KC Chiefs need Trent McDuffie to be truly great

Trent McDuffie #22(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Trent McDuffie #22(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

While every first-round pick in the National Football League feels the pressure that comes with being drafted in the opening salvo of the draft, Trent McDuffie should feel more pressure than most. That’s because he will be judged by his ability to be truly great for the Kansas City Chiefs and not much else.

Cornerback is a mercurial position in the NFL, one at which it’s hard to find stability in performance year by year. Still, within the natural ups and downs that come with the position, the Chiefs have tapped McDuffie on the shoulder to be a new defensive cornerstone at a position that was already needy yet also suffered significant losses in the offseason.

Consider this: the Chiefs have rarely kept their own first-round picks in the years that they’ve employed Brett Veach as the team’s general manager. The 2018 selection was part of the Patrick Mahomes trade, but Veach also went on to trade away other first-round picks for defensive end Frank Clark and left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. In fact, his only first-round pick before this offseason was running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020.

True greatness will be the measuring stick for Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie.

This year, Veach had two first-rounders and utilized both of them on McDuffie, a corner out of Washington, and George Karlaftis, a pass rusher out of Purdue. Both will feel the pressure to perform well out of the gate for a young defense in transition, but McDuffie will earn a bit more time in the spotlight because of the nature of the pick and the need.

The Chiefs not only took McDuffie first but they actually traded away a third and fourth-round pick to get him. Instead of taking an edge rusher at No. 21, they went with a cornerback to give them a high-ceiling impact talent in the secondary. That action alone proves how much Brett Veach believed in McDuffie’s potential.

Beyond that, however, the Chiefs are only weeks away from taking the field for the first time without Charvarius Ward in four years and Tyrann Mathieu in three seasons. Dan Sorensen was in K.C. for eight seasons, and the Chiefs also lost Mike Hughes and Armani Watts as well. That’s a lot of combined experience to lose in a single offseason.

While the Chiefs invested in far more than just McDuffie to replace those players, the truth is that none of them have the overall ceiling to do what McDuffie is being asked to do. His instincts, intelligence, and fluid athleticism are all a core part of the secondary’s rebuild, a new superstar corner to anchor the team’s pass defense. The Chiefs went up in the draft order to get him because they believe he can go up and alter the direction of a game.

Because of the present need and the long-term investment, the Chiefs aren’t looking to McDuffie to provide another stable performer in the defensive backfield. They aren’t just looking for a starter at one of the primary cornerback spots. They’re looking for a lockdown defender who can lead the secondary for the next half-decade in the same way Mathieu or even Marcus Peters once did.

True greatness will be the measuring stick for McDuffie, and the journey to realizing that path begins in only a few weeks.

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