Chiefs load up on defense on final day of NFL draft

DAVE SKRETTA (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Brett Veach thought he was in good shape offensively after adding wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency, and that the Kansas City Chiefs' most pressing needs were entirely on defense.

So, he used the entire draft to address them.

After using their first three picks on that side of the ball, Veach used the final day of the draft to select three more on Saturday.

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Texas A&M safety Armani Watts went in the fourth round, cornerback Tremon Smith went in the sixth round and defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie went two picks later.

They joined Ole Miss pass rusher Breeland Speaks, Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and Clemson linebacker Dorian O'Daniel in filling out the Chiefs' defense-heavy draft class.

''Listen, all drafts are unique in their own way in regards to those players and the positions you feel the depth is,'' Veach said. ''Every year is different.''

Evidently, there was plenty of talent available on defense this year - so much so that the Chiefs think one of their picks can play the other side of the ball.

McKenzie worked out at guard for the Chiefs at the combine, and is talented enough that they want to give him a shot there.

The Chiefs figure to be one of the most explosive offenses in the league next season, even with new quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. Reigning rushing champ Kareem Hunt, speedy Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill and star tight end Travis Kelce join Watkins in giving coach Andy Reid plenty of options.

But there were numerous holes on an aging defense, one that was gutted by the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs last season.

The Chiefs moved on from erstwhile linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, released safety Ron Parker and even traded their top cover corner, Marcus Peters.

They made a couple of moves in free agency, signing linebacker Anthony Hitchens and defensive tackle Xavier Williams, but chose to primarily fill out a defense in need of a nasty streak through the draft.

''Your expectations are always for guys to come in and compete for starting job, or see a lot of playing time, and the higher you pick the more confident you are in those guys coming in,'' Veach said. ''You hope those guys will come in and play right away, or be part of a steady rotation.''

The Chiefs didn't have a first-round pick, but Veach was high on the three defensive players he added on the second day. The trio of selections Saturday provides depth, special teams talent and massive upside.

Here is a closer look at the Chiefs' draft class:

SPEAKING OF STARTING: Speaks probably has the best chance to get on the field right away, especially if outside linebacker Dee Ford's recovery from a back injury takes longer than expected. Even then, Speaks is a better-rounded prospect and could soon find himself starting opposite Justin Houston.

''You want safeties and you want corners,'' Veach said, ''but you have to affect the quarterback. You can't go out there and play 7-on-7. And we looked at it as the last chance to get a guy.''

RIVAL ROOKIE: McKenzie's father is Reggie McKenzie, the longtime NFL linebacker and the current GM of the AFC West-rival Oakland Raiders. ''I didn't talk to the dad,'' said Chiefs area scout Pat Sperduto,'' but I've talked to the kid a bunch of times. It was kind of a chuckle when we took his son.''

DEFENSIVE LINE DEPTH: Nnadi also could slide into the rotation right away, and his development will be important in the near future. Allen Bailey, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Jarvis Jenkins are free agents after next season, and Williams and Chris Jones hit free agency the following offseason.

THE LATE PICKS: Watts was a four-year starter for Texas A&M and could slide into Parker's spot alongside star safety Eric Berry. He was a third-team All-American after making 82 tackles and four picks as a senior, and a name the Chiefs didn't expect to fall to them.

Smith was a tackling machine at Central Arkansas, and at 6-foot and 190 pounds, possesses the kind of size the Chiefs covet in a man-press cornerback. McKenzie is a mammoth, 320-pound defensive lineman who has the talent, makeup and lower-body strength to transition to offensive guard.

''We try to make it not complicated. Just watch the tape,'' Veach said, ''and these guys play hard. Sometimes you get cute. Every little test, agility test, bend and this and that. Just an old rule of thumb: Does he make plays? Does he play hard? And these guys do.''

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