Chiefs address needs on both sides of ball with six draft picks
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs insisted that they fell in love with Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman and were intent on selecting him with their first pick in the NFL draft all along.
He was one of the fastest players at the scouting combine. He runs good routes but has room for some polish. He provides bonus value by being one of the best return men in the entire draft.
It was just coincidence, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said, that his game bears such a close resemblance to that of Tyreek Hill — their embattled star wide receiver, whose future with the franchise is uncertain because of an ugly child-abuse investigation that could result in his release.
“You can coach a lot of things, and our staff does a great job of getting the most out of guys,” Veach said, “but at the end of the day, you can either run or you can’t. And he can run.”
The Chiefs didn’t select until late in the second round after trading their first-round pick to Seattle as part of a package for pass rusher Frank Clark. But they used their three selections on Day 2 to fill some of their biggest holes, then wrapped up the draft with three more picks on Saturday.
The Chiefs used another second-round selection on Virginia defensive back Juan Thornhill, who can play a variety of positions in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. Their third-round pick went to Khalen Saunders, a massive run-stuffing defensive tackle out of Western Illinois.
“All three of these guys are really, really good football players,” Veach said. “If you’d told me we’d end up with all three of these players, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
As the Chiefs begin plugging additional holes with undrafted free agents, and turn their attention toward rookie minicamp and the rest of their offseason program, here is a look at their draft:
WHO THEY GOT
Hardman was their initial pick but Thornhill may ultimately be the most valuable selection. The Chiefs signed Tyrann Mathieu in free agency as part of a massive defensive overhaul, and Thornhill’s ability to play center field should pair well with his game.
“I was a little worried about it because I felt I had the potential to go in the first round,” Thornhill said. “I had to wait a little longer, but I’m just ready to get there and play football.”
On Saturday, the Chiefs added South Carolina defensive back Rashad Fenton and Utah State running back Darwin Thompson in the sixth round. They picked Illinois center Nick Allegretti in the seventh.
The trade for Clark was a bit eye-opening if only because it meant the Chiefs did not have a first-round pick for the second consecutive year. Of course, last year’s selection helped them nab quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who became the league MVP in his first season as a starter.
“The one unique thing about Frank,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “is that it’s every play. Every down is an honest down. There is no time off where they are cruising at all.”
HOW THEY DID
The Chiefs were thrown a curveball by the legal trouble that has quickly engulfed Hill, forcing them to take a wide receiver earlier than anticipated. They plugged two big holes on their defense, getting particularly good value with Saunders late in the third round.
“First of all my favorite color is red, so I’m just really excited to wear that. I wore red all through high school,” Saunders said with a laugh. “And secondly my hometown is St. Louis, so this is the best thing I can experience playing in Missouri. I’m from right across the state.”
The Chiefs have completely revamped their defense, moving from a 3-4 system to a 4-3 scheme, and they will continue to sift through prospects who fit what Spagnuolo wants to do. They also could use some depth pieces on offense, particularly along the offensive line.