Sam Mellinger

Chiefs GM Brett Veach made statement for defense on Day 2 of NFL Draft

The Chiefs blew it!

Just kidding. I have no idea. You have no idea. Brett Veach and Andy Reid — the general manager and coach who's livelihoods depend on it — have educated guesses. That's it.

Other than the stock market and casino roulette, nothing in America drives more people to convince themselves they know more than they do as the NFL draft. So, this will not be one of those columns.

Breeland Speaks may be a disruptive force for the Chiefs for years. The Ole Miss defensive lineman is athletic, and shows flashes of dominance. Reid compared him to Tamba Hali, Terrell Suggs, and Calvin Pace. So, yeah.

Speaks may be an awful miss. The Chiefs' first pick, 46th overall, is inconsistent, his lateral agility isn't great, and when Reid said Speaks plays with "an edge" he's being generous. Speaks was ejected twice in college, and arrested for DUI.

But here's what we do know: Veach is as aggressive as the draft is long.

"When you're looking at that board, and there are big gaps, you go up and get that guy," he said. "When we were in the second round, and Speaks is on the board, there was a big gap."

He's been on the job for nearly a year, but this is his first draft in charge. We've had hints that this is how he would be, but seeing it in real time leaves an impression.

Veach was hired to run a proud NFL franchise's personnel department before his 40th birthday, a remarkable rise particularly without the usual connections built through family or major college football.

Those are real barriers, or at least they can be, and those who know him well say he burst through with a natural confidence and relentless work rate. Veach's metabolism for film is fast, even by NFL executive standards, and he's known for locking in on certain players.

Reid and Veach go back a long time, when both were in Philadelphia, and the coach said Veach has worn him out about a handful of players over the years — among them LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Chris Jones, and Patrick Mahomes. Speaks joins that list.

Reid is providing an incomplete list, of course. You will notice the first four have all turned out to be productive players, with Mahomes receiving the hype of stardom already. You might notice another pattern. Veach and Reid's teams traded up for Cox, Mahomes, and Speaks. They traded down and took Jones.

That's a lot of action surrounding Veach's draft crushes, and that he's risen this far this soon is an indication of a strong success rate, too.

The draft is, generally, much more of a lottery than science. Generally speaking, teams are wise to acquire extra picks because they're all guesses.

This year's draft shows Veach's willingness to spit at conventional wisdom. They had no first round pick because of last year's trade to select Mahomes. They moved up eight spots to select Speaks in the second round, and moved up again in the third round to select Florida State defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi.

The risk is compounded depending on how much you believe projections. According to, Speaks was thought to be a third- or fourth-round pick, and Nnadi thought to be taken in the fourth or fifth.

In other words: Veach traded up twice for players the league website figured he'd have been reaching for with his original pick.

Veach may be right. He may be wrong. He is undoubtedly certain.

The other thing that's coming into focus is that Veach, even more than most, adjusts his draft board based on team need. NFL executives love to talk about "best player available," but Veach is making it clear he's looking for "best player available at positions of most need."

The Chiefs have a few needs, but coming into the draft none were bigger than the defensive line. No position group underperformed more last year. They were thin, and more urgently, several of the incumbents are in the last year of their contracts. Those problems are unlikely to be fixed for next year, through this draft.

But the Chiefs got better. They filled holes. They addressed needs. Veach mentioned the playoff loss late Friday night, and how that wasn't good enough. He wanted a tougher team. Better talent on defense. He was aggressive. He was certain.

Now he hopes it works.

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