There are several ways that the Kansas City Chiefs could go about using their two first-round picks in 2022.
They could draft a wide receiver to replace Tyreek Hill, target a premium edge rusher that can bolster this defense, improve the secondary at cornerback or safety, bulk the trenches at offensive or defensive tackle, or general manager Brett Veach could elect to trade up or down — which could change the first-round landscape altogether.
Needless to say, how Veach and head coach Andy Reid choose to spend these two top-30 picks will be paramount in how well they transition into the post-Hill era. NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. suggested one course of action on April 13.
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Kiper Prioritizes Cornerback
The popular ESPN draft analyst dropped a new mock draft this morning and decided to go against the grain with the Chiefs’ two selections. Kiper did not trade up for a wide receiver, or draft one in the first round in general.
Instead, he doubled down on defense and before all else, Kiper found KC a new starting cornerback in Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. The analyst wrote:
The loss in free agency of cornerback Charvarius Ward shouldn’t go unnoticed. He had developed into a really solid player. The Kansas City defense improved as the 2021 season went along, but it has to get deeper in the secondary. Booth is a smooth 6-foot corner with good ball skills who played both outside and in the slot in college.
The Chiefs lost Ward and Mike Hughes at cornerback this offseason, and there’s a reason prioritizing the secondary makes sense compared to wide receiver or EDGE. Many believe this year’s CB class is more top-heavy than the other two positions.
Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr. head the group, but both should be off the board well before the Chiefs pick at No. 29. That leaves Trent McDuffie, Booth, Kaiir Elam, Roger McCreary and very few other clearcut starters.
The Clemson product has been linked to Kansas City a couple of times already. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein described him as “a press/zone combo corner with good size and length” that plays with urgency and a “competitive nature.” His NFL comparison — Janoris Jenkins — matches that scouting report.
Booth’s biggest question mark is experience. He did play in 21 games the past two seasons from 2020-21, but will enter the draft after his junior campaign. The instinctive ballhawk had five interceptions over the past two years.
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Defensive Double-Up at No. 30
With pass rusher George Karlaftis still on the board, Kiper decided to focus on the defensive side in round one, selecting the Greek Boilermaker at No. 30.
“No wide receiver?” Kiper admitted sarcastically. “Let me explain. First, the Chiefs also have two second- and two third-round picks. They could take one (or two) wide receivers with those selections. This is a deep class, and they could find better value there. And second, defensive end is a need as well. If Karlaftis is on the board, he’d be an ideal end next to Chris Jones, who does his best work from the interior. Karlaftis didn’t always get home to quarterbacks last season (only 4.5 sacks), but he created pressure.”
Karlaftis would be a steal at this value. Just two or three months ago, most analysts were drafting the raw prospect within the top 10 or 15 picks.
The power rusher accumulated 14 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss (TFLs) in 26 appearances at Purdue. Karlaftis only played two games during the shortened 2020 season but filled the stat sheet anyway, with two sacks and two TFLs.
The similar trend behind these two Kiper selections is upside. Both of these prospects have the potential to be sturdy NFL starters that could outperform their draft status in the long run. With the Chiefs’ history of developing talent, that sounds like a win in round one.