Which players in the Chiefs’ draft class have best chance to start this season?

The NFL Draft grades have been distributed, so now let’s look at another type of projection.

Who among this year’s Chiefs draft class has the best opportunity to become an immediate starter?

Plenty to consider here, starting with the idea that getting drafted by the Chiefs has its advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side, the seven drafted players are joining the NFL’s top franchise, champion of consecutive Super Bowls and winner of three titles in five years. No group of NFL newcomers has a greater opportunity to be part of a team’s success.

That’s also the downside. The Chiefs’ collection of returning players may be the strongest yet of the Andy Reid era, and it doesn’t include many positional weaknesses.

But the Chiefs aren’t getting comfortable with prosperity.

“I don’t think you’re ever satisfied with what you have as a roster. There’s always ways to improve,” general manager Brett Veach said this week.

Also, consider this piece of history: Since 2018, Veach’s first draft as GM, the Chiefs have averaged fewer than two starters out of the gate per draft. Three of the six years produced one immediate starter, a player who either started half of the team’s games or played more than 50% of the snaps.

Last year, only wide receiver Rashee Rice, a second-round pick, became a regular. The Chiefs got contributions from Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Wanya Morris and Chamarri Conner — all of whom played in KC’s Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers — but they weren’t starters.

Turning to the 2024 season, the Chiefs appear to have improved one position group above others with their additions: wide receiver.

By selecting Xavier Worthy from Texas in the first round, and adding him to a group that also includes free-agent signee Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, the Chiefs went from having one of the league’s worst big-play attacks in the passing game to potentially one of the best.

Worthy’s playing time also figures to be affected by potential discipline for Rice, who was involved in a multi-vehicle crash in late March that left several injured. Rice could face a suspension from league commissioner Roger Goodell.

Second-round pick Kingsley Suamataia, a tackle from Brigham Young, looks to compete with Morris for a starting job at the most critical position on the offensive line.

”I think plans are to throw him right there at left tackle and let him compete and battle with Wanya (Morris),” Veach said.

Since selecting Eric Fisher No. 1 overall in 2013, offensive tackle has not been a draft-and-develop position for the Chiefs. They drafted two others after Fisher, Lucas Niang in 2020 and Morris last year, before taking Suamataia.

Selected in the fourth round were TCU tight end Jared Wiley and Washington State safety Jared Hicks. The Chiefs just made Travis Kelce the game’s highest-paid tight end, and safety shapes up as one of the team’s strongest positions. That could increase Hicks’ importance on special teams.

Sixth-round pick Kamal Hadden, a cornerback from Tennessee, plays the position that experienced the biggest offseason loss, as L’Jarius Sneed signed with the Tennessee Titans. But Sneed’s role will be assumed by Trent McDuffie, and this is another of the Chiefs’ deepest positions.

The interior of the offensive line — Joe Thuney, Creed Humprey and Trey Smith — is set for a fourth straight season. That may limit the opportunities for fifth-round pick Hunter Nourzad of Penn State and seventh-round selection C.J. Hanson.

But the Nick Allegretti backup role is available and the Chiefs will be faced with contract decisions after this season.

So back to the original question: Who starts among the rookies? Worthy has the best shot, but another strong roster could make it difficult for any rookie to get the early call.

Kansas City Chiefs draft-class starters since 2018

These drafted players started at least half of the Chiefs’ regular-season games as rookies:

2018: DT Derrick Nnadi

2019 S Juan Thornhill

2020 RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire; CB L’Jarius Sneed

2021 LB Nick Bolton, C Creed Humphrey, G Trey Smith

2022 CB Trent McDuffie, DE George Karlaftis, RB Isiah Pacheco

2023 WR Rashee Rice