With 10 picks heading into this year’s NFL Draft, and not enough winnable roster spots to hold on to a healthy number of them, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey decided to try something different. For the first time in Dorsey’s tenure as the Chiefs’ general manager, the notorious pick-hound, would be aggressive — very aggressive — about adding specific players he believed in at specific positions.
The result? Three trade-ups, resulting in their first-round pick (Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II), third-round pick (Toledo running back Kareem Hunt) and fourth-round pick (Michigan receiver Jehu Chesson) becoming Chiefs, with a fourth trade — a sixth-rounder and James O’Shaughnessy to the Patriots for a fifth rounder — that led to the selection of Georgia Southern inside linebacker Ukeme Eligwe.
“Do you want quality or quantity,” Dorsey said, explaining his reasoning for turning 10 picks into six. “It was one of those things where I said ‘You know, I’m willing to move up and get this player,’ and that’s what we did.
“We have a pretty good roster here, and now on top of that, we just acquired six really good players.”
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To be clear, Dorsey would have gladly held on to the additional picks had he believed Mahomes, Hunt and Chesson would be there when the Chiefs’ original picks rolled around. But the more he looked at the board, the more he realized he’d have to make some moves to get what he wanted. It’s only a coincidence, he said, that they ended up being skill players.
“In order for us to acquire these players, I knew I was going to have to strategically move up there in round one, round three and round four,” Dorsey said. “We’re at a position in this organization that you can go get quality players that you want, and that’s kind of what we did.”
Dorsey’s deal to move up for Chesson — who CBSSports.com projected to be a seventh-round pick — raised some eyebrows from a handful of pundits, including Mel Kiper Jr., who felt he was taken too early.
But while Chesson’s production fell off dramatically in 2016 – from nine touchdowns in 2015 to only two – Dorsey said a switch in quarterbacks affected the 6-foot-3, 209-pound receiver, who ran an impressive 4.47 40-yard dash at his pro day and was one of the best athletic testers at his position.
“Where he was positioned on the board, I thought it was necessary for us to move up there because where we were sitting in the (fifth), I don’t think we would have gotten him,” Dorsey said. “I feel really good about him; I think he’s really smart, I think he can go for the long ball and stretch out and get the ball. I think he’s an aggressive blocker, and he’s a really good special-teams player. And I think when you package all that in there you can see why we went up at the 139th overall pick and acquired him.”
Chesson also suffered a knee injury in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in January 2016, which some have speculated affected his production this past season. But Dorsey didn’t buy that.
“I think it was more quarterback play than anything,” Dorsey said, referring from the switch from Jake Rudock to Wilton Speight. “If you go back to the bowl game against Florida — and (his matchup against a corner) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired (Vernon Hargreaves) — I think Chesson did a great job against him.”
Dorsey also liked the addition of Eligwe, a raw-but-talented 6-foot-2, 239-pounder who won’t be counted on to see defensive snaps early due to the ahead-of-schedule recovery of star inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, who is recovering from his second Achilles surgery in three years, and a quartet of promising young linebackers they like in Ramik Wilson, Justin March-Lillard, Terrence Smith and D.J. Alexander.
“For all intents and purposes what I’ve been told is D.J. is ahead of track, and that’s always a positive,” Dorsey said. “I think we had some young guys that got some positive experience last year when they had to fill in play.”
Dorsey said Eligwe, who ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, has the superb athletic traits the Chiefs have been known to place great value in. For him, it will be about how fast he can learn the defensive scheme and how much he can contribute on special teams, since all of the Chiefs’ young guys have to contribute.
“He displayed it at Florida State,” Dorsey said. “His freshman year, he was a very good special-teams player.”
Dorsey liked Eligwe’s pedigree, for one. As a prep player Eligwe was a Parade All-American who played in the Under Armour all-star game.
“If you go look at that Under Armour roster, I think there’s about 15 guys that got drafted off that team this year, which is cool,” Dorsey said. “He can run, and he’s an aggressive football player. He’s one of those players, if you watch the film at Georgia Southern, he made plays and he ran to the ball. Now, he’s going to have to learn how to get a better feel for the pad levels and the hand usage around blockers, but I think he’s got every attribute that we look for in a linebacker.”
Dorsey is also confident that Eligwe, who was dismissed from Florida State in 2014 for a failed drug test, has gotten things in order.
“We thoroughly vet every prospect we brought in here,” Dorsey said. “We brought him in for a 30-player visit. He had a chance to sit down with everybody in the organization. I like the player, in terms of the person. All my sources, personally, that I talked to at Florida State and Georgia Southern both endorsed him, so I was okay with that. I’m living in the present right now and I think he is, too.”
The one spot the Chiefs had a need at, but didn’t address with a premium pick, was cornerback. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t on Dorsey’s radar, it turns out.
“You have to get it at the right point and at that time I had valued certain positions over others in terms of how that board spoke in terms of best player available, and it just so happened to be at the defensive line position, the running back position, early on in day two, so that’s kind of why we addressed that,” Dorsey said. “There may be a corner or two that went off the board you wish was there, but I’m excited to see Leon McQuay III.”
McQuay, the Chiefs’ sixth-round pick, is a former top prep prospect-turned-safety at Southern California whose father played for former Chiefs coach Hank Stram with the Saints in the 1970s. Dorsey expects McQuay, who ran a hand-timed 40-yard dash in the 4.4s, to make the transition to corner.
“I think his athletic skill set fits cornerback,” Dorsey said. “He played big-time football. He has athleticism, he has played some slot/nickel corner in their scheme at SC. He’s got all the athletic traits you want from a corner, so I think it will be a natural transition for him to play that position. Then it’s the quality of coaching, how well they develop guys, and I think Al (Harris) and Emmitt (Thomas) do a great job of developing corners.”