Player grades from the KC Chiefs’ 2022 NFL Draft: Analysis

Here are three faces of the new-look Chiefs, part of the five new players the organization gained in the 2022 NFL Draft's first three rounds: cornerback Trent McDuffie, from left, safety Bryan Cook and receiver Skyy Moore.

Here are three faces of the new-look Chiefs, part of the five new players the organization gained in the 2022 NFL Draft’s first three rounds: cornerback Trent McDuffie, from left, safety Bryan Cook and receiver Skyy Moore.

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With the 2022 NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror now, we can start to make sense of how the Chiefs made out.

They entered the league’s annual three-day, seven-round player-selection process with 12 picks. After swinging three trades, including general manager Brett Veach’s first down in a draft, they would end up making 10.

The general assessment: They seemed to use each selection wisely, finding value at multiple positions and strengthening their roster for another postseason push.

“In your offseason plans, you’re going to do things for specific reasons,” Veach said. “Every year is different and unique, but it goes back to the mindset of when we have Pat Mahomes, we’re geared to go after this every year.

“Certainly you want guys that have upside, but you also want to win now. We don’t want to spend too much of these resources into waiting and developing. We want guys to come in here and play right away; we’re going to need them right away. We have big expectations.”

This year’s influx of new faces for the Chiefs produced at least three immediate starters on defense, a high-upside wide receiver and a heat-seeking missile at the safety position. Fortifying the defense was a theme, as the Chiefs used seven picks, including five on defensive backs, to bolster their lineup on that side of the ball.

Teams typically give a draft class at least three years to mature before attempting to evaluate it. Some rookies need more time to develop than others as they make the transition from college to the pros.

We’re not waiting nearly that long. Here’s The Star’s assessment of the Chiefs’ 2022 draft class.

Round 1, 21st overall: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington

HOW HE FITS: At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, McDuffie is on the smaller size for his position. But make no mistake: He’s a baller.

A projected top 20 pick before the draft, McDuffie slide a bit Thursday night. As he did, the Chiefs quickly worked out a trade with the New England Patriots, moved up from No. 29 to No. 21, and popped.

“I’m excited that we got a corner,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Very seldom do you have the highest guy on the board, at that time for us, and it be a position of need. And that’s normally when you try to go up and get that guy — trust your board.”

The Chiefs needed an impact player and they nailed it with McDuffie. A three-year starter at Washington, he will start immediately here alongside L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton in the Chiefs’ 4-3 base and nickel packages.

GRADE: A

QUOTABLE: “Honestly, I look at myself almost like a Tyrann Mathieu‐type of guy, someone who is going to be able to go in and play a bunch of different positions and just help out the team however I can.” — McDuffie

Round 1, 30th: DE George Karlaftis, Purdue

HOW HE FITS: The best way to describe Karlaftis, who totaled 99 tackles (25.5 for a loss) and 12.5 sacks in college? It seems to be unanimous.

“A relentless engine,” Veach said, and Reid agreed: “He has a relentless engine,” the coach said.

Karlaftis — like McDuffie, a three-year starter in college — should become a disruptive presence on the edge as a complementary piece to right DE Frank Clark. The Chiefs see the 6-4, 275-pound Karlaftis as a day one starter.

GRADE: A

QUOTABLE: “I couldn’t have asked to be in a better situation.” — Karlaftis

Round 2, 54th: WR Skyy Moore, Western Michigan

HOW HE FITS: After filling needs on defense with their first two picks, the Chiefs turned their attention to offense. Veach traded down from No. 50 to this spot, he sweated through a wide receiver run that saw Tyquan Thornton, George Pickens and Alec Pierce come off the board, and still got the player they wanted.

“We certainly liked all those guys — we brought in Pickens (for a pre-draft visit) — but I think we were really looking at Skyy,” Chiefs assistant general manager Mike Borgonzi said. “We wanted Sky.”

Moore, 5-10, 195 pounds, will need time to absorb the Chiefs’ complex offense. But he’ll have it: Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are battle-tested veterans. This pick is about a longer view, as Hardman and Smith-Schuster aren’t under contract beyond this season.

GRADE: A

QUOTABLE: “There are 32 teams in the NFL, and I get paired with the best quarterback in football.” — Moore

Round 2, 62nd: S Bryan Cook, Cincinnati

HOW HE FITS: Offering positional flexibility and physicality, Cook embraces the “heat-seeking missile” descriptor that many have assigned to him.

“That’s a great compliment and I appreciate whoever did say that,” he said. “I would agree with it.”

The 6-1, 210-pound converted cornerback made his mark in college as a back-end enforcer, totaling 124 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Juan Thornhill and Justin Reid are the starters, but there’s room for Cook, too, because defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo uses multiple three-safety packages.

Cook also provides three more years beyond his rookie deal if Thornhill isn’t back in 2023.

GRADE: A

QUOTABLE: “I’m very versatile, so I’m just able to work and make it my own. That’s something that’s not going to change.” — Cook

Round 3, 103rd: LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin

HOW HE FITS: Chenal joins Willie Gay Jr. (2020 second-round pick) and Nick Bolton (2021 second-round pick) as linebackers selected by the Chiefs in the first three rounds over the past couple of years. And the Chiefs have a clear-eyed vision for this 6-2, 261-pound former Badger.

“Now you have a guy that can play SAM (strongside) and can also kind of back up that MIKE (middle linebacker) position (and) have value similar to a guy like Damien Wilson, who we had in the past,” Veach explained . “We were kind of looking for that, and also to get bigger up there in the front seven …”

Chenal, a three-year starter in college, totaled 180 tackles, 12 sacks and an interception. He’ll compete immediately for a starting job in the linebacker rotation. The Chiefs will also use him on special teams.

GRADE: A-

QUOTABLE: “People who watch my game know I’m going to be one of the most violent guys on the field at all times.” — Chenal

Round 4, 135th: CB Joshua Williams, Fayetteville St.

HOW HE FITS: The Chiefs swung for the fences on this small-school product and appeared to hit a home run.

The 6-3, 197-pound Williams was the second of three cornerbacks selected by the Chiefs in this year’s draft. He won’t be expected to start — McDuffie, Sneed and Fenton occupy the marquee positions for now — but gathering pass-defense depth is smart business for the Chiefs.

“I’d say I’m versatile, I’m explosive, I’m a fierce competitor,” the HBCU product said. “I can go on for days, but all in all, I want the biggest thing to say is I’m a hard worker and I’m tenacious on the field.”

Williams joins a crowded cornerbacks room here in KC, but his upside is hard to ignore.

GRADE: B+

QUOTABLE: “I think when you see this kid, he just kept growing and growing and growing.” — Chiefs area scout David Hinson

Round 5, 145th: T Darian Kinnard, Kentucky

HOW HE FITS: The Chiefs needed a right tackle and moved up from the 153rd pick to secure Kinnard’s services.

“He was just sitting there, and we were like, ‘We better do this now because in 15 or 20 picks, he’s probably going to be gone,’” Chiefs area scout Pat Sperduto said.

After playing left tackle as a freshman at UK, the 6-5, 345-pound Kinnard started three years at right tackle. But he can also play guard (there’s the Chiefs’ beloved positional versatility again). Some draft analysts had viewed Kinnard as Day 2 material, which Kinnard in turn views now as motivational material.

“At the end of the day … I’m going to come in with a lot of stuff to prove and I’ve got a bit chip on my shoulder,” he said. “So, I can’t wait to get to work and show these other teams they messed up bad.”

Lucas Niang, who started nine games for the Chiefs at right tackle last season, is still recovering from a knee injury and isn’t expected back until the end of camp. Andrew Wylie is the presumed fill-in, but Kinnard will get a long look during OTAs. If Kinnard becomes a starter eventually, the Chiefs will have gained tremendous value.

GRADE: A

QUOTABLE: “I’m just going to be coming in playing pissed, playing to win.” — Kinnard

Round 7, 243rd: CB Jaylen Watson, Washington St.

HOW HE FITS: The 6-3, 204-pound Watson was the third corner selected by the Chiefs.

The position was already crowded with contenders, but the Chiefs aren’t looking for immediate starters in their seventh-round picks. Instead, they seek high-upside developmental guys who can play some special teams.

And Watson checks both of those boxes.

GRADE: A

QUOTABLE: “It’s a height-weight-speed guy at that position, which is a premium position. In that seventh‐round area, he fits the mold perfectly.” — Chiefs area scout Greg Castillo

Round 7, 251st: RB Isiah Pacheco, Rutgers

HOW HE FITS: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones and Derrick Gore project as the top three rushers out of the Chiefs’ backfield, but the 5-11, 215-pound Pacheco should compete for the No. 3 spot as a guy who contributes in passing-down and short-yardage situations and on special teams.

Let the former Scarlet Knights star explain:

“Definitely being a guy that can compete on all three downs, pass protection, being able to catch the ball, being able to run the ball on first and second down whenever we need to gain the short yardage,” the New Jersey native said. “And being able to compete on special teams, more specifically, coming in the door, giving 120%, competing and willing to take another grown man’s job.”

GRADE: B

QUOTABLE: “Tough, hard-nose, physical, doesn’t shy away from contact.” — Chiefs area scout Cassidy Kaminski

Round 7, 259st: Nazeeh Johnson, Marshall

HOW HE FITS: The versatile Johnson can play multiple coverage positions as a free safety or nickel cornerback. The 6-2, 189-pound Thundering Herd product ran a blistering 4.35 time in the 40 at Marshall’s Pro Day workout.

GRADE: B

QUOTABLE: “He lines up in the nickel and he’s in the hip pocket with these guys. The 4.35 shows up,” — Kaminski

OVERALL GRADE

It shouldn’t be a surprise after reading through this evaluation that we give the Chiefs’ 2022 draft outcome a solid A-grade.

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