After the NFL Draft, the Chiefs seem to have improved in the offseason

If you couldn’t see it by the gleam in Andy Reid’s eyes on Thursday night or the way he beamed when he spoke, you knew it when he invoked various versions of his ultimate compliment.

Prefaced with his instant assessment that general manager Brett Veach “was on fire here,” his glow resonated especially as he talked about the Chiefs’ two first-round picks in the NFL Draft.

First there was the case of University of Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie, for whom the Chiefs went from 29 to 21 and did not expect to be available again this late: “I love playing the game,” Reid said.

Then he turned to Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis, the 30th overall selection: “He has a relentless engine.

For two glaring needs, it was two brilliant picks, ranked 11th and 10th respectively on the Pro Football Focus big board.

But that was just the most visible part of a seemingly abundantly productive draft weekend that earned a national consensus of largely A grades for the 10-man class.

Yes, we know that rarely, if ever, has a coach publicly criticized draft picks or even said, “You know, I just don’t know how we did here.” And even Veach will warn, as he did on Tuesday, that there are variables in NFL transition times and staying healthy and fitting into a new system among a ‘lot of moving parts here’. that look good on paper.

But, whoa, does that look promising on paper, with some six rookies (including the aforementioned duo and receiver Skyy Moore, safety Bryan Cook, linebacker Leo Chenal and offensive tackle Darian Kinnard) able to contribute in a meaningful way? imminent if not immediate.

Putting those names on what a few days ago were just a dozen faceless draft picks, combined with a handful of intriguing signings, lends another kind of motto to what was once the most remarkable offseason. for not re-signing Tyrann Mathieu and trading Tyreek Hill — franchise stalwarts in back-to-back Super Bowl berths and four straight AFC Championship Game runs (the first of which was without Mathieu).

The loss of Mathieu, the defensive leadership equivalent of Patrick Mahomes on offense, was profound in its own way but somewhat soothed by the profile of replacement Justin Reid who suggests he has ample opportunity to be a comparable addition to the during his stay here.

Dealing with Hill (for five draft picks), however, made it hard to see how the Chiefs could improve in 2022 without the inimitable dimension he provided to their offense.

As much as this decision (motivated by financial considerations above all) might extend the viable period of a championship-caliber game that looks assured as long as Mahomes is the quarterback, well, it was also easy to envision the window. previously wide open. of the short term closing abruptly in the process.

But if we didn’t know it from how Veach and his team previously crafted sweeping initiatives this offseason, including overhauling virtually everything on defense three years ago to create a starting offensive line entirely different last season, surely we should know that by heart by now. :

Veach, Reid and Co. really still have a complex and elaborate plan that reflects a shared and even symbiotic vision.

It doesn’t matter if we’re not always able to discern it in real time for reasons ranging from their need to have an operating room, to who may be available when and where in the project, to the daunting challenge of funding the operation in general, but especially when your megastar quarterback has a pesky $500 million contract to navigate.

When the Chiefs found themselves at extreme odds with Hill, they faced tough questions about how they could possibly bridge that distance without compromising other needs.

Answer: They couldn’t.

So Hill’s move became part of a shape-shifting offseason to become younger and more financially flexible, a deal that in turn figured in trades for McDuffie and Moore with two others still in the works for the next year.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs believe they are becoming more versatile and less predictable offensively with the addition of receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Moore – whose reputation as reliable hands would be a welcome trait for a team that has had too many expensive falls in last season.

Those aren’t the only acquisitions and draft picks the Chiefs have had, of course, and we’ll be taking a closer look at the full spectrum as the roster becomes more defined (Melvin Ingram? Other advances possible thanks to some financial leeway?) .

For now, though, we’re walking away from the draft not just appreciating the tangible identities these picks have become, but believing they’re of such overall quality that the Chiefs are poised to improve from this. offseason after all – something that was pretty vital with the upgrades all around them in the AFC West that will still leave them struggling to win it for a seventh straight time.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I think we’ve got the guys and we’ve got the wiring to be really good,” Veach said Tuesday. “It remains to be seen how this all plays out. But I think given our background, given our coaching staff and given the fact that we have (Mahomes), I’m optimistic I will say.

Same here.

Vahe Gregorian has been a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star since 2013 after 25 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He covered a wide range of sports, including 10 Olympics. Vahe was a student of English at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his master’s degree at Mizzou.

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