Kansas City Chiefs 2023 Draft Recap

The Chiefs added some players from the 2023 class that could contribute like the 2022 class.

Former Kansas State defensive lineman Felix Anudike-Uzomah takes a selfie with fans during the second round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 28, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. Anudike-Uzomah was picked by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round. (Photo by: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Kansas City Chiefs won their second Super Bowl in four seasons in February with an improbable victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The team had to weather not only the Eagles but the injury to MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes who won it one freaking foot, losing left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., right tackle Andrew Wylie, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and pass rusher Frank Clark and third-down back Jerick McKinnon (who just returned as I am writing this article) among others. They went 14-3 with the best offense in the NFL and defense that both ranked in the top eleven in total defense and run defense, winning the one seed in a competitive AFC. This was no fluke, and Kansas City should expect to make more Super Bowl runs in the future.

So the Chiefs didn’t enter the draft with much in the way of needs—fortunate, as they entered the draft with #31, having additional picks for Tyreek Hill last season. They took their 10 picks and wound up making seven selections but added some rotational depth and a couple of intriguing late-round projects.

Expected Starters:

Wanya Morris, Right Tackle, Oklahoma: Round 3, Pick 92nd Overall

One of the two picks acquired in the trade with the Bengals resulted in a big-time offensive line selection. After drafting Felix Anudike-Uzomah in the first round and Rashee Rice in the second round, Wanya Morris was selected in the third round. It could be argued that he falls under many categories on this list, but with Lucas Niang’s inability to stay healthy the past few seasons, it seems as if Morris is going to be the player to occupy the right tackle spot for the foreseeable future. 

Morris is a well-built tackle that jumps off the screen thanks to his blend of size and athleticism. In pass protection, Morris shows the athleticism and flexibility to get deep into his pass sets and really force defenders to run the arc. When he decides to quick-set, he can lock his hands onto a defender and erase them from the play immediately. Similar to Tristian Wirfs from the Bucs. Adding Morris to reunite with college teammate Trey Smith and center Creed Humphrey, the team now possesses a rock-solid right side for the future and added protection for Mahomes.

Rashee Rice, Wide Receiver, SMU: Round 2, Pick 55th Overall

With JuJu Smith-Schuster leaving via free agency for the New England Patriots and 2022 second-round pick Skyy Moore still yet to top 300+ receiving yards in a season, there was a hole at the No. 3 spot behind Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney. The team arguably had more pressing needs than receiver, especially at offensive tackle and edge rusher, but they stayed true to their board and selected the best player available in the second round.

Adding Rashee Rice to the receiving corps solidifies their depth and gives them a young option going into the future amid contract concerns with MVS having an opt-out in his contract following next season. Rice will complement Travis Kelce in an otherwise underwhelming but very talented receiving corps, and you want to see guys that can beat man-to-man and have the play speed to play outside but the change of direction to play inside. Rice reminds me of Davante Adams with the playing style of Jarvis Landry, who runs like a running back as a pass catcher. Rice is one of the few players in this class with WR1 ability that I fell in love with during the pre-draft process. He has the talent to be a true outside receiver and now adds an element to that offense that Mahomes has never really had consistently with Sammy Watkins on the outside. Remember, this offense was at its best with Watkins on the outside, and Rice has the talent to be that type of player for KC and more.

Immediate Role Players:

Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State: Round 1, Pick 31 Overall

Edge rusher was a need coming into the draft, and many thought the Chiefs would take one early.  Felix Anudike-Uzomah wasn’t even a surprise to most, as there were many people pre-draft who had him in the first round to the Chiefs. He will add to the line on the edge of the defense that includes George Karlaftis and free agent signee from the 49ers, Charles Omenihu.

Anudike-Uzomah’s senior sack production took a big dip from the 15.5 he tallied as a junior, but that didn’t stop him from winning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2022, and he figures to factor in right away as a rotational rush end. A lot of his success can be attributed to a very good first step off the snap that helps him set everything up in his rush plan. Anudike-Uzomah is a fluid mover and shows the flexibility to bend around the edge. His run defense will hold him back some from early-down work, but he figures to play a significant role on passing downs, at least. The Lee’s Summit native combines top-notch pass-rush ability at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds; he compares favorably to Cliff Avril during his time in Seattle while playing for Pete Carroll and was teammates with Frank Clark. If Anudike-Uzomah does not start the season as the starter, I expect him to work his way into the lineup around midseason, and I won’t be surprised if he breaks Derrick Thomas’s rookie sack record set at 10. Anudike-Uzomah provides the Chiefs with a little more juice off the edge than they currently have on the roster. He will also be an asset in the stunt game because he moves with ease, probably better than Frank Clark.

Chamarri Conner, Defensive Back, Virginia Tech: Round 4, Pick 119

Chamarri Conner was listed as a safety while at Virginia Tech, but he spent most of his time in the slot playing a safety/cornerback hybrid. Conner was another selection, similar to the Anudike-Uzomah selection, where the team opted to become more athletic and versatile at important positions on the defensive side.

Last year, cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie played a ton of slot cornerback in nickel/dime packages. However, Conner allowed just 51 % of passes from the slot at Virginia Tech last season, and he will be someone to be relied on when he has to go up against guys like Davante Adams, Jerry Juedy, and other top wide receivers with significant slot snaps in the AFC. Conner’s ability to step in on day one and function as the main slot defender is something that should appeal to the team. He’s shown he can multiple coverages; adept at playing press man, “off” coverage, or any zone concept; Smart player reads plays well when playing zone, showing he will dominate in a zone-based nickel role to highlight his footwork, utilize his short-area quickness and blitzing ability. This selection helps Sneed and McDuffie to play more snaps on the outside at corner. Expect more pass deflections and interceptions in 2023.

Keondre Coburn, DT, Texas, Round 6 (FROM DET) : Pick 194

Before this draft, I would have said the strengths of the Chiefs’ defense was the defensive line. Despite the holes on the roster and needing someone to play next to Chris Jones, the Chiefs choose the latter position twice in this draft. The addition of Coburn will lighten the workload for Derrick Nnadi, who plays a high majority of snaps. Coburn possesses a solid initial burst and a violent pair of hands while being a good run defender who can come in and play the 1-tech or nose tackle in relief of Nnadi. Overall, he is a smart interior defensive lineman, who will help form a solid run-defending rotation with the Super Bowl champs in an AFC West with Josh Jacobs, Javonte Williams, and now maybe Austin Ekeler twice a year. I know this one was not just a Cullen pick but more Spagnuolo because Coburn reminds him of Damon “Snacks” Harrison, and Coburn’s nickname is Snacks as well. 

Coburn’s lack of starting resume may be the reason he slid down the draft a little bit, but for the Chiefs who have been looking for a true nose tackle, his upside is near the top. His one-gapping and two-gapping ability and the potential to become a plus pass rusher coming to Joe Cullen’s room should turn heads in the NFL. For the Chiefs, Coburn fits the mold they like out of their defensive tackles incredibly well. His flashes of reading blocking schemes at a high level, showcasing the ability to crash through zone runs, and the ability to hold up to gap-run schemes are all the traits Spagnuolo covets at the interior, and his ability should help Chris Jones to solidify his status as the Top DT in the NFL.

Good Depth

B.J. Thompson, EDGE, Stephen F. Austin, Round 5, Pick: 166

While Thompson offers some athletic upside, I felt this pick was a bit early and is a bit of a luxury pick for a team that has holes. However, after watching the film, I love the fact that the Chiefs considered Thompson since their Top 30 visit with him; he is an ideal fit for Steve Spagnuolo’s blitzing concepts in his defense. Thompson is long, incredibly athletic, and provides versatility, with an ability to put his hand in the dirt and get after the passer. But he’s also able to play off ball as a linebacker. 

He isn’t a finished product, but he has immense upside. Thompson’s length, movement skills in space, and flexibility make him a very unique tool for this bright defensive coach. His athletic profile is quite strong and provides a lot of flexibility. He has shown the ability to convert speed to power. Thompson lined up off the edge and off-ball and showed some good ability in coverage. He’s excellent in space for a man his size. Steve Spagnuolo will be able to use his flexibility to his advantage and will develop a plan for Thompson that will play to his versatility and athleticism. He plays with outstanding effort, no matter his assignment. I see a lot of Leonard Floyd in his playing style. Spags has also had success with players of similar builds by moving them off ball to the SAM position but rushing on third downs. He could be competing for playing time with Mike Danna, who is in a contract season, and Josh Kaindoh’s roster spot could be up for grabs with the selection of Thompson.

Developmental Project that will become Good Depth

Nic Jones, Cornerback, Ball State, Round 7, Pick: 250

Jones is an interesting prospect, a physical and aggressive player despite weighing less than 190 pounds, and a long-armed press corner standing at 6’0”. According to Mockdraftable.com, Nic Jones’ closest comparison is to former Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden. His aggressiveness and physicality should serve him well on special teams as he works to refine his zone awareness and reactive athleticism, two deficiencies that will keep him from seeing much defensive time early on. It’s a pretty crowded secondary group, so proving his mettle on punt and kick coverage will be vital to Jones making the 53-man roster.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents (UDFAs)

With a smaller draft class, the Chiefs added several undrafted free agents post-draft.

Deneric Prince, RB, Tulsa – One of the biggest moves in all of the UDFA moves. Last year it was Justyn Ross, now it’s Deneric Prince. He was my last pick in my final mock draft. Like Arian Foster, Prince is a big back with change-of-direction skills but 4.4 40 speed. He can win the backup job behind Pacheco even with McKinnon potentially returning. Brett Veach has found his Priest Holmes (Chiefs legend who was a UDFA to the Ravens).

Cam Jones, LB, Indiana – An interesting name for Chiefs fans to look at, especially with Veach adding linebackers with very good coverage ability like Drue Tranquill. Jones was in the midst of a massive breakout season five games into 2022 when a foot injury struck him down for the season. Over that span at Indiana, he had already racked up 24 defensive stops and eight pressures from 28 pass-rushing snaps, according to PFF. He is definitely competing with Jack Cochrane and Isaiah Moore (another UDFA signee) for the 5th linebacker role behind Leo Chenal, Tranquill, Willie Gay, and Nick Bolton.

Jerome Carvin, IOL, Tennessee– Another player with ties to Trey Smith and newly drafted Wanya Morris. Carvin has been a fixture on the Tennessee offensive line, logging considerable snaps in 42 starts at both left and right guard in addition to center since the 2018 season. He signed a 3-year deal for undrafted rookies, which is big, especially with returning Nick Allegretti expecting to hit free agency again in 2024.

Follow Chiefs Fan 4 Life on Twitter @ChiefsFan4Lyfe. Check out my articles, including the December article where I mention Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Charles Omenihu, why I think Justyn Ross will have a breakout season in 2023 and how the Chiefs will have an underrated safety trio in 2023.

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