Chiefs likely to target offensive line on Day 1 of NFL draft

Kansas City Chiefs

FILE – Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) prepares to block against Notre Dame during the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, in this Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, file photo. The Kansas City Chiefs already have spent the offseason rebuilding an offensive line ravaged by injuries and then dominated by Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. But there is still work to be done, and the next opportunity to provide some help up front for quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the NFL draft.(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has only watched the Super Bowl twice since the night the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave him quite possibly the worst beating of his professional career.

Now, the Chiefs are targeting the NFL draft to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Even after signing free-agent guard Joe Thuney and tempting former All-Pro offensive lineman Kyle Long out of retirement, there is still work to be done rebuilding Mahomes’ protection. The interior is relatively set but there’s a glaring need at tackle, where the Chiefs cut both Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher to save salary-cap space.

“I like the way this draft looks,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “The draft looks really talented on the offensive line, so I think it will be a combination of what we have in-house and blending that in with some new talent, potentially in free agency and potentially in the draft. But I certainly like the way the draft is shaping up.”

As it stands, the Chiefs will have an entirely new offensive line from the injury-ravaged front five that allowed the Bucs to shut down the potent Kansas City offense in a 31-9 rout in the Super Bowl in February.

The Chiefs signed free agent center Austin Blythe along with Thuney and Long in free agency. Third-round pick Lucas Niang will be back after opting out of his rookie season, and veteran Laurent Duvernay-Tardif also will be back at right guard after the trained physician spent last season helping COVID-19 patients in his native Canada.

Just about every mock draft has the Chiefs adding an offensive tackle to the mix at No. 31. But with so much depth, nobody is sure who it will be. Samuel Cosmi (Texas), Jalen Mayfield (Michigan), Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma State), Alex Leatherwood (Alabama), Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame), Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) and Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State) are all possibilities.

“At the end of the day, I trust in Veach and I trust in coach (Andy) Reid to make the right decision for the betterment of the team,” Mahomes said. “If they ask me, I’ll give my input and do that different type of stuff, but they have a pretty good track record of getting great players in this building.”

DRAFT SITUATION

Along with the penultimate pick in the first round, the Chiefs have late-round selections in the second, third and fourth along with a second fourth-round pick as compensation for losing cornerback Kendall Fuller. They also have two picks in the fifth, one for losing defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, and a sixth they acquired in the trade of DeAndre Washington.

BUT WAIT …

Veach has proven to be one of the most aggressive GMs in the league on draft day, either packaging picks to move up or trading down to acquire additional selections. So even though the Chiefs are scheduled to pick 31st in Cleveland, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll wait that long — or pick on Day 1 at all.

WIN ON THE CHEAP

The Chiefs had to get creative with the salary cap just to accomplish what they did in free agency, and they won’t get relief anytime soon with a number of long-term contracts on the books. That makes it even more important that the Chiefs don’t miss on the draft, where they could land a handful of useful players on cheap rookie contracts.

GETTING DEFENSIVE

Along with protecting Mahomes, the Super Bowl revealed a glaring need to better pressure opposing quarterbacks. The Chiefs added defensive tackle Jarran Reed in free agency, but they could use another edge rusher opposite Frank Clark, and upgrades at linebacker and cornerback would give the big boys up front more time to work.

“We’ll invest in the offensive and defensive lines and we’ll fill in the skill as we go along,” Veach said. “Once you get the things that you have to have in place, then I think you can be more patient and let market and free agency come to you.”

MORE WEAPONS

The Chiefs surprisingly added running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to their offense in the first round last year. This year, they could give Mahomes another wide receiver in the draft after losing Sammy Watkins to free agency and with Mecole Hardman yet to prove he can be a reliable No. 2 alongside Tyreek Hill.

Among those that could be available to Kansas City on Day 2 are Kadarius Toney (Florida), Amari Rodgers (Clemson) and Josh Palmer (Tennessee), while a deep position group also could produce a Day 3 gem.

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