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The old scouting adage general managers often repeat is you can’t go wrong drafting the best player available while drafting for need is a dangerous approach.
The Kansas City Chiefs don’t care about old scouting adages. They toss old scouting adages in the waste bin and keep on winning.
That’s what they hope continues in 2022 after addressing their needs on defense in a big way not just in the draft but throughout this offseason.
The Chiefs had 10 total selections in the draft.
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They spent seven of those on defense, including three of the four that came in the first two rounds. And after that defensive binge was complete, the Chiefs traded for Houston Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft who started 19 of 44 games in three seasons with the Texans.
Oh, and the Chiefs also placed the rarely used unrestricted free agent tender on defensive end Melvin Ingram to give them a chance of re-signing him.
“I feel pretty good about the work we did in the offseason,” general manager Brett Veach said Tuesday. “We had a lot of things we had to accomplish. I feel good about our approach. I feel good about the plan we had. It was tricky, especially when the receiver market went crazy.
“I feel good not just about the talent we added but the quantity. I think we added a lot of good talent.”
Some of that talent — receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantiling in free agency and Skyy Moore in the draft’s second round — obviously are meant to bolster the offense and give quarterback Patrick Mahomes weapons.
But in the draft’s first round the Chiefs selected cornerback Trent McDuffie and defensive end George Karlaftis. NFL people believe McDuffie will start immediately for KC while Karlaftis will at minimum be a rotational contributor early on and perhaps more once he settles in.
In the third round the Chiefs took Cincinnati safety Bryan Cook, which may or may not have been a bit of a reach, but is expected to start eventually anyway. And Veach selected Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal with another second-rounder, this time adding an off-the-ball linebacker who may have some pass rush ability as well.
So lots of defense for a team that generally grabs attention by scoring points.
“I think it was always at the forefront,” Veach said of the idea of diving into the deep end of the defensive talent pool.
The Chiefs, by the way, make no apologies for addressing needs because they’ve done it for a while. After watching the offensive line collapse in a Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay in February 2021, the Chiefs refurbished practically the entire line last offseason.
So after watching the defense get lit up by Josh Allen and Joe Burrow in the playoffs last year, it was time to upgrade that unit.
“I don’t know if it was as a dramatic of a mindset as what we experienced in the Super Bowl,” Veach said. “That was just kind of like the perfect storm of guys that have played a lot of football for us, in particular the tackle position, that got hurt. One ended up retiring and we just got really old, really quick, and that was a situation where when you combine that with the best player in the league and a franchise quarterback, that’s kind of like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’
“This, I mean, you have to have balance on both sides of the football, and we wanted to upgrade the youth, the talent and the depth on the defensive side.”
Veach recognizes what the Chiefs have done on defense may not pay dividends immediately.
“I remember going back in 2019, we made all those moves and ended up winning the Super Bowl, we started off slow on defense,” he said. “There could be a transitional period here with these guys – you’re talking about a rookie corner, a rookie linebacker, a rookie defensive end, a safety we brought in from Houston.
“It’s a lot of moving parts here.”
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But eventually the Chiefs expect the parts to be in synch. And that’s when they expect to see their moves to address needs deliver as planned.
“…I think we have the guys and I think we have the wiring to be really good,” Veach said. “How that all plays out remains to be seen. I think given our track record, given our coaching staff, given the fact that we have 15 (Patrick Mahomes), I feel optimistic.”