The 2023 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are entering draft day with arguably the best roster in the league. That doesn’t mean general manager Brett Veach doesn’t have needs to fill though.
The Chiefs saw both their 2022 starting offensive tackles depart in free agency. JuJu-Smith-Schuster’s departure also created a hole at receiver and the defense requires depth reinforcements all over.
With unrestricted free agency delivering some clarity regarding the Chiefs’ remaining needs, here’s what a seven-round mock draft could look like for the Chiefs.
Round 1 (No. 31 overall): Dawand Jones OT, Ohio State
The Chiefs lost both Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie in free agency. Veach responded by signing Jawaan Taylor to a lucrative contract that insinuates Taylor will protect Patrick Mahomes’ blindside. Taylor is versatile enough to play either side, but he’s expected to man the left tackle spot. Dawand Jones is a mammoth of a blocker that could replace some of the toughness up front that left with Brown Jr. Jones is plug-and-play at right tackle.
Round 2 (No. 63 overall): Felix Anudike-Uzomah EDGE, Kansas State
George Karlaftis flashed progress throughout the 2022 campaign, but more is needed at the position. Frank Clark was a cap casualty this summer and it’s going to take more than Charles Omenihu to make up the difference. Felix Anudike-Uzomah is an athletic pass rusher that utilizes first-step explosiveness to stress opposing tackles.
Round 3 (No. 95 overall): Xavier Hutchinson WR, Iowa State
I don’t believe the Chiefs will prioritize a wide receiver in the first round because the passing offense revolves around Travis Kelce regardless. The Chiefs are well-stocked at the slot position between candidates like Kadarius Toney and Richie James. Veach should target a boundary option opposite Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Xavier Hutchinson is a big-bodied pro-ready receiver that’s seasoned enough to contribute immediately. Hutchinson recorded 107 receptions at Iowa State in 2022. He’d offer the Chiefs something different as a contested-catch winner.
Round 4 (No. 122 overall): Brandon Joseph SAF, Notre Dame
The Chiefs couldn’t afford to retain Juan Thornhill via free agency. They signed former Kentucky standout Mike Edwards as a lower-cost replacement. Veach should add insurance to the position by drafting a mid-round safety. Brandon Joseph strung together years of good tape between stints at Northwestern and Notre Dame. Joseph is a coverage-first safety that is excellent at diagnosing route combinations.
Round 4 (No. 134 overall): Zach Evans RB, Ole Miss
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is entering a contract year and he’s unlikely to remain in Kansas City’s 2024 plans. Isiah Pacheco is capable of carrying a heavier workload as a sophomore, but I expect Veach to draft another running back in preparation for Edwards-Helaire’s eventual departure. Zach Evans’ blend of speed, size, and functional strength makes him a well-rounded prospect.
Round 5 (No. 166 overall): Keondre Coburn NT, Texas
Khalen Saunders was a crucial run-stopping piece within the interior of Kansas City’s defensive line. Saunders left in free agency, and neither Derrick Nnadi nor Danny Shelton are good enough to replace him. Texas’ Keondre Coburn is a true nose tackle that would flawlessly slot inside next to Chris Jones.
Round 6 (No. 178 overall): Ivan Pace Jr. LB, Cincinnati
The Chiefs are well-stocked at linebacker between Willie Gay, Nick Bolton, and Drue Tranquill. I can see Veach utilizing one of his several day-three selections to address depth and possibly prepare for the future. Gay is entering a contract year and Bolton will attempt to demand a lucrative extension soon.
Ivan Pace Jr. is a hyper-active undersized linebacker that was extremely productive for the Bearcats throughout 2022. Pace Jr. plays with the swagger and confidence that makes him an ideal fit for a Steve Spagnuolo defense.
Round 6 (No. 217 overall): Brayden Willis TE, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s Brayden Willis is among the best blocking tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft. A traditional in-line tight end allows Kelce to be Kelce. Willis loves handling the dirty work that goes often underappreciated.
Round 7 (No. 249 overall): Darrell Luter Jr. CB, South Alabama
The Chiefs had luck with Day Three cornerbacks last year. Both Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams contributed to the Super Bowl run. I could see Veach favoring another small-school gem like South Alabama’s Darrell Luter Jr. Luter is a highly competitive cover man that blends good size with outstanding length.
Round 7 (No. 250 overall): Anthony Bradford IOL, LSU
The Chiefs have shown interest in Anthony Bradford throughout the pre-draft process. Bradford is capable of playing either guard position. He’d provide quality depth behind Trey Smith and Joe Thuney.
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