The Kansas City Chiefs 2021 NFL draft class is finally here and ready to be analyzed! The draft is a time of hope for many franchises, including KC, with some teams looking for the final piece or pieces of the puzzle to put them over the top while other franchises put their future in the hands of a single prospect. It’s an exciting time for every franchise no matter what their strategy is. It takes several seasons to see if your draft class will set you up for success or if it’ll set you back and create even more holes to fill.
Despite it taking a few seasons to accurately judge your draft class, an immediate grade can be a useful exercise to see the value the team got based on prospect rankings and draft slot, which holes were filled whether it be a starting role or depth, and how it sets the team up in the future. After making six selections, how does the Chiefs 2021 NFL draft class shape up?
Chiefs 2021 NFL Draft Recap: Day One
The Chiefs didn’t own a day one selection after trading away their first-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. The biggest need for the Chiefs entering the draft was a left tackle. Instead of not only hoping a top prospect would fall to them and that the prospect would also play at a high level, they traded for a tackle who made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back years as both a right tackle and a left tackle.
Adding Brown to the offensive line was a massive boon to the team. Brown is entering the final year of his contract and the Chiefs will need to sign him to an expensive contract extension as opposed to having a cheap rookie contract for four years. That contract difference is very costly even with Brown being a top player at his position. Getting a player like Brown with your first-round pick, even with the costly contract, is a huge win and gives the Chiefs a day one draft grade of an A.
Chiefs 2021 NFL Draft Recap: Day Two
The biggest need the Chiefs have had for several years has been linebacker. They took a huge step in addressing it by selecting one of the top-ranked linebacker prospects in Nick Bolton. Bolton was the quarterback of the defense at Missouri and a perfect fit for what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo looks for in his linebackers. Bolton needs to work on his pass coverage but his football IQ, range, ability to shed blocks, and most importantly his ability to help stop the run game. Bolton instantly upgrades the Chiefs linebacking group and pairs greatly with Willie Gay to set the defense up nicely for 2022 and beyond.
The Chiefs spent the off-season completely revamping the offensive line after it fell apart in Super Bowl LV. They were able to find long-term answers at each position except for the center. They used their second pick in the second round to take one of the top three center prospects by selecting Creed Humphrey. In 1,297 snaps, Humphrey only allowed 28 QB pressures and zero sacks. Humphrey brings athleticism that will pair greatly with left guard Joe Thuney and give them a left interior that is great in space. Humphrey’s high football IQ will allow him to compete for the starting job on day one.
Chiefs 2021 NFL Draft Recap: Day Three
In the fourth round, the Chiefs selected defensive end, Josh Kaindoh. Kaindoh is a very raw prospect but has incredible upside. Kaindoh tested extremely well and has the size, strength, and speed and that Spagnuolo covets in his defensive ends. Kaindoh is a developmental player but an excellent scheme fit and fills one of the biggest needs for the team.
With their fifth-round selection, the Chiefs drafted tight end, Noah Gray. The Chiefs don’t have any tight end receiving threats behind Travis Kelce. Gray provides the depth they desperately needed but also gives them a potential replacement for Kelce once he retires. Gray can run the same type of routes as Kelce and also has the athleticism to line up in the backfield and be used as a receiving threat from the fullback position.
The Chiefs sorely lack wide receiver depth and with their second pick in the fifth round, they chose Cornell Powell. Powell has the ability to be the replacement for Sammy Watkins as the post-up receiver. He compliments the speed the other receivers have by using his strength to win his matchups before and after the catch.
The Chiefs made their last selection in the sixth round by taking Trey Smith. Value-wise, Smith may be the biggest steal of the draft. He was viewed as the third-best guard prospect and was rated as the 85th best prospect in the draft by Pro Football Focus. The Chiefs were able to get him with the 226th pick. He’ll start his career as a backup but has high upside and will be a starting guard in the NFL at some point. Instead of taking a developmental prospect late, as most teams do, the Chiefs were able to get someone with an incredibly high floor and someone with legitimate starting talent.
Overall Draft Grade
The Chiefs added an immediate starting left tackle with Pro Bowl experience by using their first pick in a trade. They used their day two draft picks to add players who can immediately compete for starting jobs and will be building blocks for the future. On day three, they were able to add depth pieces with immense upside. Based on player value and team needs, the Chiefs did an excellent job in the 2021 NFL draft. This class already looks like the best class of the Veach era. Bolton, Humphrey, and Smith are the best picks Veach has made since his very first pick as GM (Patrick Mahomes).
Overall Grade: A
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