name for himself. While most hardcore fans know about Veach’s history, this is the average fan’s guide. And since the Chiefs are winning more than anyone in the NFL and have the best player in the sport, we may have some new friends among us. No matter if you’re a new fan, are new to following the draft process, or are just looking for more NFL combine content to read, we can all appreciate the job Brett Veach has done over the last few years in the draft. Over the last two seasons, the Chiefs have had unprecedented draft success with almost all of their draftees making an impact on game days. In addition to the names in the 2021 and 2022 draft classes, the Chiefs have drafted other contributing players like Mecole Hardman, Derrick Nnadi, Juan Thornhill, Khalen Saunders, Willie Gay, L’Jarius Sneed, and Mike Danna under the leadership of Brett Veach as well. This team has built multiple championship teams by utilizing the draft to their advantage, so there’s no reason to think it will stop now. Draft season is show time for Veach and company, so why wouldn’t Chiefs Kingdom provide an audience?
Positions of Need
One of the easiest connections to make between your team and the NFL combine is to identify the positions that your team may be looking to draft and focus on the drills and workouts of those position groups. Even though the Chiefs have been killing the draft lately, there’s still some positions that need attention this year for multiple reasons. Let’s take a look at the positions I’ll be watching the closest this weekend:
- Defensive Line: Kansas City should be aggressively attacking the defensive line in this draft. Of the eight main contributors along the defensive line last season, only three are under contract for next year. That three also includes Chris Jones who almost certainly will not play next year on his current deal. That leaves you with George Karlaftis and Mike Danna as the only players that are guaranteed to be back on the roster. While it is widely expected that Chris Jones will be here, the defensive line around him needs major reloading and that will likely start during the draft process.
- Offensive Tackle: As of March 1, the Chiefs do not have either starting tackle from last season under contract for next year. Orlando Brown Jr. played last season on the franchise tag with the expectation that a deal would get done at some point and it seems like the Chiefs still want that to happen. Even if Brown is back next season, the right tackle position will still be a big question mark as Andrew Wylie figures to have earned a raise and may have to pursue that larger deal elsewhere with Brown needing to be paid and Joe Thuney already having a big contract on the offensive line. There are possible in-house replacement options in Lucas Niang or Prince Tega Wanogho, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a substantial draft investment at the position as well. If Orlando Brown Jr. is not retained, offensive tackle becomes the story of the offseason.
- Wide Receiver: I touched on the lack of wide receiver options the Chiefs have under contract in my article last week, so this shouldn’t be a surprise inclusion on the list. While Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Kadarius Toney, and Skyy Moore all have unique skills and stepped up in crucial moments down the stretch of the Super Bowl run, the team needs to fill out that receiver room. There were multiple games this past season when it was evident how important players like Juju Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, and even Justin Watson were to this offense. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes need all of the unique and explosive weapons that Veach and his staff can find. Don’t be surprised to see the Chiefs making some moves at receiver in this draft.
- Quarterback: The Chiefs starting quarterback position figures to be occupied by the best player in the sport for the foreseeable future, so why is Quarterback here exactly? Well, in case you hadn’t heard, Chiefs backup QB extraordinaire, legend, and playoff hero Chad Henne decided to ride off into the sunset after winning Super Bowl LVII. Congratulations to him on a great career and we are forever grateful for his historic playoff moments. Yes, plural. “Hennething is possible” wasn’t just born from a fun play on his name. This guy has been needed and delivered in multiple HUGE moments for the Chiefs. While that may not be enough to make you a household name across the NFL, to this average Chiefs fan, that’s enough to make me understand the importance of our backup QB position. This isn’t something that the Chiefs can punt on just because they have Mahomes. In fact, you might argue that since they have Mahomes, and his history shows the need for the backup to help out every once in a while, this is more important than people realize. I’m sure an option will be found through free agency, but I wouldn’t doubt that the Chiefs front office is at least doing some due diligence on good backup quarterback prospects in this draft, so I’ll be watching some of the less heralded names showcase their stuff this weekend.
Other Things to Remember
Before I end this guide, I want to leave you with a few other things I try to keep in mind while following the combine and draft process:
- Cherish and Share the Good Stories you See and Hear: One of the unique things about the NFL combine, and the entire draft process for that matter, is the exposure it gives fans to the remarkable stories of some of these young athletes. One of the sad truths of all of this is that not all of these players will make it in the NFL, but that doesn’t take away their triumphs or make them any less impressive human beings. If you hear a story that touches you over the weekend, cherish it and even share it with someone. Not all of these players will have chances down the road to share their stories again.
- The Chiefs’ 2021 and 2022 Drafts Are the Exception, Not the Norm: As I’ve mentioned multiple times, what the Chiefs have accomplished through the draft these last two years is unprecedented. It’s evidenced even better by this tweet. As fans, it’s natural to expect the Chiefs to continue to have draft success, but it’s important to temper our expectations. The nature of the NFL draft suggests that there are some letdowns coming for the Chiefs at some point. Unless Brett Veach is the best drafter of all time, we haven’t seen our last bad draft out of this regime and that won’t be the end of the world just like the 2018 draft wasn’t, either.
- Not All NFL Players Are Drafted to Be Superstars: As we watch players participate in drills and workouts, it’s natural to compare them to the most relevant names possible. That’s usually the superstars of the NFL. QBs are compared to Patrick Mahomes, TEs to Travis Kelce, and DTs to Chris Jones, but the reality is that most of these players will not achieve that status. In fact, the draft is at its most effective for teams when they are identifying the “other” guys that can help win. These are the L’Jarius Sneed’s, Trey Smith’s, Isiah Pacheco’s, and Jaylen Watson’s of the draft. It’s more fun for fans to identify those types of players as well and I guarantee you, all it takes is your first correct prediction of a star at the combine and you’ll never miss another one.
Happy Combine watching!