Five thoughts on Chiefs’ draft class — and the strategy that brought it together

For the first time in the Brett Veach general manager tenure, the Chiefs led their draft with back-to-back players who reside on the same side of the football as Patrick Mahomes.

The timing isn’t coincidental. The Chiefs ranked 15th in the NFL in scoring last season, and ninth in yards, their worst marks in either category since Mahomes arrived in Kansas City in 2017.

The Chiefs weren’t targeting general help for their offense. They were more specific.

Wide receiver.


They escaped the first two rounds of the NFL Draft with one of each — aided in their pursuit by classes that were deep at the two positions they most coveted. How’s that for timing?

They took Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy in the first round and BYU tackle Kingsley Suamataia in the second, moving up via trades to select each. By the draft’s end, they’d also added TCU tight end Jared Wiley and Washington State safety Jaden Hicks in the fourth, Penn State interior lineman Hunter Nourzad in the fifth, Tennessee cornerback Kamal Hadden in the sixth and Holy Cross guard C.J. Hanson in the seventh.

Here are five things that stand out about this incoming class of rookies:

1. Why the Chiefs had a first-round grade on Xavier Worthy

The 4.21-second time in the 40-yard dash caught everyone’s attention — and I’ve already analyzed how that speed is a need, not a duplicate of something the Chiefs already had.

But I want to spotlight a couple of other traits that moved Worthy up the Chiefs’ board.

The first? Route-running. It’s one of the first things coach Andy Reid mentioned after the Chiefs made the pick, and it’s a particularly important distinction from straight-line speed. Mecole Hardman has terrific speed. Tyreek Hill has terrific speed and runs terrific routes. There’s a difference.

The second? Worthy had 62 catches and 981 yards in his first season with Texas, a freshman All-America season, and that led the Chiefs to a conclusion: He can pick things up quickly.

It’s not a secret that Reid runs a complex offense. We saw the way that offense slowly integrated Rashee Rice a year ago, asking him to learn one wide receiver position before layering more responsibilities as the season progressed.

There’s optimism — and I can’t stress enough that he’s yet to participate in so much as a minicamp practice without pads yet — that Worthy could come along at a quicker pace. That would be of notable importance with Rice very likely to face a suspension to start the year.

“I think when guys can go from a high-school level right to the University of Texas and spit out almost 1,000 yards as a freshman,” said Veach, the Chiefs’ GM, “those guys typically can adjust and adapt quickly.”

2. The Xavier Worthy grade

There’s no shortage of grades circulating after NFL Draft weekend, but as his career progresses, Worthy will be judged distinctly.

Not only by his value at No. 32 overall.

But against his peers.

While three receives were off the board in the initial nine picks of the draft, only Brian Thomas found a home over the next 19 selections. That meant the the Chiefs were essentially allocated their preferred options from the second tier, so to speak.

And then that tier was gone just a handful of picks later.

The 49ers took Florida’s Ricky Pearsall three picks after Worthy at No. 31; Carolina drafted South Carolina’s Xavier Legette at 32; Buffalo topped the second round with Florida State’s Keon Coleman at 33; and the Chargers went with Georgia’s Ladd McConkey at 34.

Every draft holds an element of woulda, coulda, shoulda in retrospect, but four receivers taken in the ensuing six picks? Yeah, Worthy will be the subject of some comparisons.

3. A thought on the Chiefs’ draft-day trades

The Chiefs traded up for their first- and second-round selections, but those trades were considerably more digestible than past years’ deals, for one simple reason:

Pick swaps.

The Chiefs traded with Buffalo, more than a mild surprise, to move to No. 28 in the first round for Worthy. They relinquished three picks but got three picks in return.

The traded up just one spot for BYU left tackle Kingsley Suamataia in the second round, but, again, two picks for two picks.

I’ve long advocated for the Chiefs to trust their own history, even as I recognize pick swaps aren’t always an option.

In 2023 and 2022, the Chiefs sacrificed their total number of selections when they moved up the pecking order — when, in reality, they need to only look at their own success in the late rounds to know that’s a pretty expensive proposition.

In 2022, they selected Leo Chenal in the third round, Joshua Williams in the fourth and Jaylen Watson and Isiah Pacheco in the seventh. In 2021, they got Trey Smith in the sixth. In 2020, it was L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth and Michael Danna in the fifth. In 2019, Nick Allegretti in the seventh.

They draft well late.

They should preserve the opportunity to repeat their own history.

4. The tight ends — Kelce and the other guy

The Chiefs used a draft pick on a tight end for just the third time in the last 11 years.

And it took all of two days before this was no longer the biggest news about a tight end in Kansas City.

The Chiefs re-upped Travis Kelce on Monday — two days after they selected TCU tight end Jared Wiley in the fourth round of the draft.

Wiley is an intriguing option, given his 6-foot-7 frame — might he provide a red-zone target? That’s where he said he makes his money.

But it’s intriguing even before you look at the measurables and the specific skill-sets. The Chiefs had a hidden need for tight end, I argued last month — hidden because they already have Kelce, yet also a need because the best teams find replacements for their players a year before they actually need to find those replacements.

The Chiefs are taking a flier on Wiley — and they’ll know more about his ability while Kelce is still on the roster.

That’s how the best teams operate, and it’s how one with fewer obvious questions should operate.

5. What do the Chiefs still need?

The positions mostly fell the Chiefs’ way over the draft’s three days, specifically in the first two rounds.

But there is a spot or two where Kansas City could still use some depth.

Like, say, running back.

The Chiefs have only two running backs who rushed for at least 100 yards a year ago — starter Isiah Pacheco and backup Clyde Edwards-Helaire — and they didn’t add anyone through the draft. They gave Jerick McKinnon’s old number to Worthy, if that’s any indication about his future, or at least his future in Kansas City. (It probably is.)

They did add former TCU running back Emani Bailey and UCLA running back Carson Steele on undrafted free agent verbal agreements that are likely to become official Friday, a source told me.

Next year’s draft is likely to be much deeper at running back, so there’s a reason the Chiefs pushed this topic forward one season. But it could be an interesting spot to watch before camp, or perhaps as other teams make their own roster decisions at the conclusion of the preseason.