The Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl favorites. They are also in a very tough spot entering the NFL Draft.
Imagine being Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach.
You have the reigning Most Valuable Player in 23-year-old wunderkind quarterback Patrick Mahomes. You have the game’s best offense and some hope on defense after a full-scale makeover. Your franchise, for the first time in history, is the preseason Super Bowl favorite.
You have everything going for you. You also have the ongoing investigation into star wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
It’s Thursday and pick No. 29 is on the clock. Decision time.
When you have a quarterback like Mahomes, the general manager’s credo should involve the following thought process: Does he have enough weapons, and can the defense stop the pass? When Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian was running the show in Indianapolis with quarterback Peyton Manning, that’s exactly how Polian viewed his job.
Consider where Kansas City’s roster stands. The defense ranked 31st last year. The unit’s only strength was a league-leading 52 sacks. To that end, Veach traded away Dee Ford and released Justin Houston, sending 22 combined sacks out the door. Defensive end Allen Bailey, who remains a free agent, also contributed six in 2018.
Back to the draft. At No. 29, there’s going to be a handful of edge rushers available to Veach. The incoming rookie class is extremely deep at that position. In fact, one high-ranking personnel man told me that he had a dozen first-round grades in that group.
With the edge rushers in Kansas City currently consisting of Emmanuel Ogbah, Alex Okafor, Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon, there’s a gaping void for a top talent.
If Kansas City feels confident that Hill will be exonerated, taking a wide receiver in the first round would be surprising. However, the Chiefs do have a need at the position. If Hill gets suspended and/or released in a worst-case scenario, Kansas City would be in major trouble. The current depth chart is headlined by Hill and Sammy Watkins. It falls off sharply afterwards to Demarcus Robinson, Gehrig Dieter, Marcus Kemp, Sammie Coates and Byron Pringle.
Watkins is terrific when healthy, but he hasn’t played 16 games since his rookie year. In 2018, he suited up for 10 regular-season contests, and only finished eight of them.
Prognosticators largely believe there will be a glut of receivers around at this spot. If Veach takes Hakeem Butler, N’Keal Harry, A.J. Brown, Hollywood Brown or another prospect, what does it mean? It could be a matter of best player available. It could mean a replacement for Watkins. It could be insurance on Hill. It could mean all of the above.
Before Hill and his fiance, Crystal Espinal, were being investigated in connection to alleged battery of their 3-year-old son, Hill was in line to get a massive extension this offseason. Now? The Chiefs have ample uncertainty, and that feeling could drive the decision on whether to take a receiver or edge rusher in the first round.
Training camp is less than three months away. Kansas City, for the first time in franchise history, is the preseason Super Bowl favorite. The anticipation is high. So is the anxiety.
Top 10 non-divisional games of 2019
1. Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, Week 14
2. New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams, Week 2
3. Los Angeles Chargers at Chicago Bears, Week 8
4. Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints, Week 15
5. Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns, Week 3
6. Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs, Week 8
7. New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles, Week 11
8. Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans, Week 5
9. Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys, Week 5
10. Baltimore Ravens at Seattle Seahawks, Week 7
"“I believe that I can be the best running back to ever play the game.”"
– New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley on his lofty goals
Barkley should absolutely believe this. After a sensational rookie season that earned him Pro Bowl and Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, the second-year back is poised to continue his ascension. The biggest worry right now is whether the Giants are going to display any competency around him. Looking at the NFC, there’s an argument to be made that New York is the only team without its franchise quarterback moving forward. General Manager Dave Gettleman has to rectify that issue in the draft.
Listen to Matt Verderame and Josh Hill every week as they break down the latest NFL news and notes. This week, plenty of talk about the schedule, the upcoming draft and more. Subscribe on iTunes to get all the latest episodes downloaded directly to your devices!
The 2019 NFL Draft has the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers slated to pick first and second-overall. It’s the first time the same division has the first two choices since 1995, when the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars of the old AFC Central selected consecutively to begin the draft.
Info learned this week
1. Raiders’ trust issues drill at larger issue
The Oakland Raiders are interesting if nothing else.
It has been reported General Manager Mike Mayock and Coach Jon Gruden sent their scouts home for Easter weekend, and don’t expect them back before the draft. While it’s normal to give time for the holiday, there’s a highly unusual element to all this.
The Raiders not trusting their staff points to bigger problems. If Mayock and Gruden don’t believe their employees have been faithful in keeping from leaking information, do they value their input at all? Gruden is notorious for being cagey. Did the scouts, many of whom are more than likely getting fired after the draft, give full effort believing that would be the ultimate outcome?
The Raiders have a league-high three selections in the first round. Their roster is barren in many spots on the depth chart. They can’t afford to mess this up. Not a good week leading into the biggest three days of the year thus far in Oakland.
2. Clark rumors heating up in week prior to draft
The Seattle Seahawks just paid Russell Wilson. Frank Clark will get paid too, but perhaps elsewhere.
Weeks ago, FanSided reported that Clark was on the block. At the time, multiple sources indicated that the price for Clark began with a second-round pick. On Friday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed Clark remains a potential trade target, with Schefter stating that Seattle wants a first-round choice.
The compensation is going to be tied to the inquiring team. The better the team, the higher the round considering where the draft picks would slot in. For fans clamoring that their team acquire Clark, consider this: why are the Seahawks so open to trading a 25-year-old who has 32 sacks over the past three seasons?
It could well be because they don’t believe in the person. Clark was arrested on ugly domestic violence charges in 2014 during his time with the University of Michigan. In 2017, Clark sent a tweet to writer Natalie Werner after she wrote about his transgressions, saying “people like you don’t have long careers in your field. I have a job for you cleaning my fish tank when that lil job is ova.”
Great player, enormous risk.
3. Murray to the Cards remains an uncertainty
For months, Kyler Murray has been penned into the No. 1 overall pick. Maybe we should get the white-out.
While rumors always fly around with the draft approaching, there’s been considerable smoke that Arizona might not take Murray after all. The Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma remains the consensus top quarterback available, but are the Cardinals going to pluck him off the board?
Here’s what I wrote in my weekly mailbag about why Arizona might decide not to select Murray:
"Ultimately, the Cardinals are in control. They can take Kyler Murray and deal Josh Rosen. They can keep Rosen and select Nick Bosa. They can trade out of the pick and acquire a bounty of selections to rebuild their broken roster.What makes the most sense? The third option. All day, every day.It’s no secret that the Oakland Raiders love Murray. One of the worst-kept secrets in Indianapolis during the Scouting Combine was Head Coach Jon Gruden’s affinity for the youngster. Oakland also has three first-round picks. If the Raiders were willing to swap No.4 and include Nos. 24 and 35 for the No. 1 overall choice, Arizona would have to do that. On the value chart, Arizona is giving up 3,000 points and getting 2,990. That’s as close as you’re ever getting to an even swap.If Oakland feels that strongly that Murray is the guy, that’s an acceptable price to pay. If Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock value their draft picks more than Murray, the Cardinals likely stay put and take him.Either way, it’s very probable he’s going first."
I stand by that thought as we hurtle towards draft night.
4. Why the sudden change of projection on Haskins?
A month ago, Dwayne Haskins appeared a lock to go in the first six choices. Not anymore.
One general manager I spoke with believes Kyler Murray, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones are locks to go in the first round. He also stated Haskins is likely to go Thursday night, but there are concerns.
Multiple league sources have compared Haskins to Byron Leftwich, the former first-round choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Leftwich had pro size and a terrific arm, but his slow feet and mechanical issues hindered his progress.
Although there are concerns about Haskins’ stock, quarterbacks are always pushed up the board. It would be a surprise if his name isn’t called come Thursday.
5. All you need to know about the NFL Draft
Trying to watch the NFL Draft? Shouldn’t be difficult.
This year, the league has agreements with ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ABC and NFL Network to air the entirety of the proceedings. On Thursday, the draft kicks off at 8 p.m. ET with only the first round. On Friday night, the draft begins at 7 p.m. ET, with the second and third rounds finishing up. That night, ESPN2 will also have coverage.
Come Saturday, the marathon begins with rounds 4-7. The broadcast from Nashville will start at 12 p.m. ET and finish up sometime in the late afternoon.
As for time, each team has 10 minutes to make its pick in the first round. On Friday, the limit decreases to seven minutes in the second round and five minutes in the third. The five-minute limit continues until this seventh round, when it becomes four minutes.
In 1980, NBC broadcasted a Week 16 game between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. It turned out to be a one-of-a-kind telecast.
Why? No broadcasters were in the booth.
Television czar Don Ohlmeyer believed the gimmick could draw huge ratings for a bad game, all while seeing if announcers were truly necessary to the viewing experience. The end result was a 24-17 Jets win, and more importantly, broadcasters for every contest moving forward.
The NFL has to be better — much better — about international scheduling.
For starters, one of the league’s most important games will be played in Mexico City when the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs square off on Monday Night Football in Week 11. For the Chargers, it’s arguably their biggest must-win of the year, and it’s a home game that requires travel.
Additionally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders should be screaming. Tampa Bay faces a stretch where it does not play at Raymond James Stadium from Week 3 until Week 10. It’s due to a home game in London in Week 6 and a BYE in Week 7. If teams are going to be forfeiting host dates, they can’t be asked to play away from their fans for two consecutive months.
The Oakland Raiders have an almost identical case to plead. Oakland is away for Weeks 3-9, including a game in England against the Bears in Week 5 and the accompanying BYE in Week 6.
It’s impossible to satisfy everyone, but the NFL can’t ignore these major disadvantages for clubs.