Rumors that the Kansas City Chiefs are interested in wide receiver Henry Ruggs III leads to questions about their draft strategy.
There are typically two schools of thought when it comes to an NFL draft strategy. The first one is that teams should draft the best player available, regardless of whether that player fits a positional need. The second, of course, is that a team should draft based on positional needs. These two strategies often collide and make for some difficult decisions. Should a team forgo the chance to bolster a weak positional unit, and opt for talent? Or should a team always strive to improve a weak unit, regardless of which player is available?
It looks like the Chiefs are facing a similar dilemma. There are rumors swirling that the Chiefs are interested in trading up Henry Ruggs III, the electric receiver out of Alabama. Yet, any Chiefs fan knows that the linebackers, cornerbacks, and offensive line (especially guard and center) are the weakest positional units. But it’s also reasonable to think that Ruggs is a better football player than any corner or linebacker that may fall to the Chiefs.
Let’s engage in a hypothetical. Ignore the trade rumors for a second and imagine Ruggs III falls to the 32nd pick in the draft. I’d give this a .00001% chance of happening, but bear with me. Let’s also say that linebackers Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray and cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Jaylon Johnson are also available. How should general manager Brett Veach go about making his pick?
First, let’s see the case for Ruggs. The Chiefs are likely to lose Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins next year, so the idea of investing at the receiver isn’t too far-fetched. Having Ruggs on his rookie deal is an inexpensive way to get a ton of production at receiver, especially with Mahomes’ contract, and potentially Chris Jones’ looming.
Now let’s hear the case for picking one of the defensive players mentioned. An explosive linebacker like Patrick Queen or a ball-hawking corner like Johnson would address very obvious needs. Losing Reggie Ragland and Kendall Fuller this offseason has magnified the need at both positions.
The question is this: at what point does it make more sense to draft for talent over need? In other words, how much better than a cornerback/linebacker does Ruggs III have to be to warrant the Chiefs picking him? The fact that there are rumors that the Chiefs may trade up for Ruggs III complicates the question even more. Trading up means that Veach and co. believe Ruggs III is a clear better option than anyone available at pick 32.
The NFL draft is wildly unpredictable: players who are hailed as the next Joe Montana or Deion Sanders may fizzle out quickly, where players drafted far later may become All-Pros. Regardless, the pre-draft process involves a difficult weighing of options. These calculations typically hover over one question: at which point does it make more sense to draft for talent over need? The Ruggs debate is an excellent case study for this question. Let’s see what Veach decides to do.