KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs spent five frustrating decades trying to win a second Lombardi Trophy.
They plan to spend just one year winning a third.
That was the thought process behind general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid deciding to retain almost every crucial player from last season's Super Bowl run. It left them with 20 of 22 starters on the roster heading into next season, and in the enviable position of being able to supplement wherever was most helpful in the NFL draft.
In the first round, the Chiefs added to the vast array of weapons at the disposal of Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes by drafting do-everything running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire out of LSU. They upgraded their speed and athleticism on the opposite side of the ball by selecting Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay Jr. in Round 2, then selected TCU offensive tackle Lucas Niang in the third round to provide immediate depth and a potential starter down the road.
“Obviously we worked, really five decades to do, to get back to the top, to be the best team in the NFL — to be the team that other teams and their fans aspire to be,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said Saturday. “And I think every player we add to the team, you really analyze that player in the context of what he brings to our championship squad.”
The Chiefs tried to maximize their selections the first two days knowing they only had five scheduled picks. They wrapped up Saturday by choosing Louisiana Tech defensive back L'Jarius Sneed and Michigan defensive end Mike Danna, then traded a sixth-rounder next year to jump back into the draft and pick Tulane cornerback Thakarius Keyes in the seventh.
Sneed played safety for the Bulldogs last season but played cornerback in 2018, and his 6-foot-1 frame and ability to play press-man defense makes it likely that he will return to the outside with Kansas City. The Chiefs took him over several other cornerback prospects, including teammate Amik Robertson, who went to the Raiders with the very next pick.
“It won't take me long,” Sneed said. “Soon as I get in, I'm going to get to work, give them my all. You can't teach effort, so whatever position I'm playing, whatever spot I'm at on the time, I'm giving my all each and every day.”
The Chiefs' situation this off-season was far different from previous years.
When he took over the GM job in 2018, Veach was in the rather tenuous position of sending out a relatively untested quarterback in Mahomes after sending away veteran Alex Smith. Veach's goal then was to surround his first-year starter with as much talent as possible, giving Mahomes every opportunity to succeed in the Kansas City offense.
Mahomes wound up winning the league MVP award while leading the Chiefs to the AFC championship game.
They ended up losing to the New England Patriots in overtime, and the main culprit that cold January day was a defense filled with holes. So last season, Veach used free agency and the draft to completely remake that side of the ball for new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, ultimately building a stingy defense to complement the Chiefs' potent offense.
It certainly worked. The Chiefs shut down the San Francisco 49ers in the second half in rallying to win the Super Bowl.
“A big part of what Brett and Andy have done over the last two-plus years is try to bring in players that are going to make that offense go,” Hunt said. “Clearly, Pat is a unique talent and having great receivers, great running backs, offensive linemen that can block for him is very important, but it's not important to the exclusion of building a great defense.”
The choices the Chiefs made in the three-day draft were designed to get them back to the Super Bowl, particularly the picks in the first three rounds. But they also were designed to keep the Chiefs contenders for the foreseeable future.
Most of their key players are in their early- and mid-20s, giving them a wide window to chase several championships.
“When you have the chance to return so many players and you have a coaching staff stay together, and have a group that went through and played right through February, we'll see what happens going forward,” Veach said, "but I think it certainly plays in your favor for the continuity and knowing the playbook and knowing what's expected.
“Whenever we get back into the swing of things with camp, whether it be shortened or whether we start on the original date, I think guys just knowing how things operate and knowing the terminology and the playbook, I don't know how it could be a disadvantage,” Veach added. “We're certainly looking forward to that, hopefully we get started on time, but I think that the guys are ready to go, and we'll be in a good position this year to have a chance to repeat.”
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