Chiefs build for future in 2017 NFL Draft but can still win now

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While the Chiefs are ready to win now, Patrick Mahomes could keep them ready to win for a long time.

The Kansas City Chiefs looked towards the future during the 2017 NFL draft. The Chiefs locked up their quarterback of the future by trading their 2017 3rd round pick and their 2018 first round pick in order to swap spots with the Buffalo Bills to take Patrick Mahomes, the gunslinger from Texas Tech. Mahomes needs a lot of refinement before he is ready to be an NFL starter, and he will sit behind Alex Smith for at least one season. The Chiefs also decided to look towards the future in round 2, when they opted to pick defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon over prospects that are more pro ready such as defensive back Chidobe Awuzie from Colorado or one of the interior offensive linemen that were available. Kpassagnon is a project player with incredible measurables but lacks the repertoire of pass rushing moves needed to beat linemen at the NFL level.

Most teams look for players that can make an immediate impact in the first 2 rounds of the draft, but the Chiefs took a more long-term approach. This move has drawn criticism from some, as they feel that the Chiefs should be in “win-now” mode instead of choosing players that are at least a year away from making a significant impact. However, the Chiefs can still win now. Kansas City has a strong roster that has achieved double-digit win totals 3 out of the last 4 seasons and return most of their starters.

The Chiefs lost nose tackle Dontari Poe in free agency but signed Bennie Logan from the Eagles to replace him. Poe may seem like a big loss, but he had a down year in 2016. Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave Dontari Poe a rating of 46.7 against the run, which was 160th best of all interior defensive linemen that were rated. Bennie Logan was given a rating of 65.1, good for 80th best, so he may actually be an upgrade on Dontari Poe (although it remains to be seen if Logan can throw a touchdown pass like Poe did). Jaye Howard is another impact player the Chiefs lost in free agency, but 2016 rookie Chris Jones looks more than capable of taking his place. The Chiefs also return some defensive starters from injury. Derrick Johnson who tore his Achilles late in the season should be ready for training camp[1]. Defensive end Allen Bailey is also recovering from injury, a torn pectoral muscle suffered early in the 2016 season, but he also should be ready by the start of the season [2]. Star pass rusher Justin Houston struggled with injuries throughout the 2016 season and did not consistently make an impact. With a full offseason to get completely healthy, Houston looks to return to his 2014 form, where he collected 22 sacks.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Chiefs didn’t lose any key players in free agency, but also added Tight End Gavin Escobar from the Cowboys. Tyreek Hill has emerged as a dangerous weapon and should get more involved in the offense as he continues to learn the playbook. The Chiefs added another running back to the stable with Kareem Hunt, who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL draft.

With a roster filled with talent like this, it is difficult to find rookies in the draft who can come in and find significant playing time. Many draft analysts were expecting the Chiefs to draft an inside linebacker with one of their first two picks. However, with the aforementioned Derrick Johnson coming back from injury and Ramik Wilson playing well (PFF had Wilson ranked as the 19th best linebacker last season with a grade of 83.6) it is likely that any rookie brought in would become a backup. Another route the Chiefs could have gone would have been to take a defensive back early in the draft to play opposite of Marcus Peters, but Terrance Mitchell played very well when given an opportunity the second half of the season (PFF rated Mitchell as the 22nd best cornerback in the league with a grade of 82.3). The Chiefs also have several young cornerbacks that can continue to improve: DJ White, Phillip Gaines, and Steven Nelson.

The Chiefs don’t have any significant holes where a day one rookie starter would be necessary. Therefore, they focused their draft on players with very high upside, since that is what it is going to take to become a starter on this roster. Even though it will be a couple seasons until players like Patrick Mahomes and Tanoh Kpassagnon can make a significant impact, there is nothing holding the Chiefs back from being competitive in 2017.

References

[1]Kerkhoff, Blair. “Chiefs Linebacker Derrick Johnson Says Recovery from Torn Achilles on Schedule.” The Kansas City Star. N.p., 13 May 2017. Web. 14 May 2017. <http://www.kansascity.com/sports/nfl/kansas-city-chiefs/article150391872.html>.

[2]RotoWire Staff. “Chiefs’ Allen Bailey: Recovering Well from Torn Pectoral Muscle.” CBSSports.com. N.p., 17 Apr. 2017. Web. 14 May 2017. <http://www.cbssports.com/fantasy/football/news/chiefs-allen-bailey-recovering-well-from-torn-pectoral-muscle/>.

 

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