Take em or leave em

So here it is Chiefs Kingdom, my first ever article. Although the loss of last week still hurts, I’ve dabbled with a spot of ‘retail therapy’ and buried my head in NFL Draft prospects for the past week. It’s making things a little easier, and it’s giving me greater determination to producing content, and achieving the first of many personal goals.

I’m writing this article with one focus in mind, to give you my post season takes on Draft prospects which, in my opinion, the Chiefs should focus their attentions on in the early rounds of the 2022 Draft; Rounds 1-3 to be exact. It’s of no worth for me to give you my takes on the likes of Aiden Hutchinson, the Michigan Wolverines EDGE, who’s projected by many to be taken as the first overall selection, as it’s highly unlikely that he falls far enough to the Chiefs. So unlikely, that I’d be prepared to gamble my house on it in fact. Instead, I am looking at the likelihood of players being around for consideration when the Chiefs are on the clock. To do this, I have spent many hours conducting mock drafts, and have found TDNs Mock Draft Machine (https://thedraftnetwork.com/mock-draft-machine) to be the most accurate for where those in the media believe prospects to be reasonably graded.

As things stand, the Chiefs have a pick in both the first and second round, and two picks in the third. Although it’s not yet known which pick in the late third round they have, this second pick in Round 3 is as a result of the Bears hiring former Chiefs’ Executive Head of Player Personnel, Ryan Poles; for which the Chiefs are given a compensatory pick. So, with all that being said, let’s start with the Chiefs’ pick in Round 1.

Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State, EDGE

Jermain Johnson

In 2021, Johnson boosted his Draft stock hugely, always appearing to be around the ball, and looking like the standout player on the Semionles’ defense every time I watched him. A former Georgia Bulldog, Johnson is a big, strong guy (6’5” and 265lb) and offers appeal against both the pass, and the run, and in various defensive schemes. Whether a 4-3 Defensive End, or a 3-4 Outside Linebacker, Johnson can do it all.

Against the run, Johnson can set the edge, and is untroubled in space. His length means he possess a large tackle radius, has good sideline to sideline movement, and is good at bringing down runners. Johnson flashes his intelligence in diagnosing the run, and that, coupled with his ability to fill gaps in the Offensive Line, is what makes him such an effective run defender.

Johnson has quick get off, and strong hands when attacking blockers. He has a great variety of pass rush moves, and despite being so tall, has very good bend to get around the edge and reach the Quarterback, this was in large part responsible for Johnson’s 12 sacks in this last year. Johnson’s motor is well and truly cranked, and he never gives up. When everyone else is tired late on in games, and you need someone to step up and take the game by the scruff of the neck to see it through, Johnson is your guy. I’m extremely high on him, and whilst he may still be around at pick 30, I’d be sprinting to turn in his name within the first minute of being on the clock.

Kyler Gordon, Washington, Cornerback

Kyler Gordon

If you have seen anything about the 2021 Draft, you may have heard of Gordon’s Cornerback buddy for the Huskies, Trent McDuffie. Many a ‘mock drafter’ is high on McDuffie (TDN have him at 33 on their Big Board), but it’s his 53rd rated teammate Gordon who I’m highest on of the two.

Gordon is an exceptional athlete, with blistering pace (reported 4.35 40yd dash time) and incredibly fluid movement skills. If that wasn’t enough, Gordon’s vertical jump is a reported 42.5 inches, which would be enough to have been a top 5 height reached in the 2021 Draft class. Production was never a problem in College for Gordon, with 45 combined tackles, a forced fumble, 2 interceptions, and 7 passes defended.

Gordon has all the tools needed to be a success in the NFL, his athleticism allows him to excel in man coverage, with the ability to close separation created by receivers. As good as Gordon is in man, he’s equally adept in zone coverage, often making late plays on the ball where he can see from the backfield.

In the run game, Gordon is a fantastic tackler, limiting YAC, and has demonstrated an ability to tackle in space as part of special teams’ units. Gordon is a highly versatile player, who can play on both the outside, and in the slot as part of nickel sub packages. I fully expect Gordon to be available at pick 30, but if the Chiefs try and bank on him being available at the end of Round 2, they could end of very disappointed.

Next, let’s look at some prospects I like, who may be available towards the back end of Round 2 when the Chiefs select.

Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma, Interior Defensive Lineman

Perion Winfrey

Winfrey is quite simply, a beast. At 6’4”, just shy of 300lb, and possesses great length, he’s got great strength. He dominates on the interior, and is extremely versatile, to the point that he can be used along the entirety of the defensive line; Oklahoma often did so throughout the season, which attests to his athleticism. Winfrey ended last season with multiple QB pressures, 23 tackles, and 5.5 sacks.

Winfrey has very good get off, whether plugging running lanes, or getting upfield to avoid blocks and pursue the QB. For an IDL, Winfrey possess a good array of pass rush moves, and has been seen to employ swim moves, push-pull manoeuvres and very active and strong hands.

One thing that stands out on Winfrey’s tape is his motor, he never stops, he often commands double teams, such is the disruption he’s able to cause. Considering Jarran Reed’s confusing Tweet on Wednesday, and Brett Veach vowing to address the Defense, an Interior Defensive Lineman looks to be a need at some point. At the end of Round 2, if he’s available, I’d be giving serious consideration to turning in Winfrey’s card and making him the ‘newest member of the Kansas City Chiefs’ (to coin a Cark Hunt phrase).

Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina, EDGE

Kingsley Enagbare

In around September last year, I was sitting watching a ‘too early mock draft’ video on YouTube, created by a guy called ‘Broshmo’ (give him a follow, he really knows his stuff, and has helped increase my knowledge of the College game immensely. One of the guys he was very high on was South Carolina Gamecocks Edge, Kingsley Enagbare. Once I started to watch more of him, what stood out was his ridiculous lengthy arms, his superb first step, and his violent hands.

Enagbare has some work to do to be as effective as he can be in the NFL, but his ceiling is sky high. What is evident is that compared to someone like Jermaine Johnson, Enagbare isn’t as fluid or ‘bendy’ in his hips. His excellent first step allows him to get pressure on a regular basis. As a run defender Enagbare has a little work to do in recognition and concentration, but I’m just splitting hairs really.

Although a little work is needed in run defending, that’s not to say Enagbare is not good against the run, he is. He sets the edge well and is strong at the tackle point. Against the pass, Enagbare excels. Whilst his efforts only produced 15 sacks in his College career, Enagbare can generate a lot of pressure, with his motor and hand work playing a major part in that; further, he is fantastic when converting speed to power, with a very good bull rush. With NFL coaching Enagbare could be a player who generates 8-10 sacks per season by his second year.

Looking into Round 3, there’s several diamonds in the rough. Here’s just a few

Christian Watson, North Dakota State, Wide Receiver

Christian Watson

Watson was a relative unknown to me at the middle of last season, but by the latter part, and end of the season, Watson thrust himself right into my sights. At 6’5” Watson is the big bodied receiver I have been crying out for the Chiefs to draft this off season. Despite his height, Watson is very agile, and deceptively quick, giving him some appeal in the slot should teams wish to utilise him in such a way.

His ability to create separation is better than you’d think, given his height. However, Watson can gain separation with his ability to stack defenders. Even where separation is not able to be created, Watson is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders. With a good catch radius, fantastic hands, and a strong ability to high point the ball, separation is rarely needed for a completion. Watson is good at creating yards after the catch owing to his size, and the relative size of most opposing defensive backs, making it hard for them to bring him down. He’s strong in the run game, with a good ability to block.

As I write this, the 3 days of practice at the Senior Bowl has completed, and Watson did himself no harm whatsoever. Quite the opposite, Watson attracted praise from Draft analysts, and players alike, and if he continues to impress throughout the off-season, he may well slip out of the Chiefs’ grasp in Round 3. Watson has done everything to improve his Draft stock so far, and if Brett Veach doesn’t address the receiver position in FA or a Trade, Watson is the kind of player who can be that match up nightmare that teams are daring the Chiefs to throw to when showing those 2-high looks.

Nick Cross, Maryland, Safety

Nick Cross

I fully expect the Chiefs to not bring back “Dirty” Dan Sorensen, leaving a place in the side at Free Safety. At this stage in the Draft, Maryland’s Nick Cross stands out like a sore thumb to me. He jumps off the screen as a ‘tough as nails’ prospect, who almost always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time.

Cross has some developing to do, yes, but the ability and ceiling are there. His speed and agility are on display as soon as you see him on the field (runs a reported 4.44 40yd time). Cross is a versatile Safety who was used at times as a Will LB, sometimes used to play in the box, and was also seen utilising his size to match TEs in coverage.

Chiefs fans will love the power in Cross’ tackling, and when say he hits hard, I mean, he hits HARD. Cross is a tackle machine producing 66 solo and assisted tackles last year. Cross has proven to have some pass rushing upside, registering 3 sacks in 2021, and has generated a bit of QB pressure rushing from deep. If that’s not enough to be excited about, Cross has a good nose for the ball in coverage, registering 3 interceptions, and 5 passes defended.

While there’s a bit for him to work on in his first year as a pro, the skies the limit for Cross with the right coaching in the right NFL organisation.

Chris White (@DurhamChiefUK)

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