Kansas City Chiefs Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue – Round 1
At the start of the offseason, some of the Kansas City brain trust said improving the defensive line talent was a top priority, and the organization handled that by selecting Karlaftis in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Chiefs needed an edge rusher opposite Frank Clark, and Karlaftis should benefit from single-block opportunities thanks to the presence of Clark and Chris Jones. As early as his rookie season, Karlaftis could be a solid starter for the Chiefs.

Karlaftis shows some natural ability to put heat on the quarterback in the pass rush. He uses active hands and possesses decent functional strength to do a nice job of shedding blocks to get free to the signal-caller. Karlaftis has an impressive arm-over move that he uses to disengage from offensive tackles, and once Karlaftis, gets loose he has a burst to close. Beyond his active hands, Karlaftis also keeps his feet moving, and that combinaation makes it difficult for tackles to sustain blocks against him. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Karlaftis also has the size, functional strength, and athleticism to slide to the inside and rush as a tackle in the sub package. To get the better of pro offensive tackles, Karlaftis should continuing to add to and refine his pass-rushing moves.

Karlaftis is an odd and interesting prospect because he has strength to shed blocks as a pass rusher, but that never translated to the ground game. It was peculiar to some NFL sources, but for the pros, Karlaftis needs to get stronger so he doesn’t get moved around and pushed out of his gap. He makes an effort to flow to the ball, but holding his ground against bigger offensive tackles is going to be an issue for. As a run defender, Karlaftis has room for improvement, and he probably will improve as he develops under the Kansas City coaching staff.

Given the Chiefs’ depth chart, Karlaftis should likely be an immediate starter. Mike Danna (2020) and Joshua Kaindoh (2021) were fifth- and fourth-round picks respectively, and Karlaftis should be able to beat them out quickly. As he gains experience, Karlaftis looks like a safe choice to evolve into being a solid starter for Kansas City.

2021: Creed Humphrey, C
2020: Willie Gay Jr., LB
2019: Khalen Saunders, DT
2018: Derrick Nnadi, DT
2017: Kareem Hunt, RB
2016: Chris Jones, DT
2015: Mitch Morse, G
2014: Philip Gaines, CB
2013: Eric Fisher, OT

Most Likely To Bust

Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan – Round 2
This was a tough choice because I did not see a particularly risky pick among Kansas City’s early-round selections. However of the team’s early picks, Moore could be the riskiest. He faces some limitations for the NFL, such as being short and lacking elite speed. Moore could have problems with longer cornerbacks and getting off jams and reroutes might be a problem for him. Even though Moore is quick and a shifty route-runner, he is not a speed demon like a Jaylen Waddle. Moore’s size limits him to playing as a slot receiver in the NFL.

On top of some physical limitations, Moore is in a crowded depth chart thanks to the Chiefs having established veterans like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman and Josh Gordon. Moore is nearly assured of making the roster this year because of the second-round pick investment in him, but he could have a hard time breaking out because the Kansas City offense spreads the ball around and features Travis Kelce. Of the Chiefs’ early-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, Moore seems like the one who could end up the most likely having a hard time establishing himself as a starter.

2021: Joshua Kaindoh, DE
2020: Lucas Niang, OT
2019: Mecole Hardman, WR
2018: Dorian O’Daniel, LB
2017: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE
2016: KeiVarae Russell, CB
2015: Chris Conley, WR
2014: Dee Ford, OLB
2013: Knile Davis, RB

Potential Boom Pick

Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington – Round 1
The Chiefs needed cornerback help, and landing McDuffie outside after the top 20 was very good value. He has the skill set to be a No. 1 corner and is a well-developed defensive back who does everything well. Before long, he could be a very good corner for Kansas City.

McDuffie enters the NFL as a polished cornerback with good technique and intelligence. His awareness and instincts particularly stand out. He does an excellent job of reading the offense and putting himself in position to make plays. McDuffie is instinctive with his route diagnosis, aware of what the offensive is trying to do, and will react quickly. After his instincts get him in position, McDuffie can smoothly run the route and prevent separation. He is very calm and comfortable with the ball in the air, possessing a knack for timing his contact well to avoid penalties while breaking up passes. McDuffie has enough size to match up against big wideouts and the speed to handle fast players. He could be developed into a versatile corner who can play outside, inside in the slot, and play a variety of techniques like off-man, press-man, or zone.

McDuffie also is a good run defender who is willing to get physical and tackle. He chases down ball-carriers and shows an attacking style to swarm the ball. A lot of college cover corners get lax against run, but McDuffie was aggressive for Washington and helped his team in the ground game.

The Chiefs were in need of a future No. 1 cornerback after losing Charvarius Ward in free agency. It might take McDuffie some developmental time, but before long he could be Kansas City’s top cornerback and a potential Pro Bowler. Trading up for McDuffie was a smart move by the Chiefs because he could be a boom pick.

2021: Nick Bolton, LB
2020: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
2019: Juan Thornhill, S
2018: Breeland Speaks, DT
2017: Pat Mahomes, QB
2016: Demarcus Robinson, WR
2015: Marcus Peters, CB
2014: De’Anthony Thomas, RB
2013: Travis Kelce, TE

Future Depth Player

Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati – Round 2
I think Cook could be a solid starter, but in the short term, he will be a good depth player. The Chiefs do not need a starting safety after signing Justin Reid to pair with Juan Thornhill. However, Cook is a tough run defender who can also make plays on the ball in coverage. He could be a very good rotational safety to protect the veterans and help provide flexibility for three-safety defenses. Cook may not beat out Reid or Thornhill for a starting job anytime soon, but he at least should be an excellent backup.

2021: Cornell Powell, WR
2020: L’Jarius Snead, DB
2019: Darwin Thompson, RB
2018: Amrani Watts, S
2017: Jehu Chesson, WR
2016: Eric Murray, CB
2015: Steven Nelson, CB
2014: Aaron Murray, QB
2013: Sanders Commings, CB

Walt’s 2022 NFL Draft Grades:

21. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington – A Grade
I imagine the Chiefs were shocked that Trent McDuffie was available. They didn’t need to leap the Packers necessarily, but going ahead of Baltimore was essential. I love this pick, as Kansas City had to fill a huge hole at cornerback, and McDuffie is arguably the best player available after Jermaine Johnson. The Chiefs moved up to get McDuffie, but with 12 picks, they almost had to do so.

30. George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue – A Grade
I’m mad about the Bengals not getting George Karlaftis, but the Chiefs are making a great value pick. Karlaftis has the talent to be a top-15 pick. I’m not sure why he fell – the upside isn’t huge, I suppose – but the Chiefs won’t complain. He’ll fill a huge need for Kansas City’s poor edge rush.

54. Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan – A Grade
I saw that some had Skyy Moore in the first round. That was a bit rich to me, save for one update when I was stuck on Tennessee’s pick, but Moore seemed destined to go in the top half of the second round. This is good value for him, and he obviously fills a need vacated by Tyreek Hill in the trade with Miami. I love this pick, especially because the Chiefs traded down to take Moore.

62. Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati – C Grade
I’m not a huge fan of this pick. Bryan Cook is an instinctive safety, so he should be able to play right away and fill in for Tyrann Mathieu, but I think this is a bit rich for him. I had him late three/early four. This isn’t a huge reach, but the Chiefs could have done better.

103. Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin – B Grade
Leo Chenal makes sense at the end of the third round. He’s a two-down run defender who will struggle in coverage, but the Chiefs won’t have to put him in that situation. Kansas City’s run defense should improve with Chenal No. 3 on the field.

135. Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State – A Grade
I’m a big fan of this pick for the Chiefs. They really needed to shore up their ailing secondary, so another defensive back pick makes sense. Joshua Williams is someone I had mocked in the third round on some occasions, so I love this value.

145. Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky – A+ Grade
Two A+ grades to begin Round 5! Darian Kinnard has good athleticism for a big offensive lineman, so I thought he’d go in the third round. This is great value, though it’s worth noting that there are injury concerns. Still, there’s barely any risk in Round 5.

243. Jaylen Watson, CB, Washington State – A+ Grade
What is happening!? How are these talented cornerbacks falling to the seventh round? As with Kalon Barnes, I had Jaylen Watson projected to the fourth round. The tall cornerback is a great value for the Chiefs in the final frame.

251. Isaih Pacheco, RB, Rutgers – C Grade
Isaih Pacheco was fast in college, but I don’t think that’ll translate to the NFL. He doesn’t break any tackles and doesn’t possess any positive tools for an NFL running back.

259. Nazeeh Johnson, S, Marshall – B- Grade
Nazeeh Johnson was not on my radar at all as a draftable prospect. I’d go into the “C” range if this were not in the compensatory portion of the seventh round.

2022 NFL Draft Team Grade: A. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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