Kansas City Chiefs Draft Class Expectations

By Liam Lodge (@Liam66NFL)

Last week I looked at the draft of the Cincinnati Bengals, which you can find here.

To follow that I am now going all the way to the other end of the NFL spectrum and reviewing the draft class of the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.

For franchises like the Bengals who need to improve on a poor season, the object of the draft has to be finding the players that can help rebuild and recharge the team and increase the amount of positive results on the field. In the case of the Chiefs, the short-term aim is different – work towards staying ahead of the chasing competition; repeat last season’s success and defend the Super Bowl title.

This is the group that Kansas City fans hope will assist the team in remaining at the top of the NFL.


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Round 1 (#32) –

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB), LSU


At the end of the first night the Chiefs made their opening selection with one of the best picks of the entire round.

There are actually very few offensive systems where it would feel as though Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s skill-set would not be valuable, but placing him in Kansas City’s high-powered offense is a wonderful fit and his large workload throughout the last college season should mean that he will be fine learning pro schemes.

He is the kind of back that is such a fun watch and uses his short and stocky build to full effect with a strong running style, possessing great balance and side-to-side movement – many of his best highlights show him slaloming away from defenders on the move so footwork and vision are both very good. Also has good top speed once he is in open space. Edwards-Helaire is the best receiving running back in the 2020 class and LSU used him on all sorts of routes.

It is this versatility that gives him the potential to flourish early out of the Chiefs backfield, especially on short-yardage downs.


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Round 2 (#63) –

Willie Gay Jr. (LB), Mississippi State


Gay Jr. flew up big boards everywhere by acing his NFL combine performance.

The ultra-athletic linebacker is capable of getting to the football from anywhere and his powerful tackling means he can finish plays very well.

He does look raw in some mental areas of play and needs to find more consistency, but defenders with his athleticism are often preferred by teams in today’s NFL, and the Chiefs took a chance on him in round two. They will hope Gay Jr. is a fast learner – if so, he could see some playing time along the linebacker formation during his rookie year as effort and toughness are certainly not an issue.

A big plus is that he has the traits required to play in the much-coveted hybrid LB role, with the speed to hold up in coverage even against medium and long passing situations.


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Round 3 (#96) –

Lucas Niang (OT), TCU


There is a bit of “boom or bust” about Niang as a prospect, with scouts and analysts rather split on his overall potential pre-draft.

Indeed, I was relatively low on him while evaluating those at the offensive tackle position, yet I would not have been surprised if a team made Niang a second-rounder. For that reason, there could be some good value here if he hits his ceiling in the NFL, it should also be noted that injury concerns would have attributed to his fall to the bottom of the third.

He looks best as a run blocker, showing good instincts, positioning and the ability to force space for his running back to work through. In the passing game, Niang gets set well and is solid enough to develop into a long-term protector for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs coaching staff will surely have ideas about where they expect Niang to contribute and he will get opportunities to prove himself right across the offensive line as he has a technique suited to both tackle and guard.


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Round 4 (#138) –

L’Jarius Sneed (S), Louisiana Tech


I evaluated and graded Sneed as a safety because that’s where he spent most of his final college season, but many will also have him as a cornerback.

He has a long, rangy style and looks and plays a lot taller than he actually is, with enough speed to react and get to plays quickly that come into his zone – demonstrating the sort of instincts for the ball that you want to see from your safeties.

He is like fellow defensive rookie Gay Jr. in that he will add some aggression and energy to his position group; bringing an all-effort approach to the game that should have the Chiefs’ fanbase warming to him.

Sneed was moved around a lot in the secondary, similarly to the career of Chiefs all-pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, who will no doubt be a mentor to Sneed now that they will compete on the same defense.


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Round 5 (#177) –

Mike Danna (DE), Michigan


Recent years have shown that it is not a bad idea to draft edge rushers from the University of Michigan. Danna was in fact only at Michigan for one season following a transfer and was used sporadically along the D line during his time there.

For a player that looks undersized and whose technique has quite a bit of room for growth, selecting Danna in the fifth round does feel like somewhat of a reach by the Chiefs. He does have good power and a quick first step; as his senior year saw him as a rotational defender you really have to trust in Danna’s strengths.

Kansas City obviously see some things they want to work with here and as they are pretty well set at defensive end, there is no huge rush in terms of developing Danna. He will be a project for a few years and it will be interesting to see if he can progress into a starting role.


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Round 7 (#237) –

Thakarius Keyes (CB), Tulane


The Kansas City Chiefs certainly need to find more help at cornerback this off-season and at this point they traded back into the draft for one last go in round seven.

I think it was a surprise that they waited this far into the draft to select a CB, unless, as mentioned earlier, you are counting the Sneed pick as one at the position. The lack of depth remains an area to address, but taking Keyes here with their final pick is another good value move for the Chiefs.

He has plenty of upside and plays with good speed and physicality – looking comfortable at taking on receivers running a variety of routes on the outside, most effectively in close coverage. Keyes has some nice aggression to his playing style and will fight for a spot in the starting secondary from day one.

The Chiefs faithful should be optimistic about how the organisation went about this draft. In the immediate reviews and analysis, picking Edwards-Helaire became the favourite moment of the first round among many observers. He and Niang could certainly be making plays straight away on the offense as rookies.

The other selections, which all focus on the defensive side, are all developmental players with lots of potential, and Kansas City is the right team for all of them to realise that potential quickly. As these pre-season months for the Chiefs are all about ensuring they stay champions, this draft appears to have been a good way to begin that process.

Cincinnati Bengals Draft Class expectations

By Liam Lodge (@Liam66NFL)

Some NFL teams have more picks than others heading into a draft.  As the event progresses, a team can gain or lose its draft capital through trade deals.  The formula for the Cincinnati Bengals this year was simple – seven selections, one placed at the beginning of each of the seven rounds.

The Bengals war room stuck at every one of their picks during the three days; made no deals and put together a very good draft class to take into the 2020 season.  Here is what Cincinnati fans should expect from the players that make up this year’s draft class.


Round 1 (#1) – Joe Burrow (QB), LSU


With the first overall pick, the Bengals made Joe Burrow their new signal-caller.  A year ago, Burrow would have owned a mid-round grade at best from most observers, but an incredible National Championship winning season full of record-breaking numbers during his final year with LSU, propelled Burrow up to being the consensus QB1 in the draft. 

Joe Burrow drafted by Cincinnati Bengals with No. 1 pick in NFL draft
Chris Graythen /Getty

He excels in the leadership and mental aspects of the game, with an ability to read defenses quickly and react to pressure. Give Burrow time and he shows great poise and pocket movement to use just a step or two to extend a play.  He is an accurate thrower and I really like the way he leads receivers when completing a pass.  

It certainly does feel like time for a quarterback change in Cincinnati and Burrow arrives with the experience of winning plenty of big games as the head of one of the most potent offenses in college football history.  

If he continues the sort of growth seen during last season, the Bengals have a strong new leader capable of bringing success.


Round 2 (#33) – Tee Higgins (WR), Clemson


Pairing Burrow with the man who was the number one receiver at Clemson for the last couple of years is a very nice way to build the passing game in your offense. 

Higgins’ draft stock dipped during the process owing to questions about his athleticism, which actually is not that bad, and the Bengals took advantage to select him at the top of the second round.  The production that Higgins put up at Clemson was impressive, he works best lined up on the outside and likes to use his frame against close coverage – give him the chance to challenge a defense physically and he will be effective. 

The next A.J. Green? Experts compared Tee Higgins to Bengals star
Ken Ruinard / The Greenville News

This is a great landing spot for Higgins, as he will have the opportunity to be paired with Cincinnati’s all-pro wideout A.J. Green, which should help his development. 

The Bengals will enjoy having a new big WR on the team, who can potentially take over from Green as “the guy” in the future.


Round 3 (#65) – Logan Wilson (LB), Wyoming


I loved seeing Logan Wilson go at the start of round three.  One of my favourite linebackers in the entire draft, he will be a good addition to a Bengals defense in need of some help in the middle of the field. 

Player Profile: Logan Wilson, Linebacker, Wyoming – | Have an ...
Charlie Neibergall / AP

I was happy to see his high level of play over the last few seasons backed up with a great workout at the NFL combine.  Wilson is solid as an outside linebacker – a smart player who reads and reacts to what the offense shows in front of him and gets to the ball at speed. 

There are some good highlights showing that when asked to drop into coverage, his athletic ability gets him up into passing lanes like a defensive back to break up a play or get an interception. 

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Wilson suits the classic linebacker leader role with the versatility to be tried inside the defensive formation, and if he can get to grips with pro schemes quickly, the Bengals have a guy who will see a lot of playing time during his rookie year.


Round 4 (#107) – Akeem Davis-Gaither (LB), Appalachian State


Why draft one linebacker with huge potential, when you can draft two!  Cincinnati followed the Wilson pick by selecting the up-tempo Davis-Gaither to kick off the last day. 

2020 NFL draft: Akeem Davis-Gaither scouting report
Brian Blanco /AP

He is a slim, athletic linebacker who is not going to win with strength, instead was able to make a lot of plays using great burst and body control.  Appalachian State liked to use Davis-Gaither on the outside, close to the line of scrimmage where he could blitz at speed and also disrupt the run game.  His skill-set compliments Wilson’s very well and I can see them working at each end of the LB core. 

Davis-Gaither would have been further up big boards (including mine) if he played more coverage and bulked up – the lack of weight aids his acceleration, but he will need to add more size to be effective in the NFL. 

For this reason, he will likely start on special teams, but his relentless playing style means he could turn into a real fan favourite in 2-3 years.


Round 5 (#147) – Khalid Kareem (DE), Notre Dame


Kareem is a nice addition to the Bengals’ defensive end depth chart, and the fifth round seems good value too.  The defender out of Notre Dame wins his battles in the trenches with strength above anything else; he appears difficult to move around once he is engaged. 

Bengals Select Khalid Kareem: Instant Grade and Analysis
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Kareem currently projects as a better run defender, as trying to go all-power off the edge when pass rushing at the next level will result in him being nullified by the top offensive linemen he faces.  Kareem needs to add more variety to his technique when fighting through contact, if he is able to do so soon, he will see playing time in his rookie season. 

For now, he will be a backup in Cincinnati.


Round 6 (#180) – Hakeem Adeniji (OT), Kansas


Having found Joe Burrow a new target in receiver Tee Higgins, Cincinnati decided to begin adding extra protection for their new QB in the form of Adeniji in round six. 

Brian Bahr / Getty

The offensive line was a weak point for the Bengals last season and Adeniji will have the chance to compete for a place at the offensive tackle position.  There was talk pre-draft that teams may try him at guard too, so the coaches will like that versatility. 

He does look undersized to play OT, and his strength as a blocker lies in his movement, which showed up during his athletic combine, rather than power and technique. 

Adeniji needs to develop in those areas in order to be a regular NFL starter.

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Round 7 (#215) – Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue


To end their 2020 draft, the Bengals went back to building at the linebacker positions. Bailey feels like great value in the seventh, although he did fall due to injury concerns. 

2020 NFL Draft: Markus Bailey is ready to hit the ground running
Joe Robbins / Getty

When healthy, he was a playmaker at Purdue with strong tackling skills and the ability to finish very well.  He worked best against the run, so projects as a middle linebacker in the NFL that can attack plays in front of him. 

Bailey will begin life in the pros on special teams but has enough upside to work his way into the defensive lineup.  After the selections of Wilson and Davis-Gaither, picking up Bailey here mean the Bengals have a whole new set of high ceiling linebackers to play with. 

I like the possibility of seeing all three of them playing together in Cincinnati across the defense.


From top to bottom this looks like a strong draft for Cincinnati Bengals fans to get excited about.  The team addressed needs and appeared to find good value players throughout the rounds.  Burrow will be the highlight of the class – every NFL team is under pressure to find a franchise quarterback to build their future around and the Bengals may well now have that box ticked.  With the qualities these players bring, over the next few seasons this could be seen as the draft that the Bengals faithful look back on as the start of some progression for the team.