Multiple Experts Have Chiefs Targeting Key Need Area in Round 1 of NFL Draft

Felix Anudike-Uzomah

Getty Kansas State edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah in 2022.

In 2022, Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach spent both of his first-round draft picks on the defensive side — and that included a trade up that invested even more draft capital into the Trent McDuffie selection.

The other addition was Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis, who enjoyed an underrated rookie campaign at the NFL level. Despite these efforts to strengthen the defense a year ago, multiple NFL Draft experts believe the Chiefs will do so again in 2023 — homing in on the defensive line specifically.

During the most recent round of mock drafts (prior to April 2), three analysts had KC bulking up their D-line around Chris Jones, although they disagreed on the prospect Veach should target. The obvious question is defensive tackle or edge rusher, but the answer could actually lie somewhere in between.

Chiefs Connected to EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, DT Mazi Smith & DL Adetomiwa Adebawore

It’s kind of ironic that the three aforementioned draft experts all have Kansas City going after a defensive lineman in round one, but all three talents play different roles, nonetheless.

NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund kicks us off with Kansas State edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah.

She reasoned: “Bryan Bresee, Will McDonald and Adetomiwa Adebawore all flag as valuable picks here, too, but Anudike-Uzomah slightly edges them all out. Oh the puns. The former Wildcat ranked eighth in the FBS last year in pass-rush win rate on true pass sets (34%) and seventh in pressure rate (28%), per PFF.”

Next we have Jordan Reid of ESPN, who went with a prospect that Frelund referenced — Northwestern’s Adebawore, a tweener who could play D-end or D-tackle.

“Based on the defenders the Chiefs have targeted in previous drafts, they highly covet prospects who can generate consistent pressure,” Reid voiced. “Watch Adebawore’s performance against Ohio State from last season and you’ll see he’s capable of that. That game film is what scouts and evaluators bring up when mentioning why he’ll be a first-round pick. He didn’t have a sack, but he was really solid. Add on running a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at 6-2, 282 pounds, and Adebawore is a unique player who would be a welcome addition to an ascending defense. Adding him to play with George Karlaftis, a first-round pick last season, and recently signed Charles Omenihu would give Kansas City three options off the edge who all are physical run defenders too.”

Finally, CBS Sports analyst Kyle Stackpole mocked Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith to KC.

He wrote: “The Chiefs go interior instead of edge here, pairing the ultra-athletic Mazi Smith with All-Pro Chris Jones.”

Chiefs Current DL & How Each Prospect Fits In

Here’s how the Chiefs defensive line shapes up at this moment of free agency:

  • LDE: Karlaftis, Malik Herring, Joshua Kaindoh.
  • 1-Tech DT: Derrick Nnadi, Danny Shelton, Phil Hoskins.
  • 3-Tech DT: Jones, Tershawn Wharton, Byron Cowart, Daniel Wise.
  • RDE: Charles Omenihu, Mike Danna.

Based on this quick look at the unit, the Chiefs appear one top-four edge rusher short, and they also have a clear lack of depth behind Jones and Nnadi. Even the latter is a questionable starter at best, but one that has a familiarity with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and this scheme.

That makes both positions valuable, meaning a versatile piece like Adebawore could be the way to go in round one. NFL Network draft expert Lance Zierlein described him as “a positional tweener, checking in a little short for the edge and a little light for the interior.”

He continued: “[Adebawore] was able to handle himself at the point of attack at the Senior Bowl and is just a few hearty meals away from checking in at a weight that could pass for an even front three-technique. He’s a powerful man who wins with force over fluidity. He will need better play recognition in the future, but his explosive first contact and ability to play under his opponent’s pads could earn him a spot as a base end with sub-package rush ability or simply as a rotational interior defender.”

Smith is more of a “space-eating” prospect that could play one-tech DT next to Jones, according to Zierlein. The NFL Network analyst compared the Michigan product to former Chiefs first-round selection and nose tackle Dontari Poe, so perhaps there’s a match there too.

As for Anudike-Uzomah, the “hard-charging edge” is a more natural passing down disruptor and D-end that Zierlein compared to Dante Fowler Jr. “Anudike-Uzomah has good strength and a long frame that should continue to fill out,” he scouted. “His run defense is unrefined and in need of better fundamentals, but he’s clearly gone to school on his pass-rush approach.”