We are back for part 2 of our look into the NFL Draft. With less than 3 weeks left until the draft, the majority of us have different opinions on which direction the Chiefs should go. Last week we broke down the offensive side of the ball, and prospects that could fill holes on the roster. Today we will take a look at an already young defense and see what players could be added to make another Super Bowl run.
Starting in the trenches seems like the best place to start. The defensive line is already anchored by all-pro Chris Jones. In the 2022 draft, we added George Karlaftis who stepped up late in the season to show his potential going forward. Looking at the D-Line group as a whole, we could see early additions to the interior and edge of the line.
There are several early-edge rushers I’m infatuated with. Adding another elite edge rusher to compliment Karlaftis and Jones, could possibly turn the defense into a top-10 defense. My favorite of the group is Georgia defensive end Nolan Smith. I’ve seen several mock drafts where Smith has fallen past 30. That would be a dream scenario for me. Pairing Smiths’ speed and bend with Karlaftis’ power and relentlessness would be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. Smith has a combination of speed, bend, and combo moves the Chiefs haven’t had since the passing of Chiefs legend Derrick Thomas. A few other early to mid-round targets that would give the Chiefs an upgrade in the pass-rushing category are Will McDonald IV and hometown favorite Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Imagine the roar of the Chiefs fans hearing a hometown star’s name being called on the biggest stage of the draft. Given the versatility of Jones, Karlaftis, and newly added Charles Omenihu, any of these 3 targets would give Kansas City a really solid rushing group.
Taking a look at the interior of the defensive line, it will be hard to match the production of Chris Jones. The Chiefs have traded for interior pieces and drafted mid to late-round prospects, but have not been able to find a consistent contributor next to Jones. With the departure of fan-favorite Khalen Saunders, the starter next to Jones is unknown. This year’s draft is stacked with talented big men to fill the starting role inside. Brian Bresee! This is a name to watch if he falls. In just 25 games Bresee amassed 15 tackles for a loss and 9 sacks. Bresee reminds me of a stouter Karlaftis. He has a motor that doesn’t stop and is solid against the run and pass. A few mid-round targets to watch for are Siaka Ika, Keondre Coburn, and a name that is becoming an early-round favorite for Chiefs’ fans, Gervon Dexter. Dexter is another well-rounded prospect that would fit nicely next to Jones. Two late-round targets I think would be really solid depth pieces are Jerrod Clark and Dante Stills. Any route the Chiefs decide to go, there are players from rounds 1 through 7 that could be added and be impactful on this defense.
One part of the Chiefs’ defense that is already pretty well-rounded is the linebacking group. The Chiefs could possibly have one of the best groups of linebackers with the addition of Drue Tranquill to an already very solid Nick Bolton and Willie Gay. Adding Tranquill give us the one aspect we were missing, a true coverage linebacker. Still, depth could be added, Gay could be gone after this season, along with Tranquill only being a one-year deal. If we’re looking to replace Gay or Tranquill’s speed, one linebacker I have my eye on is Dorion Williams out of Tulane. Williams ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at 6’1 228 pounds. In his final season at Tulane, Williams totaled 85 tackles, 3 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, 9 quarterback hurries, and 6 sacks. Solid numbers for a multi-use piece in the middle of the field. Several other mid to late-round prospects I like are Mike Jones Jr., and Owen Pappoe. Pappoe is very solid in pass coverage and almost elite as a tackler. One thing he lacks is a run-stopping ability, however having Bolton for a few more years, and adding a coverage linebacker like Pappoe could be a very underrated addition.
Next, we attack the secondary. I’ve seen fans divided on their thoughts on the back end of the defense. On one side of the spectrum, we have lots of youth and potential. Between first-round pick Trent McDuffie, and late-round picks Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson, we have tons of youth with upside at the corner. position, However, a staple of this secondary for years has been L’Jarius Sneed. Sneed has been a key to the Chiefs’ success, between his consistency and versatility. After this season, it’s unsure if Sneed will be resigned, or if Veach will continue the youth movement in the secondary. If we wanted a cornerback early, a target I like is Cam Smith. Smith has the size and speed at 6’1 with a tad over a 4.4 40-yard dash. Smith has the versatility to play press or zone. Throughout his career, quarterbacks have had a well below average while targeting Smith. He is a solid tackler and a very good run defender. If we didn’t want to make an early investment 2 years in a row at cornerback, there are several solid mid-round targets Veach could shoot for. A few late-round targets to look at are Garrett Williams out of Syracuse, and Mekhi Blackmon from USC. Blackmon lacks the size you typically look for as an NFL cornerback, but he is very well-rounded in all aspects of his game.
With the departure of Juan Thornhill, and the addition of Mike Edwards of Tampa Bay, the starting safety group is up in the air. The most likely scenario is the pairing of Brian Cook and Justin Reid, however, the Chiefs could bring in another player to compete with Cook, or for use in 3 safety sets. Edwards is coming off a down year at Tampa and it’s only a one-year deal. I don’t see the Chiefs going safety round one, however, rounds two through four are very possible. The Chiefs need a ball hawk on the back end and Sydney Brown out of Illinois could be that player. Brown totaled 6 interceptions and 7 more deflections in his final college season. Given the Chiefs’ lack of turnovers last season and being towards the bottom of the league in turnover margin, adding a player like Brown could help boost our numbers in that department. A few other mid to late-round prospects to keep an eye on are Ronnie Hickman and Christopher Smith. Hickman is an overall well-rounded safety while Smith excels in coverage but lacks tackling ability. Even if we don’t attack the secondary early, I expect numerous picks throughout the mid to late rounds to add depth and developmental prospects.
As we close in on the draft in Kansas City, and big names fly around social media mock drafts and draft boards, there are numerous directions the Chiefs could go. Coming off a recent Super Bowl win and our second in four years, the Chiefs are in a prime position to load up on more young talent and keep the train rolling. So let’s all have fun, enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of hosting the draft, and Go Chiefs!