KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Brett Veach has made so many maneuvers involving draft picks since taking over as the Kansas City Chiefs’ general manager that it’s hard to believe he’s never led an actual draft.
That changes this week.
The young front office boss, who took over when John Dorsey was let go last summer, heads into the three-day draft Thursday without a first-round pick. But Veach has one in the second round and two more in the third, giving him ample opportunity to shore up a leaky defense on an otherwise deep roster.
“I am looking forward to it. I’ve been working up to it, been doing this for 12 years,” he said last week. “I’ve been going to the draft room for a long time. Certainly, it will be different as a GM. I am surrounded by a lot of great people and trust those guys.”
The Chiefs clearly trust him. Dorsey did a good job of acquiring talent after taking over a 2-14 franchise, but his inability to manage the salary cap ultimately led to his ouster.
Veach has quickly balanced the books, using draft choices to help the process. He sent a fourth-round pick next year to Buffalo to grab middle linebacker Reggie Ragland, who started right away last season, and a fifth-rounder this year to Cleveland for swing offensive tackle Cam Erving.
Then, he dealt quarterback Alex Smith to Washington for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick this year, and cornerback Marcus Peters and a sixth-round pick this year to the Los Angeles Rams for a fourth-round pick this year and a second-round selection next season.
Got all that?
The upshot is that, while nobody is quite sure what Veach will do when he runs his own draft, the safe assumption is that he will move aggressively to nab a player he likes.
“That’s just kind of who I am. I have a group of guys up there who are worried that I’m going to be too aggressive,” he said, “so I’m glad I have those guys. Everyone does this, and we’ve done this the last five years, you go through mock drafts just like you see online. We kind of just play that game ourselves in regards to what do we do if, or what about if this guy slides.
“I think every scenario had me trading up and my guys were like, ‘we have a lot of good picks here.’ I think I’ll have a good group of guys helping me out there.”
As Veach and the Chiefs prepare for the draft, here are some things to know:
The Chiefs spent lavishly on WR Sammy Watkins and are deep on offense, but there are holes across the board on defense. Look for them to target a pass rusher or cornerback with their first couple of choices, regardless of whether Veach decides to trade up.
“Brett puts his own flare on things here and there,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I think he’s very thorough. If I can tell you what he is, he’s very thorough.”
BUT REMEMBER OFFENSE
Kansas City will have a young, largely unproven starter under center after Patrick Mahomes II took over. Veach and Reid both talked about surrounding him with talent, and that could mean more help with pass catchers and offensive linemen.
There are some local names that could fit nicely in Kansas City. Kansas DE Dorance Armstrong showed flashes of talent throughout his career in Lawrence, while Kanas State CB D.J. Reed has the speed to help on defense and special teams — he was a return ace with the Wildcats.
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
The Chiefs have landed at least one Pro Bowl player each of the past three drafts: Peters in 2015, WR Tyreek Hill the next year and RB Kareem Hunt last season. But they also have acquired other key guys, including Mahomes in the first round last year and DT Chris Jones in the second round in 2016.
The misses have largely been on defense. CB KeiVarae Russell was cut in camp after going in the third round in 2016, while DE Tanoh Kpassagnon rarely saw the field as a second-rounder last year.
Good luck finding bigger bargains than Hunt and Hill. Hunt was a third-round pick last year and led the league in rushing as a rookie, while Hill was a fifth-round pick with plenty of off-the-field issues, but has thrived as a wide receiver and return man.