by John Unrein
The 86th annual selection meeting of the National Football League will be held April 29th through May 1st in Cleveland, Ohio. Much like spring training in baseball, the NFL draft brings renewed hope to franchises across the landscape of professional football. The Kansas City Chiefs definitely fall into that category, no doubt still feeling the sting of their 31-9 Super Bowl LV defeat at the hands of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach will have his hands full in trying to fill the team’s several positional needs. The organization has been active in free agency with signings of offensive guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long. Those moves followed the release of long time Chiefs offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Kansas City has continued to bring players into the fold through late March and early April with the following additions:
Michael Burton FB
Austin Blythe OL
Daniel Sorensen S
Demarcus Robinson WR
Mike Remmers OL
Nick Keizer TE
Blake Bell TE
Darrell Williams RB
Taco Charlton DE
This draft has increased significance for the Chiefs. Outside of Thuney, all the other Chiefs recent free agent signings agreed to one year deals. The salary cap limit restructure across the NFL due to revenue lost from last year’s COVID-19 season has a lot of teams in the same boat as the Chiefs. Compounding matters is that defensive starters Tyrann Mathieu (safety), Chavarius Ward (cornerback), and Derrick Nnadi (defensive tackle) will be free agents themselves following this season.
And by the way, the Chiefs have a glaring hole at left tackle, the individual responsible for protecting the blind side of the best player in the National Football League in Patrick Mahomes. According to NextGenStats, and previously reported by Seth Walder of ESPN, Mahomes scrambled for an eye popping 497 yards in the Super Bowl avoiding the pass rush of the Buccaneers. The official website of the Kansas City Chiefs currently has a blank space listed for the first team left tackle on the team’s depth chart. Martinas Rankin is listed as the second team left tackle.
Simply put, Veach will not let the Chiefs exit the first round without trading for a veteran left tackle or selecting someone with the potential worthy of guarding Mahomes. Too much rides on the Super Bowl window remaining open for the Chiefs not to fill the position in a secure manner before any other needs are addressed.
There have been online suggestions from pundits that the Chiefs could trade for Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. The 6’ 8” three hundred and forty five pound Brown has productive experience at both right and left tackles in the league while still only being 24 years of age. However, it would be a shock to see the Ravens trade him to the Chiefs considering both teams are in the same conference (AFC) and view themselves as contenders.
The Chiefs have the following eight picks in this year’s draft: 1st Round (31st overall), 2nd round (63rd overall), 3rd round (94th overall), 4th round (136th overall), 4th round (144th overall), 5th round (177th overall), 5th round (181st overall), and 6th round (207th overall).
Stone Forsythe (Offensive Tackle), Florida Gators- 31st Overall
Forsythe glides into his pass set with grace. According to Pro Football Focus, Forsythe only allowed two sacks last season while most games for the Gators were against SEC opponents. Forsythe also has the hand punch and athleticism needed to fend off talented edge rushers. More importantly, it is a cab ride to get around the size and length Forsythe possesses. Likeness can be found between Forsythe and another former Andy Reid coached offensive tackle in King Dunlap, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Forsythe’s height works against him at times in the running game. The ability to learn how to use leverage as a tall player while locking on and moving defenders will be a work in progress at the pro level for Forsythe. That is okay though. Reid coached teams tend to be near the league lead in pass attempts. A trend likely to continue with Mahomes as the Chiefs signal caller. Mahomes must stay upright in the pocket though for that to take place.
It has been confirmed that the Chiefs did attend Forsythe’s pro day in Gainesville, Florida with a Chiefs scout running the offensive line drills.
Pro day measurables for Forsythe
HT: 6’ 8”
Arm length: 34.375”
40 yard dash: 5.14 and 5.15 seconds
Vertical jump: 27.5”
Broad jump: 8’ 7”
Short shuttle: 4.65 seconds
Three cone agility: 7.47 seconds
225 pound bench press reps: 25
Tommy Tremble (Tight End), Notre Dame- 63rd Overall
Tremble is projected to go in the third round of the draft. That is why the Chiefs will select him at the bottom of the second round. Tremble was one of the most dominant blocking tight ends in all of college football last season. The Fighting Irish ran behind Tremble when yards were needed most on the ground.
Selecting Tremble will promote the longevity of Travis Kelce’s career as well. Kelce may be used more as a flex option away from the line of scrimmage and avoid injury in no longer having to do as much dirty work in the trenches.
Tremble also possesses the athleticism and untapped potential to excel in the passing game. Notre Dame primarily used Tremble as a play action target in their offense. Tremble fulfilled that role with solid hands and the ability to track the football in the air well.
Several mock drafts have the Chiefs going defense in the second round or trading the pick and other draft capital to get back into the first round to select a defensive player. Tremble’s name may be called if that scenario does not play out.
Pro day measurables for Tremble
HT: 6’ 3”
Arm length: 32”
40 yard dash: 4.59
Vertical jump: 36.5”
Broad jump: 10’ 2”
Short shuttle: Did not participate
Three cone agility: Did not participate
225 pound bench press reps: 20
Jamar Johnson (Safety), Indiana- 94th Overall
Johnson has excelled at both playing near the line of scrimmage and off in deep coverage as a safety in the Hoosiers’ defensive scheme. Johnson is a sound tackler who does not fear contact. The ability to react to patterns developing in front of Johnson has permitted the 21 year old junior to get his hands on the football through the air.
The Chiefs select Johnson to protect against Mathieu and Sorensen being free agents after this season. The pick also provides Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the ability to move Mathieu, Sorensen, and Johnson around as chess pieces fulfilling various roles. The only other safeties currently listed on the Chiefs depth chart are Juan Thornhill and Armani Watts.
Pro day measurables for Johnson
HT: 6’ 2”
Arm length: 30”
40 yard dash: 4.58
Vertical jump: 35”
Broad jump: 10’ 2”
Short shuttle: 4.41
Three cone agility: 7.22
225 pound bench press reps: 17
Dayo Odeyingbo (Defensive End), Vanderbilt- 136th Overall
Odeyingbo was a team captain and has received notoriety as possibly the most underrated defender in the prestigious Southeastern Football Conference. Odeyingbo lined up against quality offensive tackles every week in catching the eye of scouts with his hand strength and ability to get off the football at the snap. The ability to get to the quarterback, be stout against the run, disengage from blocks, and finish tackles is what has moved Odeyingbo into the middle rounds of the draft.
A nine game schedule witnessed Odeyingbo rack up 5.5 sacks during the 2020 season. Odeyingbo would team with Frank Clark, Mike Danna, Taco Charlton, and Tim Ward to form a respectable defensive end rotation along the Chiefs defensive line. The free agent addition of Reed at defensive tackle also gives the team flexibility of moving Chris Jones to defensive end on first and second downs.
Robert Rochell (Cornerback), Central Arkansas- 144th Overall
Rochell is comfortable in space and in close proximity to wide receivers. More importantly, Rochell tracks the football well in coverage while displaying solid enough hands to reel in the football. The first-team All-Southland Conference selection in 2019 was a three year starter. The former track star at Central Arkansas also possesses long arms. Both attributes would allow Rochell to develop quickly in Spagnuolo’s press coverage scheme.
Having the confidence that you have the speed to recover in coverage does wonders for the willingness of a cornerback to get their hands on wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt a route. Rochell has been credited with a 4.41 40 yard dash and a 43” vertical jump at a height of 6’ 2” tall. The physical tools are definitely there for Rochell.
Rochell has the potential to be this year’s version of L’Jarius Sneed who the Chiefs selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft.
Tedarrell Slaton (Defensive Tackle), Florida- 177th Overall
Slaton possesses the size to lock down the “A Gap” against an opponent’s rushing attack. The 6’ 5” three hundred and forty pound Slaton also has the nimbleness to rush the passer and disengage from blockers. A relentless motor pops out in the film review of Slaton. Chiefs defensive line coach Brendan Daly would have a project to mold in Slaton.
The drafting of Slaton would protect the Chiefs against the possibility of Nnadi signing elsewhere as a free agent after this season. The Chiefs have typically carried eight or more defensive linemen on their 53 man roster during Spagnuolo’s tenure as defensive coordinator. The ability to have a rotation of quality defensive linemen to throw at the opposition promotes a healthy pass rush and limits the amount of time defensive backs must cover up receivers.
Derrick Barnes (Linebacker), Perdue- 181st Overall
Barnes is the classic tale of an undersized defensive lineman who can move well in space that was moved to linebacker. The Boilermaker three year starter ran a 4.58 40 yard dash at his pro day to coincide with a 37” vertical jump, a 4.32 short shuttle, and bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times when NFL scouts came calling to West Lafayette, Indiana.
Barnes checks a lot of boxes as a scheme fit for linebacker in Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense. Barnes is not uncomfortable blitzing and engaging with blockers due his former tenure at defensive end. Conversely, Barnes is comfortable in space and has shown the ability to provide coverage against short and intermediate routes in his drops.
Barnes also rarely misses a tackle. That is a good way to get noticed and punch your ticket to stay on the 53 man roster come training camp time in July. Couple that with Barnes not being shy about taking on lead blockers, and you have a player who may contribute at any of the three linebacker positions.
Sam Cooper (Guard), Merrimack- 207th Overall
The Chiefs were confirmed to be one of the 9 NFL teams at Cooper’s pro day. The 6’ 2” three hundred and eight pound big man attended the University of Maine from 2015 to 2017 before transferring to Merrimack, a small private school located in Andover, Massachusetts. Cooper’s ability to run block in the outside zone scheme used by Merrimack grabs your attention. So does the punch Cooper possesses in pass protection.
This was quantified by the numbers Cooper put up at his pro day. Cooper ran the 40 yard dash in 5.1 seconds, bench pressed 225 pounds 35 times, and ran a 10 yard dash split of 1.69 seconds. All of this means that Cooper is athletic but raw and would likely need time to mature under the guidance of Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck.