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The Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of needs heading into the 2021 NFL draft.
They have the big glaring needs like the hole at the left tackle spot vacated by Eric Fisher. They could use another wide receiver to replace Sammy Watkins and an edge rusher to replace Alex Okafor and Tanoh Kpassagnon. Then there are the spots where they could use upgrades like at the linebacker position. They could look ahead to the future and draft players in the secondary.
How can the Chiefs possibly address all of these needs in the 2021 NFL draft? One of the most common responses by fans has been to suggest trading down, on some occasions even multiple times, to acquire more and more draft capital. The idea is that if you throw more darts and you’ll hit more bullseyes. Well, as it turns out, that might not be the best way to address the issue this year.
In a new article by Defector’s Kalyn Kahler, some interesting numbers reveal that the 2021 NFL draft class is small, perhaps historically so. Kahler measured the number of standard representation agreements (SRA’s) signed by draft prospects this year against those signed in years past. Those are the documents draft prospects sign that shows they’re represented by an NFL agent.
“By mid-April of 2019, 1,972 players had signed an SRA. By mid-April of 2020, 1,839 players had signed,” Kahler wrote. “This year, as of April 7, that number was only 657.”
Only 259 players are set to be drafted this year, but the pool of players to choose from is basically a third of what it was in each of the last two seasons. Why is this class so tiny in comparison, though? COVID-19 is to blame in some ways. The NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility has a lot of players returning to school after opt-outs, cancellations and more.
Now, there are a few different ways to look at this news. One way is to say that with fewer players in the draft pool, there will be fewer talented players. That’s why the Chiefs might be cautious about trading down unless they acquire a Top-150 draft pick. If they’re acquiring picks in the fifth round or later, they could have a tough time finding talent that they normally would. You might end up drafting a player that during another year, you would have simply signed as a priority free agent after the draft.
Another way to look at it, with fewer players in the pool this year, scouts won’t be spread so thin and can really hone in on the best players in the class. That could allow teams to feel a bit more confident in their player evaluations. It could also allow them to overthink things a bit on certain players.
Another thing to consider with this information is how it’ll impact undrafted free agency. Kansas City has historically done a good job finding contributors after the draft is over. Last year they grabbed DT Tershawn Wharton, who played in all 16 games. The Chiefs just might not have the same type of luck finding those players this year.
It’s all food for thought as the clock ticks with less than two weeks to go until draft time.