Chiefs GM Brett Veach says the guys KC picked on second day of NFL Draft make Chiefs tougher
Chiefs fans will remember the agonizing playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans for Marcus Mariota’s touchdown pass to himself, some puzzling officiating or another head-shaking moment in a brew of misfortune.
Brett Veach remembers the stunning downfall differently, and he based his first draft as the Chiefs' general manager and other offseason moves on that memory.
After building an 18-point halftime lead at home against the Titans, the Chiefs got owned in the second half. Four Tennessee possessions resulted in three touchdown drives, and the final one ended in a Titans victory formation. In the second half, Tennessee amassed 18 first downs, with 148 of their 270 total yards gained on the ground.
So perhaps it's not surprising that the Chiefs drafted five defensive players with their first five selections.
“I can’t sit here and say that I wanted to go into the draft and draft defense, defense, defense,” Veach said Monday. “But I knew we had to get better on defense; I knew we had to get tougher.”
Veach said something similar on Friday, when he spoke after the Chiefs made their first three selections: Mississippi defensive end/outside linebacker Breeland Speaks in the second round, and Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel in the third.
“Going back to free agency, we talked about a bringing a toughness and mentality in regards to how the defense is going to play,” Veach said.
Defense carried the Chiefs' first day of the draft, but would that be the objective heading into Saturday?
Not necessarily, but Veach believed the Chiefs caught a break. A player they liked, Texas A&M safety Armani Watts, remained on the board in Round 4. Watts had looked to bulk up after the college season, but that slowed him at his Pro Day ... and the Chiefs believe that dropped his stock enough that he fell into their laps.
“I was trying to see if I could move better at that weight,” Watts said. “I was just testing the waters, but I’m already down to my normal weight (205).”
The Chiefs grabbed Watts and then picked Central Arkansas cornerback Tremon Smith and Tennessee lineman Kahlil McKenzie in the sixth round.
“We didn’t anticipate Armani Watts falling that low, so had he been selected with a third-round or early fourth pick, when we were on the board that pick could very well have been on offense,” Veach said. “But we couldn’t pass this up.”
The only player the Chiefs drafted who will play on the offensive side of the ball is one who didn’t play a snap on offense in college. McKenzie was a defensive tackle at Tennessee. He worked at guard at his Pro Day, and that’s the role the Chiefs see for the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.
“He had such a good workout at guard it looked natural to him,” Veach said.
The switch means the Chiefs will be proceed with patience with McKenzie.
“We don’t know how long it will take (for McKenzie to fully make the switch to offense)," Veach said. “It may take some time, but we just know he hasn’t played offense in years. The ability is there. We’re willing to be patient with him because the upside is good.”
The Chiefs' draft haul follows an offseason defensive makeover that brought cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and David Amerson in trades and linebacker Anthony Hitchens and nose tackle Xavier Williams through free agency.
Gone for various reasons are cornerback Marcus Peters, safety Ron Parker, tackle Bennie Logan and linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali.
As for the rookies, Veach sees immediate playing time for Breeland in the outside linebacker rotation with Justin Houston and Dee Ford, Nnadi in the interior line rotation, and O’Daniel in dime packages and all special teams. Watts also will get special teams time early.
All in a quest to be tough enough not to lose a huge a halftime lead in a playoff game.