Bills Chiefs Football

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) runs between offensive lineman Zach Fulton (73) and Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Cedric Thornton (91) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Missouri, on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017.

In 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs did something unbeknownst to their franchise — traded up in the NFL draft. Moving 17 spots to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, the Chiefs in hand gave up their 2018 first-round selection to pick their quarterback of the future.

However, without a first-round pick when the NFL draft begins Thursday, the Chiefs are still on the lookout for how to upgrade to the next level.

Entering his sixth season with the Chiefs, Andy Reid, the third-longest tenured coach in franchise history, has given the Chiefs five winning seasons and four playoff appearances — the best stretch for the team since Marty Schottenheimer’s stint from 1989-1998.

Upcoming general manager Brett Veach has shown his eagerness to change the team’s mantra moving forward. Having lost 11 of their last 12 playoff games since 1993, including six-straight at home, the Chiefs need to be more than a consensus first-round exit playoff team, the 40-year-old general manager believes.

With the three-day draft taking place in Arlington, Texas, this year, starting on Thursday, the Chiefs are on the board with eight selections — five within the first four rounds. Although making the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the Chiefs have some obvious holes that are separating them from the conference greats.

Offensive weapons aside, the Chiefs are still looking to find immediate solutions for their obvious needs. Here are the three positions they need to fill in the 2018 NFL draft.


Defensive secondary

Safety Eric Berry and newly-acquired cornerback Kendall Fuller will be headlining the Chiefs' secondary next season — but that’s it. After trading away 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marcus Peters, the Chiefs will be looking at another young position player to help a struggling 2017 secondary.

In a cornerback heavy draft, the Chiefs could luckily have multiple options with their first pick at 54th overall. North Carolina’s M.J. Stewart and Alabama’s Anthony Averett are two athletically inclined availabilities that the Chiefs should look at in the second round. However, the Chiefs could choose to look away from Power-Five prospects.

Tulane’s Parry Nickerson had one of the fastest 40-yard dashes this year at 4.32 seconds, and having forced an interception in a third of his career games, Nickerson is one of the draft’s exciting prospects from a less dominant school.

Whether the Chiefs select the best available in the second round or wait for someone like Nickerson in the third or fourth, secondary positions should be addressed immediately.


Offensive Line

The Chiefs’ offensive line has been a trouble for the team in recent years. Drafting left tackle Eric Fisher first overall in 2013 has been the biggest downside, with his play continuously criticized each season. As well as considering center Zach Fulton is moving to the Houston Texans next season, the offensive line should be an area of need entering the draft.

With needs all around, this draft is nearly perfect for the Chiefs' availability at the offensive line position. With a number of prospects not at the top of the board, there will be an extensive selection available whenever the Chiefs pick. Both Fulton and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff were selected in the sixth round, so it should not be a surprise if the Chiefs pick late. 

Western Michigan tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and Mississippi State offensive lineman Martinas Rankin are two picks to watch out for. The two will likely still be available after the first two rounds, so the Chiefs could look at these well-built but not well-known prospects to front their offensive line.


Linebacker

Fan favorites Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, and Tamba Hali have helped Kansas City's defense toward superiority. However, in recent months, Johnson and Hali, who are both their mid-thirties, were released by the Chiefs to become free agent this season, so the Chiefs need to find exceptional young talent in order to not fall back. 

The draft always has numerous availabilities at the linebacker position, and this year is no exception. With options both at inside linebacker and outside linebacker, the Chiefs could find their next top player at that position, with some names Chiefs fans might recognize.

Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong, Jr., is one option the Chiefs may look toward, after a disappointing 2017 season and an unexciting combine performance. Armstrong’s availability in the third or fourth round could be a find for the Chiefs, but if that doesn't happen, the options are somewhat endless.

Texas’ Malik Jefferson and USC’s Uchenna Nwosu are other availabilities for the Chiefs. However, the most exciting prospect has to be Central Florida's Shaquem Griffin, who won the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year while playing with an amputated left hand his entire career. One of the most athletic players in his position, his adversity is unquestioned, and any team will benefit from his on- and off-field prowess.

— Edited by Margo Johnson