What the Chiefs should prioritize in the NFL Draft — and why this one is significant

We’re five months shy of an NFL game, and still three months shy of training camp for that matter, but the theme of this Chiefs season is already pretty clear:

The three-peat.

It’s never been done in NFL history, and the lure of whether the Chiefs can be the first team to break the mold is captivating.

Here’s the thing, though: The Chiefs have already broken the NFL championship mold.

No, not by winning back-to-back Super Bowls — nine have accomplished that — but rather by how they’ve won them.

The Chiefs were the first team in league history to win a title with their quarterback occupying more than 13% of the salary cap, and they far eclipsed that. Patrick Mahomes took up 17% of the salary cap allotment each of the past two seasons.

It could soon get even more challenging. While the Chiefs pushed forward some of this season’s cap charge, absent a future adjustment, Mahomes could require as much as one-fourth of the team’s cap space in 2025 and 2026.

The solution is upon us.

The NFL Draft.

The Chiefs are a championship-ready team in the short term, but much of their long-term success will be — already has been — on the backs of their ability to hit on a high rate of their draft picks. Or, more relevant here: their cheap labor.

They’ve managed to use the draft to overcome key departures in recent seasons, and that’s despite facing a more difficult task than their peers. The Chiefs, once again, have bottom-five draft capital, a result of their position at the back end of every round.

It means their job is tougher next week.

Where to start? Here’s how I’d prioritize their positional needs and where they could most improve, factoring in that the best draft process narrows the focus in early rounds to what research has proven to be the premium positions — wide receiver, left tackle and pass rusher. (I saved the trouble of eliminating quarterback from the top of the Chiefs’ board.)

The list:

1. Wide receiver

This would have topped the rankings even before Rashee Rice faced eight charges for his involvement in a multi-vehicle car crash last month.

The Chiefs added Hollywood Brown in the offseason — I like the player; love the price.

But did any of us watch the Chiefs over 21 games last season thinking they were only one receiver shy of a complete group? And by the way, Brown joined on only a one-year deal.

Think of this: If (when) Rice is serving a suspension of to-be-determined length, the Chiefs will have no receiver on the roster who had even 600 yards last year.

Some good news? The receiver position is perhaps the deepest in this year’s draft class. There is loads of talent, and it’s not just the guys who will be gone in the top 10. It’s deep, too.

It all makes for a pretty easy case for the Chiefs to use a first- or second-round selection on a receiver.

2. Offensive tackle

As it stands, the Chiefs would be lining up Jawaan Taylor at right tackle and Wanya Morris on the left side.

For a team that makes a point of emphasizing that everything starts with the offensive and defensive line, it’s hard to envision that being the Week 1 plan.

Keep in mind that left tackle was a major question mark entering last year’s draft too, and the Chiefs plucked Morris in the third round and then signed Donovan Smith a few days later.

That kind of one-two punch makes a lot of sense again this month. (Smith is still available.)

More good news? If receiver isn’t the deepest position in this year’s class, that’s only because it’s offensive tackle.

A perfect marriage for the Chiefs’ priorities at the top of the board.

3. Defensive Tackle

The Chiefs have brought back everyone at this spot from last year — Chris Jones, Mike Pennel, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton.

So why would would the position still rank so highly?

Well, those who lined up alongside Jones didn’t exactly perform at Pro Bowl levels. In fact, this might be nit-picking, but the most glaring weakness in last year’s No. 2-ranked defense was the second defensive tackle.

Ideally, the Chiefs could land a run-stopper at the position. They were still just 24th in the league in yards per carry allowed.

4. Cornerback

It’s not just that the Chiefs traded L’Jarius Sneed, who improved to a lockdown cornerback in 2023.

They draft and develop the position as well as any team in football — a credit spread across their front office but also to defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and secondary coach Dave Merritt. So why not maximize the value of something they do really well?

The Chiefs have shown there is utility in rotating cornerbacks based on their play. They’ve done it with Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams. Chamarri Conner looks ready enter that mix more frequently, particularly at slot corner. But if they add another talent, they’ll find the use.

5. Edge rusher

The Chiefs have spent a lot of draft capital at edge rusher in the Brett Veach era, so maybe this falls under the you-can-never-have-enough-of-them umbrella.

Or maybe it’s looking at the fact the Chiefs don’t appear ready to offer last year’s first-rounder, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, a more prominent role.

Or maybe it’s that Charles Omenihu tore his ACL in the AFC Championship Game in January.

Or, you know, maybe it’s all of the above.

It’s not pressing — George Karlaftis and Mike Danna can play — but there’s more than a mild concern if they have to play without one of the two. And the strength of last year’s defense was eliminating such concerns.

6. Interior offensive lineman

The Chiefs are all set in the interior line for this season — Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith provide a formidable trio.

Well, as long as there’s some improvement in Humphrey’s snaps.

But Smith and Humphrey will hit free agency after the season, and a cap-strung team could save $16 million next year by shedding Thuney’s contract a year before its expiration. That’s not the preferred outcome for an All-Pro player, to be clear.

But there are reasons to invest in the position — so long as it’s not in the first or second round.

Let me add one more: The Chiefs lost Nick Allegretti to Washington in free agency, and Allegretti served as the backup for all three positions. They used him too. He started in two Super Bowls.

OK, two more: Veach has been terrific at finding value in the draft at this position. He has picked three interior linemen during his career — Humphrey in the second round, Smith in the sixth and Allegretti in the seventh.

You’d take that value in a heartbeat.

7. Safety

The Star’s beat writer, Jesse Newell, pointed out a pretty remarkable stat: The Chiefs haven’t made an addition to their defense since free agency opened.

The counterpoint is that they returned almost everyone from a group that allowed the second fewest yards and points in the league.


It’s not just the Sneed trade. Mike Edwards played 621 snaps last season at safety. He became a key piece.

As I mentioned earlier, Conner is ready for a bigger role, but I do wonder if his best fit is as a slot corner. An addition at safety would allow the Chiefs some flexibility to make that move. Either way, they need some depth, particularly with Bryan Cook returning from a gruesome ankle injury.

8. Running back

There’s actually an under-the-radar need for the Chiefs to make an addition to the running back room — a third-down back type — but they shouldn’t be expending an early-round pick on one. And the late-round talent is sparse.

I’ve talked to some scouts who say next year’s class is a good one, so perhaps the Chiefs can buy themselves a year and pluck a back in a middle or late round in 2025.

9. Tight end

At the onset of free agency, I wrote that the Chiefs should implement a Travis Kelce Replacement Plan sooner than later. The ideal blueprint would include finding the replacement before they need the replacement — and why not have a young tight end share a room with and therefore learn from Kelce?

One problem when it comes to draft needs: After the top-10 talent of Brock Bowers, whom would cost far too much for the Chiefs to make a trade up, there’s not a ton to like. If you’re screaming for Kansas State product Ben Sinnott, whom the Chiefs hosted for a visit, I’ll nod along, but there might 31 other teams nodding along too.

10. Linebacker

You could make a number of cases for why the Chiefs were considerably better defensively a year ago.

Mine? They prioritized adding depth. They were prepared for absences.

The most evident example came at linebacker. The Chiefs didn’t miss a beat after Nick Bolton was injured, with Drue Tranquill ready to assume the middle.

Well, the Chiefs lost Willie Gay to New Orleans in free agency and haven’t filled that void.

The position is buried on this ranking, however, because it is the weakest position in the 2024 class. It’s not a great opportunity to add.

11. Quarterback

I don’t really have to justify why quarterback sits so low on the list, right?

You know the guy they have.

At some point, it would be a good idea for the Chiefs to look to the draft for a long-term backup for Patrick Mahomes, but it would be a surprise if this is that year. Although the 2024 class is full of first- and second-round talents, it quickly thins afterward.

12. Special teams

The Chiefs are set at kicker and long-snapper with Harrison Butker and James Winchester, respectively. Punter Matt Araiza joined in the spring, but considering he’s never punted in an NFL game, the Chiefs should provide him competition in training camp. That competition, though, should come in the form of a veteran or an undrafted free agent, not with one of their seven picks.