Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
So, here we are at the end of the first round. It’s funny, I thought this would be a breeze because there are no surefire superstars to pick from while wondering if you’ve passed up a future Hall of Famer to grab the next big draft bust. But instead, I found myself faced with too many options among all the good but somewhat flawed prospects available at this point.
Below, I’ll look at how the Chiefs typically draft, what positions they’ll be looking at, and what they look for at different positions. This is a bit of a deep dive, and I apologize for the length, but having just played them in the Super Bowl, hopefully seeing them again in a revenge rematch at the end of this season, and also playing them in the regular season, I thought it might be interesting to have a fuller picture of the team to show how the pick fits.
Let’s first talk about the Chiefs’ draft tendencies.
GM Brett Veach is fairly aggressive when it comes to fitting young talent around his star QB and TE. This is evidenced by the fact that he’s had first round picks in only two of his first five drafts, with the first missing pick being traded by his predecessor to jump up to get Patrick Mahomes and the other two used to pull in Frank Clark and Orlando Brown Jr. to shore up major roster gaps. In his first draft, he used that aggression to seemingly target needs, and it resulted in easily his worst draft (the only 2018 pick still with the team is NT Derrick Nnadi, and his very first pick as GM was DE Breeland Speaks, who just won Defensive Player of the Week in the USFL). Since then, he’s put a focus on using the pre-draft free agency period to sign young veterans to fill any existing roster gaps, letting him adopt a bit more of a Best Player Available strategy, and this has worked out a lot better for him.
Veach also shows that aggression in being willing to trade up to grab a player they have highly rated, which is why I don’t fully expect the Chiefs to actually draft at 31 on Thursday night. The Chiefs usually have a relatively small number of players graded as real round one talents, and in 2022, one of them, Trent McDuffie, dropped low enough to trade up for him. With so many teams vying to race up the board to potentially grab their next mediocre QB, there’s a decent shot some of those round one grade talents may drop within reach again.
In terms of player evaluation tendencies, it’s clear that Relative Athletic Scores (RAS) are important. Looking at the first two rounds across all of his drafts, Veach has selected a player with an 8+ RAS in 7 of 11 picks. Odds are he’s going to aim for athletically gifted players that he believes can be coached up, a decision made more comfortable knowing that they can muddle through with the veterans he’s signed as needed. There are also some position-specific tendencies, which we’ll talk about momentarily.
Now let’s look at positions the Chiefs will be considering prospects at in the first round.
The team has shown that they pay attention to NFL aging curves when deciding when veterans should be replaced. Brett Veach does not sign older vets, outside of All-Pro level players, to long or lucrative contracts, and he also lets his own free agents walk when analysis shows that he can’t offer a competitive contract that won’t be an overpay when all is said and done. This echoes the philosophy Andy Reid had with the Eagles, that it’s better to let a player go a season too early than a season too late. So some positions that currently seem set are really only set for right now.
Offensive Tackle: For the second time in three offseasons, the Chiefs are replacing both of their starting tackles, as both Super Bowl starters signed deals elsewhere. The team signed Jawaan Taylor to a hefty contract and really like 2020 third rounder Lucas Niang. As backups, they have 2022 fifth rounder Darian Kinnard and former Eagles sixth round pick Prince Tega Wanogho on the roster. Most analysts and fans don’t consider those enough, especially given Niang’s spotty health record so far, so a tackle who can be shaped into a starter should be a target. There’s not been a consistent trend for tackles over the past five years, but anyone who watched Andy Reid’s Eagles teams knows he likes linemen who are athletic to pull and reach the second level and who display an appropriate amount of nastiness.
Edge: The Chiefs released Frank Clark and have not resigned Carlos Dunlap, but do have last year’s first round pick, George Karlaftis, and free agent signee Charles Omenihu, as well as backup Mike Danna and a couple of deep reserves who have yet to play substantial minutes. Most analysts think the Chiefs will look for another Edge in this draft, especially since Omenihu has done most of his damage when sliding inside on obvious passing downs. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has a clear type when it comes to his ends, dating back to his days tormenting Tom Brady with the Giants. A Spagnuolo DE should be 6’3” or taller, weigh at least 260 or more, and have longer arms (at least 33”), along with functional strength.
Wide Receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster and his social media game is now in New England, while Mecole Hardman is a Jet. That’s 1,235 receiving yards out the door and just 1,423 staying. The team thinks former Giant Kadarius Toney could become a number one receiver, but he’ll have to have his first healthy season as a pro to prove it. 2022 rookie Skyy Moore should be expected to improve, but vets Marquez-Valdes Scantling and Justin Watson are what they are at this point. The team does have a host of talented but completely inexperienced receivers coming into camp along with the recently signed former Giant Richie James and speedster John Ross, but no one believes they’re done forming their 2023 receiver room. As we know from his Eagles days, there are no specialist receivers in an Andy Reid offense. He likes to move his receivers across every spot in the field, requiring them to have a full route tree and slate of moves.
Defensive Tackle: Chris Jones is All-Pro but still hasn’t been extended beyond this season. They’ve added a number of other 3 technique DTs, but their only true 1-techniques are Derrick Nnadi, signed to his second straight one year contract, and former Brown Danny Shelton, who never made it off the practice squad. The Chiefs will undoubtedly draft a run stuffer at some point, but unlikely in the first. If they draft a high level 3 technique or hybrid tackle, expect the rumors to fly regarding the future of Jones.
Tight End: On the surface, tight end does not appear to be a position of need given the Chiefs currently have six on their roster, but Jason Kelce’s little bother is not getting any younger, so now might be the right time to draft someone to groom as his replacement. In addition, their primary blocking/H-Back tight end, Blake Bell is also getting up there in years and just signed a second straight one year contract, though it’s unlikely the team would look for that replacement in the first round.
Cornerback: This is another position that doesn’t seem to be a need until you look under the hood. The Chiefs seem to be set after drafting three corners last year. However, their most valuable corner, L’Jarius Snead, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the Chiefs will most likely let him walk next offseason, since teams who don’t pay attention to age/performance trends will pay him a lot more than the Chiefs would project he’ll be worth. Now is as good a time as any to grab his replacement while bolstering the secondary rotation for this season.
Safety: Safety seems set for this season with the Chiefs having added former Buccaneer Mike Edwards to the room. However, starter Justin Reid is nearing the end of his contract and the team could save $10.75 million if they cut him after this season, so again grabbing a replacement in this draft could occur, though not in the first round. Ideally, they’ll look for a hybrid safety who can play centerfield and match up in man while also looking to hit someone any chance he gets.
Running Back: After taking a lot of heat drafting the often-injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the end of the 2020 first round, I doubt the team will grab another running back this high. However, if Bijan Robinson is there, you never know. Given how much Andy likes using his backs in the pass game, anyone selected better have decent hands and some route running chops.
So who did I pick?
After eliminating a number of other options, I focused my analysis on four potentials that fit the Chiefs best at 31.
Keion White is physically a classic Spagnuolo Edge. He’s not good size, good pursuit speed and burst, an active motor, and decent bend, adding up to a three down skill set. However, he’s overaged even for a red shirt senior. His performance hasn’t been consistent, he’s shown to be slow recognizing scheme and doesn’t have the greatest body control. His age means he’s not going to physically develop much more, and his flaws are a concern when projecting how he’ll develop his technique. So he was a pass for me.
Kelee Ringo was the most intriguing corner prospect left on the board, with his elite size, physicality, and recovery speed. He fights through blocks well and is particularly adept in zone coverage, which is useful behind Spagnuolo blitzes. But doesn’t anticipate well and has issues tracking deep balls, which has limited his ball production. With player comps to Jimmy Smith, Xavier Rhodes, and Prince Amukamara, he’s an interesting possibility, but this draft is deep with intriguing corner prospects.
Anton Harrison was the pick I almost made. He’s been a very good pass blocker in limited opportunities in Oklahoma’s shoot and veer offense. He’s got good instincts, keeps busy as the play progresses, mirrors rushers well, shows good instincts, and plays through the whistle. Still, he’s got some growing to do. He shows a lack of strength when run blocking at the point, and he didn’t get many opportunities to develop much of a strategic arsenal against the pass rush outside of mirroring and staying in the way, which doesn’t bode well for handling speed rushers. When beaten, he does not recover well, and he’s had some technique consistency issues. These are all skills he can develop in time, especially since he’s only 21. But he would be a developmental tackle taken at 31, and there are a number of other intriguing developmental prospects that should be available later. That left…
Wide Receiver Zay Flowers, Boston College
I look at Flowers and I see the kind of receiver Andy Reid loves. Built more like a classic slot receiver, Flowers played mostly (and well) on the outside for BC. Steve Smith Sr., who was the same height (just over 5’9”), two pounds heavier (184 vs. 182), and 0.02 seconds slower on the 40 (4.44 vs. 4.42) than Flowers, calls him a “moveable weapon”. What sounds better suited for an Andy Reid offense? Truthfully, it was Smith’s enthusiasm for Flowers that pushed me into finally deciding on Flowers as the pick.
Flowers is just deadly in the open field. He tracks deep throws well and works his way back to underthrows. He plays bigger than his size at the catch point (which is good considering his limited catch radius), resulting in a solid 58.3% contest catch rate in his final year at BC. He has great redirection and is both smooth and sudden in his breaks, creating separation consistently. When he has the ball, he can make would-be tacklers look downright silly. He’s also a violent runner who doesn’t give up against contact and shows elite balance when spinning out of contact or tight-roping the sidelines. To stay on the field full time, he’ll need to improve his timing on routes a bit more, get better at finding holes in zone coverages, and improve his blocking technique, but those are things he should be able to learn.
Flowers has been comped to practically every undersized receiver in the NFL, including Travis Benjamin, Tyler Lockett, Marquise Brown, Percy Harvin, and Antonio Brown. But the one that shows up the most, including by Steve Smith in his breakdown of Flowers, is Jaylen Waddle. Flowers is talented enough to get some significant snaps with the Chiefs this year, especially if he takes advantage of post-draft throwing sessions with Patrick Mahomes and training camp tutelage to improve on his blocking and zone recognition. NFL.com has him rated as a better prospect than they did any of the Chiefs’ current starting receivers, and he’s a great fit for that team.
And the Chiefs certainly think so. Adam Schefter reported that the Chiefs asked Flowers to fly to Texas and workout with his potential QB, Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs generally get their QB’s opinion on potential offensive personnel moves, so arranging for the two to practice together signals they are definitely interested.
Boston College WR Zay Flowers - Mel Kiper’s No. 10 overall prospect - is in Texas today to workout with Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes at the request of the team, per source. Flowers believed his pre-draft process was over after visiting the Titans on Tuesday…until the Chiefs called…— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 19, 2023
Do you approve of this pick?
This poll is closed
2023 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Panthers (pheebthegoose): QB Bryce Young
2) Texans (Phoenix X Minimus): QB C.J. Stroud
3) Cardinals (alwaysaphillyfan): EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts (eaglenomics): QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks (The Player Formerly Known as Mousecop): DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions (Sam2TheMaximum): DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders (joey2arms): OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons (Kephas): CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears (chewy wellington): OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles (Philly21): CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans (RachAttack): WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans (Domonate): WR Quentin Johnston
13) Jets (JawnJam): OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots (Amish Eagle Lion): CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers (bdawk4ever): QB Will Levis
16) Commanders (the dog did it): OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers (Dr.MidnightGreen): CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions (DreadPirateRocco): DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
19) Buccaneers (Neil Dutton): DT Calijah Kancey
20) Seahawks (wardbell92): DE Myles Murphy
21) Chargers (Brendanekstrom): TE Dalton Kincaid
22) Ravens (Rollinpin): RB Bijan Robinson
23) Vikings (FierceDisc65): DE Lukas Van Ness
24) Jaguars (Leo Bedio): DB Brian Branch
25) Giants (dkays): WR Jordan Addison
26) Cowboys (w.connell4): LB Drew Sanders
27) Bills (EHyungNim): LB Jack Campbell
28) Bengals (mainmanham): TE Michael Mayer
29) Saints (RiverCityEagle): DT Mazi Smith
30) Eagles (ablesser88): DE Nolan Smith
31) Chiefs (Hoosinole): WR Zay Flowers
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2023 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Chiefs pick at No. 31?
This poll is closed
WR Zay Flowers
WR Jalin Hyatt
OT Anton Harrison
OT Dawand Jones
DE Keion White
DE B.J. Ojulari
DE Will McDonald IV
DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
DT Bryan Bresee
TE Darnell Washington
CB Kelee Ringo
CB Emmanuel Forbes
1) Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud
2) Texans: QB Bryce Young
3) Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts: QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks: DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions: DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders: OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears: OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles: CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans: DE Myles Murphy
13) Jets: OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots: CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers: DE Nolan Smith
16) Commanders: OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers: CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions: DT Calijah Kancey
19) Buccaneers: QB Will Levis
20) Seahawks: DE Lukas Van Ness
21) Chargers: RB Bijan Robinson
22) Ravens: WR Quentin Johnston
23) Vikings: QB Hendon Hooker
24) Jaguars: DB Brian Branch
25) Giants: WR Jordan Addison
26) Cowboys: TE Michael Mayer
27) Bills: LB Jack Campbell
28) Bengals: TE Dalton Kincaid
29) Saints: DT Mazi Smith
30) Eagles: RB Jahmyr Gibbs