To Trade, Or Not To Trade: What are the Chiefs going to do with all those draft picks?

The 2022 NFL Draft is in a week, and the Kansas City Chiefs have 12 picks — tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for most in the league. Below is a breakdown of each of those picks:

Round 1: Pick 29 
Round 1: Pick 30
Round 2: Pick 18 (48th overall)
Round 2: Pick 30 (62)
Round 3: Pick 30 (94)
Round 3: Pick 39 (103)
Round 4: Pick 16 (121)
Round 4: Pick 30 (135)
Round 7: Pick 12 (233)
Round 7: Pick 22 (243)
Round 7: Pick 30 (251)
Round 7: Pick 38 (259)

This is an offseason of transition for the Chiefs, and it’s undeniable that they have more holes on their roster than they can fill via free agency alone. Most of the club’s voids are on the defensive side of the ball; they are in desperate need for help on the defensive line, they could probably use two cornerbacks, and another linebacker now that Anthony Hitchens got released. At current, the only mainstays on defense are DT Chris Jones, EDGE Frank Clark, linebackers Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton, corners L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton, and safeties Juan Thornhill and newly-acquired Justin Reid.

While that seems like a fair nucleus of talent, it ultimately doesn’t mean very much without a stronger presence on the defensive line. At the end of the day this defense will not work, and cannot work, without at least one — but probably two — EDGE rushers to supplement an oft-injured Chris Jones and post-prime Frank Clark. The Chiefs were able to provide an average front after acquiring Melvin Ingram from the Steelers during the 2021 season, but to be viable in 2022 and beyond it’s going to take youth and talent — which is difficult to come by since the Chiefs are picking at the bottom of this year’s draft.

That is what makes the 2022 NFL Draft such an interesting, and critical, development for the Chiefs. With 12 different selections, it gives the organization flexibility in terms of taking a bunch of different shots at the dart board — hoping that a handful pan out — or packaging several of them together in hopes of getting a bonafide stud.

I’ve gone back and forth since the Tyreek Hill trade to the Dolphins — which netted them the 29th overall pick, the 48th overall pick, as well as two fourth rounders (one this year and one in 2023) and two sixth rounders (one this year and one in 2023) — trying to determine the best path forward. Is it smarter, given all the needs the Chiefs have, to draft in bulk? Or is it smarter, given the lack of impact talent, to sacrifice for one truly special talent?

For what it’s worth Chiefs beat writer for ESPN, Adam Teicher, wrote that “A trade does seem more likely than not,” which is what I would suspect if I had a gun to my head. After all, GM Brett Veach traded his first rounder to the Seahawks for Frank Clark in 2019 and in 2021 shipped his first round pick to the Ravens for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. It’s in his nature not to sit tight and wait for players to come to him; he has proven that he is willing to part with draft capital if it means he can get the guy he desires.

But I’m not sure if this offseason is the best time to pull such triggers. The Chiefs have glaring needs at multiple positions. They are somewhat hamstrung financially, what with being on the verge of extending Orlando Brown Jr. (who is currently playing on the franchise tag), having to trade Tyreek Hill (who couldn’t come to terms on a deal) and letting walk the defensive leader on the team, Tyrann Mathieu. Kansas City still have a healthy amount of cap space, somewhere in the ballpark of $25 million, but unlike the last couple of seasons they seem like they want to retain as much breathing room as possible.

It’s for that reason that I think trading up is not in the Chiefs’ best interest. Why package multiple draft picks for a proven wide receiver — like A.J. Brown or Terry McLaurin — when they would have to turn around and give them a Tyreek Hill-type extension anyway? That doesn’t make sense. And why do the same thing to move up from 29 and 30 into the top-10 range when there is no guarantee the player they selected would work out?

What I know is that so long as Patrick Mahomes is playing quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, they have a chance of winning the Super Bowl. Regardless of whether or not they do it, year after year odds are they will be picking towards the very bottom of the draft. That’s what makes this draft so special. If Brett Veach holds on to all of his picks — which, again, is unlikely — it could give this franchise one real shot at resetting the depth of the roster. Because right now, it’s heavy at the top and light everywhere else.

I am not an expert on football, but every year I have certain feelings about what the future is going to look like. Last year I had two proclamations, and they both turned out to be right. The first was a suggestion of who the 49ers were going to draft with the number three pick — at a time when none of the so-called experts had it being Trey Lance — and the second was using logic to determine that Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t get traded by the Packers. I made decent money on both of those predictions.

This offseason has provided tons of intrigue, but most of the fun stuff has already taken place. Russell Wilson got traded to the Broncos. Davante Adams got traded to the Raiders. Tyreek Hill got traded, out of nowhere, to the Dolphins. Matt Ryan got shipped off to the Colts. And now, most of the drama surrounds a bunch of third-year receivers — Debo Samuel, A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin — and whether or not they will sign extensions, get traded, or play out the final year of their contracts before hitting free agency.

On my blog, particularly, I’m focusing on the Chiefs. That’s partly to do with being a massive Kansas City football fan, and partly because I can’t envision a scenario anytime soon where they have 12 different draft picks in the same year. Conventional wisdom would suggest they utilize a handful of them to move up and select a truly special weapon — whether a rusher on the defensive line or a wide receiver to replace Tyreek — but I make my money betting against such low-hanging fruit. There is not a prop bet I can wager on about the Chiefs moving up in the draft — that I know about, anyway — but from everything I know about my favorite football team I am guessing that they hold on to the premium picks. Sure, there’s a chance they flip some 7th rounders for future selections. Or they trade spots and move up in the 4th or 5th round. But again, having six of the first 103 selections means something; having 7 of the top 121 picks means something. This is not a time to waste on a lottery ticket.

I go back to comparing what the Chiefs have right now, with Patrick Mahomes, to what the Patriots had for so long during the Tom Brady dynasty. A major aspect to New England’s success over the years is that they were never attached to any one player — besides Brady — and thus continued to replenish the roster with cheap, young players they acquired via the draft. For Kansas City to be within sniffing distance of the Patriots’ success there is only one way, and that’s repeating that process.

It is still early on in the game — after all Mahomes is only 26 or 27 right now — but if General Manager Brett Veach has taught us anything, especially this offseason, it’s that he has the discipline to trade Tyreek Hill. He has the discipline not to retain Tyrann Mathieu. If emotion was part of the game, both of those players would still be Chiefs. It would give them a better chance of winning a Super Bowl this year.

And yet, the goal isn’t simply one Super Bowl. Kansas City already accomplished that. The goal, instead, is multiple bites at the apple. It’s having a shot in 2022, in 2023, in 2024 and every year after that Patrick Mahomes is under center. That is my main takeaway from this offseason, that the Chiefs aren’t fucking around to placate fans like me, and that they plan on playing the necessary long game. Even if that means sacrificing some breadcrumbs in the short term.

I’m wrong about a lot of these things, but this is where I stand on the Chiefs holding 12 selections. If they are able to utilize their first six picks — all in the top 100 (and change) — and acquire a defensive end, a cornerback, and a wide receiver, if not multiple of each, then it’s going to give the franchise the flexibility to pay for talent along the way.