Breeland Speaks came with a number of questions when the Chiefs first traded up to take him in 2018. Two years later, those questions remain unanswered.
For all of the strong moves Brett Veach has made as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs—a run of aggressive moves that ultimately helped to deliver a Super Bowl victory—a cloud of confusion lingers around his very first rookie haul from the 2018 NFL Draft. From that entire group of players, only defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi has contributed anything of real substance. The biggest head-scratcher at the time feels the same two full seasons later: the selection of defensive lineman Breeland Speaks.
After John Dorsey’s surprising dismissal in 2017, Veach became the newest general manager and soon revealed his aggressive nature. In the following offseason’s free agency, he showcased that tendency by signing Anthony Hitchens and Sammy Watkins to above-market deals. When the draft came, no one knew what to expect from the first-year general manager. After sitting out the first round, Veach moved up to select defensive end Breeland Speaks and left us speechless.
Speaks was a defensive lineman at Ole Miss who was not expected to be drafted until the 3rd or 4th round. Instead of sitting around and seeing how the board would fall, Veach traded away No. 54 and No. 76 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals for the chance to move up 8 spots (and also grab No. 100 in return).
Veach commented, “When you’re looking at that board, and there are big gaps, you go up and get that guy.” He also said, “When we were in the second round, and Speaks is on the board, there was a big gap.” This meant that he thought Speaks was the last player of his caliber remaining at the top of the draft and made the call to go up and get him.
Critics of the move noted that they were unsure of how Speaks would fit in the Kansas City defense. While Speaks was known for being tough and hard-nosed, his fit in the 3-4 scheme that the Chiefs ran under Bob Sutton was questionable at best. At 283 pounds, Speaks was seemingly too small to play a defensive tackle or end and was too large to play an outside linebacker position. In his first season, Speaks looked out of place.