As the dust settled on the 2021 NFL Draft, most Kansas City Chiefs fans seemed to be happy with the six new players that the team added to their roster. I include myself in that group. If you go back and look at my draft grades from the Monday following the draft, you’ll find that I gave the group a B+ and even said that if you factor in the addition of Orlando Brown Jr., I would bump that grade up to an A.
While I still feel that same way, I am starting to worry that some fans are starting to get a little carried away with their expectations for this draft class.
The excitement and focus on K.C.’s rookies is understandable. The month following the draft is always crammed full of in-depth reviews of the draft picks and how they might fit with the team. When you spend a month straight reading about and studying a group of players that you were already excited about to begin with, the enthusiasm is only going to grow. That effect has only been heightened this year because of the limited free agent additions that the team has made.
Pretty much all of K.C.’s significant free agent additions have come in the trenches this offseason. They completely overhauled their offensive line and their biggest defensive addition was defensive tackle Jarran Reed. I love these additions and feel like they will certainly improve the team this coming season, but in the never-ending, 24 hours a day for 12 months a year NFL news cycle, offensive linemen and defensive tackles aren’t very flashy. When we spend so much time between the Super Bowl and the start of training cramp obsessing over every part of the roster, it’s natural to focus on the shiny “new toys” that were added to the team.
This season the free agents were less like “new toys” and more like needed home improvements. It’s a lot more fun to buy a new sports car than to put a new roof on your house or replace the hot water heater, but sometimes those things have to be done. With the new additions in free agency being a little less flashy this year, it seems like that has put an even greater emphasis on the rookies that were added, and I believe that is building up some unreasonable expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think the Chiefs could get some solid contributions from this group, but it feels like some people are expecting Nick Bolton and Creed Humphrey to be day one, full-time starters. Noah Gray is projected to put up pass catching numbers unlike any back up tight end in Andy Reid’s coaching career. Cornell Powell is likely to compete for the number two receiver spot, and Trey Smith is set to potentially earn a starting spot as well if Kyle Long misses much time with his injury. Pretty much the only draft pick that doesn’t have buzz around his potential role this coming season is Joshua Kaindoh.
I really like this rookie class, but a Super Bowl caliber team drafting five significant rookie contributors in rounds 2-6 seems completely unrealistic to me. So let’s address these picks one at a time and just briefly reset what realistic expectations should be for each of them for this coming season.