2023 Chiefs NFL draft prospects: Group 16

Bowl season continues with the New Year’s Six.

Our annual draft prospects series returns for the sixth consecutive year. We’ve identified over 200 college prospects to keep an eye on ahead of the 2023 NFL draft, all of whom might be potential fits with the Kansas City Chiefs. Last season’s prospect list included several of the Chiefs’ 2022 NFL draft picks including George Karlaftis, Skyy Moore and Bryan Cook. Who will be next?

Our sixteenth group of prospects includes an undersized, but shifty running back, a powerful edge rusher, a defensive tackle with off-field questions and a towering offensive tackle.

Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Vaughn is one of the most explosive playmakers in the country, but his 5-6 and 175-pound frame is going to be tough for evaluators to wrap their heads around. He’s posted back-to-back seasons with over 200 carries and over 1,400 rushing yards. He’s sure to earn comparisons to former K-State and NFL RB Darren Sproles, who was a fourth-round draft pick.

I personally think that Alabama HC Nick Saban recently gave perhaps the best description of what Vaughn will bring to an NFL club.

“I think pound for pound he’s one of the best players, greatest competitors, toughest guys,” Saban said of Vaughn. “The size and speed part of it is just one part of that. Character, intelligence and all those things are a part of how you evaluate players.”

Do the Chiefs need to add another running back this offseason? Jerick McKinnon and Ronald Jones are scheduled to become free agents. Clyde Edwards-Helaire still has a year left on his rookie deal, but there is no telling what his future holds.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Kansas State – Saturday, Dec. 31 at 10:00 a.m. CT – Live stream on fuboTV (free 7-day trial).

Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A scheme-versatile edge-rushing prospect, Van Ness boasts an exciting blend of quickness and power. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, you can line him up on the defensive interior or out wide and he’ll find equal levels of success. Whether you’re asking him to corner an offensive tackle or out-leverage an interior lineman, he’s going to give maximum effort and get the job done.

In each of his past two seasons, Van Ness has shown great consistency, totaling 66 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and one pass batted. He is only a redshirt sophomore, so it isn’t a given that he’ll declare for the 2023 NFL draft. Should he declare, he could be an underclassman steal for a team like Kansas City on Day 2.

Music City Bowl: Iowa vs. Kentucky  – Saturday, Dec. 31 at 11:00 a.m. CT – Live stream on fuboTV (free 7-day trial).

Michigan DT Mazi Smith

Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register

A team captain for the Michigan Wolverines, the 6-3 and 300-pound Smith is an incredible athlete. He was the No. 1 player on Bruce Feldman’s 2022 Freaks list and for good reason. Even if he hasn’t exactly packed the stat sheet during his college career, you see that athleticism pop up on game days. Off-field will be the big concern for Smith after he caught a felony weapons possession charge this season.

Kansas City’s interior defensive line could look a lot different in 2023. Khalen Saunders, Derrick Nnadi and Brandon Williams will all be unrestricted free agents. Chris Jones is in the final year of his deal. Tershawn Wharton will be recovering from a season-ending knee injury. Rest assured that the Chiefs will look to add to this position group during they draft. If Smith falls due to his uncertain off-field situation, Kansas City could be a team to capitalize.

Fiesta Bowl: TCU vs. Michigan – Saturday, Dec. 31 at 3:00 p.m. CT – Live stream on fuboTV (free 7-day trial).

Ohio State OT Dawand Jones

Jones is a player who has been mocked to the Chiefs in the first round by our friends at Draft Wire.

Here is a look at what we had to say about him:

“The Chiefs’ tackle situation is the worst in the NFL through 13 weeks and that’s not hyperbole. They need to solve at least one spot next year if only to do a better job protecting Patrick Mahomes. Given their draft slot, you’re probably not finding a plug-and-play left tackle, but the right side is certainly in play.

Jones has allowed four total pressures and no sacks through 11 games this season and 372 pass-blocking snaps according to PFF. My one concern is how the 6-8 and 350-pound tackle handles NFL speed and quickness. No one is going to be bull-rushing him at that size, but is he fleet-footed enough to handle what NFL pass-rushers will throw at him?”

This particular game should be an interesting test for Jones with a potent Georgia Bulldogs defense.

Peach Bowl: Ohio State vs. Georgia – Saturday, Dec. 31 at 7:00 p.m. CT – Live stream on fuboTV (free 7-day trial).

Story originally appeared on Chiefs Wire