It’s NFL Draft month! We’re just a few weeks away, and in order to prepare for this year’s draft, FOX4 Sports is doing something a little different.
Producer Robert Rimpson is counting down Brett Veach’s top 10 draft picks as the Chiefs’ general manager. While the sample is limited to three drafts and 18 picks, this will hopefully not only provide an informative perspective on some of Veach’s best picks, but it may also give a good look at what the Chiefs do in this year’s draft.
The players are evaluated in three areas: Their play on the field, how high their remaining potential is, and their value based on where they (and other players in their class) were drafted. The players get letter grades (‘A+’ being the best, ‘F-‘ being the worst) and at the end he reflects on how the player will impact the Chiefs 2021 draft.
Play on field
Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi has been very reliable when it comes to play on the field. Nnadi has only missed a single game for the Chiefs since his rookie season (the Week 17 game against the Chargers in 2020 in which all the Chiefs starters were sitting) and has started in all but two games since he got the start in Week 5 of his rookie season (the aforementioned Week 17 game and the Week 11 game against the Rams in 2018).
Nnadi’s numbers have stayed consistent along with his health. According to Pro Football Reference, Nnadi had 35, 48 and 47 combined tackles in his first, second and third years respectively. While not very impressive, he has consistent QB pressure rates as well, recording 3, 5 and 3 QB pressures in his first, second and third year respectively.
As a player you know what you’re going to get from Nnadi: A constant starter who is effective at run-stopping but has recorded only one sack so far in his career. While his stats and snap count did decrease with the emergence of Tershawn Wharton in 2020, his ability to help stop the run made him invaluable for the 2019 Super Bowl run and will continue to make him important in the future.
This is where Nnadi’s consistency works against him. Although Nnadi had a strong start to his career, he hasn’t shown any major improvement since then. He was able to put together his best season in 2019 when he had a career high in defensive snaps, but it seems like the Chiefs believed that the difference in play was not great enough to sustain that snap count, as he went down from playing 54% to 43% of the teams’ defensive snaps in 2020.
He has remained a starter-level player in each of his three seasons, but he hasn’t shown any signs that one day he might become a great Pro Bowl level player someday. It is entirely possible Nnadi has already reached the top of his ceiling.
Nnadi was drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft with the 75th overall pick. Those don’t come with the highest of expectations right away, but it’s safe to assume the Chiefs and their fans expected Nnadi to eventually become a starter. He quickly lived up to those expectations, which speaks well of his value at the spot he was picked.
There are a few player the Chiefs could have drafted in positions of need at the time that probably would’ve had more upside than Nnadi. Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (Round 3, pick 86) would’ve been a great TE2 behind Travis Kelce, and Baltimore’s offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman would’ve been great at left guard or center for the Chiefs even in 2018.
But in fairness, Nnadi was one of only 30 players from that draft class to start in all three seasons for the team they were drafted to, and only three of those other 29 players were drafted after Nnadi.
Rashad Fenton, who was originally ranked number 7 on this list, is a fine prospect for the Chiefs and a quintessentially example of a low round in the draft value pick. The question is, does the value at which Brett Veach was able to get him at make up for how much more of a contributor Derrick Nnadi is?
Initially, I would’ve argued that Nnadi meeting higher expectations along with contributing more to the team on field means that he has to be ranked higher than Fenton. But, as I’m writing this I’m having a change of heart. A corner in the 6th round who has played plenty of snaps and has become an average player with room to grow is a fantastic pick with insane value.
While Nnadi is a good pick by my estimation, simply meeting expectations is a lot less impressive than the mileage the Chiefs have gotten out of Fenton.
In hindsight I would have put Fenton in the sixth spot, moving Nnadi down to seventh.
For those reasons listed above, I’m grading the Derrick Nnadi draft pick at a “B-” (and retroactively grading Rashad Fenton at a “B”).
How will this affect 2021?
Similar to my Khalen Saunders evaluation, I find it hard to believe the Chiefs would use any draft picks on a defensive tackle. Nnadi, along with Chris Jones, Saunders, Wharton and recently acquired Jarran Reed, will collectively provide all the depth the Chiefs need at DT in 2021. Unless something catastrophic happens to Nnadi or any of the other DTs before the draft, don’t hold your breath on the Chiefs selecting a player at that position.