Chiefs “excited” where roster stands following draft weekend

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The team that reports to St. Joseph for training camp in July appears primarily set in place for the Chiefs, and general manager Brett Veach feels good about where his team stands after this weekend’s NFL draft.

The Chiefs project second-round draft pick edge rusher Breeland Speaks to emerge as a three-down player during his upcoming rookie campaign.

“I’m excited about the roster,” Veach said during a post-draft conference call Monday. “We feel good about it. I don’t think again ever as an evaluator, you’re ever happy or keep your eyes closed. If there’s opportunities to get our depth better or to acquire players that will help us, we’ll do that.”

Veach feels the Chiefs added four players during the draft that should contribute significant playing time this season, starting with second-round edge rusher Breeland Speaks. But he acknowledges the selection of Speaks focused primarily on need rather than simply the best available player.

“We wanted to get a guy that affected the passer and once we got that taken care of, it was best player available and just look at the whole depth of the draft,” Veach said. “We ended up with guys that we like and they happened to all be on defense.”

The Chiefs also selected linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon in the second round of last year’s draft. But Veach sees Speaks as a more advanced player when it comes to rushing the passer.

“Whereas Breeland in regards to what we’re asking him to do, he’s already done it, number one,” Veach said. “Number two, he’s already done it versus a higher level of competition. So we feel like the change and the adjustment should happen obviously more quickly for him.”

Two players in this year’s draft class have extensive big-time college experience that should help their prospects for playing quickly. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi played as a true freshman at Florida State and started 37 games.

“Obviously this guy will be able to come right in and play for us and help us out,” Veach said.

Meanwhile fourth-round safety Armani Watts started four years in the SEC at Texas A&M. Veach believes he can develop into a starting safety but didn’t put a timetable on that expectation.

“We thought Armani was a player that can play in our scheme in regards to being interchangeable,” Veach explained. “He can play down low because he is physical, he is tough loves to hit. But he also has very good instincts and ball skills. He’s very good at anticipating routes.”

Fourth-round linebacker Dorian O’Daniel also expects to contribute quickly on a part-time basis on defense and full-time on special teams.

“We have a vision for him so we know when we go into our sub stuff, he will be able to come in there and be able to be utilized as a coverage backer,” Veach said. “He can match up on some tight ends, play in the passing game, has range, had speed and then all four phases of special teams.”

Veach acknowledges the team’s two sixth-round selections have room to grow before making significant contributions. Cornerback Tremon Smith must make the jump from NCAA FCS division Central Arkansas while Kahlil McKenzie must navigate the change from defensive to offensive line.

Some small-school players such as Smith can make an impact immediately while others need a season or two acclimating to the speed of the game, Veach explained.

“The guy had tremendous production, really has a nose for the football,” Veach said. “All of the physical attributes you look for in a corner I think he possesses.”

Many of the team’s draft picks share similar characteristics in exhibiting above average athleticism for their positions. McKenzie certainly fits that bill. The club believes the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has the instincts for the offensive line. Veach said his test numbers ranked among the top-six offensive lineman the team graded among this year’s draft class, and expects the hulking 6-foot-3, 314-pounder to look like a first-round pick during this weekend’s rookie minicamp.

“The kid has tremendous physical gifts,” Veach said. “Again I don’t know how long this will take because he hasn’t played offensive line in a long time. But as far as his size, his athletic ability he has all the traits.”

Veach took on the general manager’s role in July last year and wasted little time putting his stamp on the team. He engineered training camp deals for linebackers Reggie Ragland and Kevin Pierre-Louis as well as a preseason trade from offensive lineman Cameron Erving.

This year’s remaining personnel work should mostly consist of pruning a 90-man offseason roster, but don’t expect Veach to stand pat if opportunities arise.

“We did that in August last year and if something happens during the course of training camp where we can make a deal or do something with the team that will help us, I think we’ll pursue that,” he said. “So happy, yes. Content, no. Would be the best way of saying it.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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