The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone. The Kansas City Chiefs ended up making six selections over the three day period. Here is a list of the Chiefs 2018 draft class.
-Breeland Speaks, DL/OLB, Ole Miss
-Derrick Nnadi, DL, Florida State
-Dorian O’Daniel, LB, Clemson
-Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
-Tremon Smith, CB, Central Arkansas
Khalil McKenzie, DL/OG, Tennessee
Reactions have been mixed by draft experts coming out of Draft Weekend. Some think the Chiefs found gems and players with value who are ready to compete. Others believe the Chiefs reached on many of their picks, and think the defense is still slight.
The good thing about these mixed reactions is that we don’t know for sure how this draft class will perform. That doesn’t just go for the Chiefs, but any team’s class from this year. But good class or bad class, the Chiefs offseason plan has stayed stagnant.
“I knew we had to get better on defense and get tougher,” says general manager Brett Veach coming out of the weekend. Getting tougher remains the mantra used by Veach and that is exactly what the Chiefs did with their draft selections. The selections may not be seen as splash moves, but the picks fill glaring weaknesses Kansas City had heading into the draft. Let’s see how this stands true.
First, Breeland Speaks is a pass rusher whose motor does not stop. Speaks played in many different spots on the defensive line at Ole Miss. The Chiefs still see Speaks as a major upgrade to the pass rush, but Speaks could move to the outside linebacker position. If you saw the video of when the Chiefs called Speaks to let him know of the selection, head coach Andy Reid said, “We told you we’d get it done.” So, even though Speaks seems like a reach at 46th overall, the Chiefs appear all in on him throughout a major portion of the draft process.
Next, we take a look at Derrick Nnadi. Nnadi was drafted by Kansas City to do primarily one thing. That is to stop the run. The Chiefs have constantly struggled against the run in recent years, and ranked 25th in run defense last season. Nnadi’s tape at FSU shows just how well he can split double teams, and effortlessly throw defenders off of him. Like Speaks, Nnadi is a tackling machine who the Chiefs will rotate in and out as a two down defender.
The Chiefs ended all of day two of draft weekend by selecting Dorian O’Daniel. O’Daniel played linebacker at Clemson, and he is the type of player that more and more NFL scouts are looking for at the linebacker position. O’Daniel is a speedy defender, who has played at 215 pounds at Clemson.
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There’s been ideas to throw O’Daniel at many different positions besides linebacker. For example, he could fill at safety or even slot corner with his above average cover skills. Kansas City will most likely use O’Daniel in dime situations, which has become a common defensive base set for the Chiefs under defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. The Chiefs also liked what the prowess that O’Daniel displayed on special teams. A cool moment on O’Daniel’s selection, new Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller was at O’Daniel’s draft party as they both played high school football together and remained friends.
The Chiefs found value in the latter part of the fourth round by selecting safety Armani Watts. Veach mentioned that he was surprised Watts fell to the 4th round. So if Watts had not been there, Veach hinted the Chiefs may have went offense with the 124th pick. Watts flips the field very well at safety. His career stats include ten interceptions, seventeen pass deflections, and over three hundred total tackles. Watts also lived up to expectations that he entered with at Texas A&M, as he was a four year starter for the Aggies. Not a bad pairing to put along side Eric Berry.
Once again on day three, the Chiefs filled a need in the secondary. Cornerback Tremon Smith displays confidence in his abilities. Smith is well-built for a six foot corner, and he also notched twelve interceptions in three years as a starter at Central Arkansas. The Chiefs already have Tyreek Hill, but Smith shined as a punt returner, so maybe special teams coach Dave Toub will attempt to run Smith at kick returner.
Lastly, we get to look at Khalil McKenzie. Technically when the Chiefs drafted McKenzie, it seemed Kansas City did in fact go all defense when their draft selections were complete. But, the Chiefs have something else in mind for McKenzie. He will transition from defensive tackle to play guard on the offensive line. Andy Reid has always been a big fan of having depth at the offensive line, and now there is a new project there for him to work with. McKenzie’s speed and impressive size (6’3”, 315 pounds) should help to make that transition easier. The Chiefs-Raiders rivalry also receives a new wrinkle added to it, as McKenzie’s dad is Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Once again, experts did not herald this draft as particularly productive. But, the defense didn’t get worse with these selections. Kansas City will meet Veach’s demands for competition on defense.