Jaylen Watson, Cornerback (Round 7, Pick 243)
When Trent McDuffie was placed on injured reserve, instead of turning to fourth-round pick Joshua Williams, the next man up for the Kansas City Chiefs was seventh-round rookie Jaylen Watson. Over the first three games of the 2022 season, Watson was elite in man coverage. He was PFF’s ($) highest-graded cornerback in man coverage in the NFL with a 91.4 grade across the first three weeks. Sunday was a little bit of a different story as he squared up against one of the NFL’s best wide receivers in Mike Evans. Evans recorded a couple of touchdowns but Watson only covered him on one of those. Despite allowing the passing touchdown, Watson had really good coverage on the play, and outside of committing blatant defensive pass interference, it would have been hard to do it any better.
Overall against Tampa Bay, Watson had a down game, which is understandable since he’s a seventh-round rookie playing against future Hall of Famers at quarterback and wide receiver. In Sunday’s game, across 15 man coverage snaps, he was targeted six times, allowing five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating against of 139.6. He’s allowed to have bad games early in his career and it doesn’t change a thing about his long-term outlook since elite cornerbacks, like Jalen Ramsey, have been lit up by the same team in recent years.
Jaylen Watson has been the pleasant surprise of the 2022 regular season for the Chiefs. Isiah Pacheco had hype throughout training camp but not many saw Watson as a day one starting cornerback in the NFL, even during training camp. He’ll likely be a starting cornerback for the next three to four years in Kansas City and we can already tell that Brett Veach and Co. knocked it out of the park selecting him with the 243rd overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
George Karlaftis, Defensive End (Round 1, Pick 30)
George Karlaftis may still be searching for the first sack of his NFL career, though he still paid dividends to the Chiefs. Outside of a great defensive stop on Leonard Fournette early in the contest, Karlaftis did not have a great game against Tampa Bay. He failed to record a pressure in 30 pass-rushing snaps and did not play very well in the run game.
In 2022 as a whole, Karlaftis’s rookie season has been a bit of a disappointment, in my opinion. I don’t enjoy saying this as he was my favorite pick from the Chiefs’ 2022 draft class. Since the Arizona game in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus ($), Karlaftis has only recorded four pressures in 102 pass rush snaps, which is tied for the second-lowest among 46 NFL edge rushers with at least 85 pass rush attempts in that period.
I have full confidence that George Karlaftis will be a great player for the Chiefs in the future, but in 2022, he’s not a starting caliber player, which is nothing to be ashamed of since he’s a rookie. He was one of my favorite pass rushers in his draft class, and I still stand by that, but he was relatively raw coming out of Purdue (and he’s still only 21 years old) so he’s going to get a lot better the more games he plays. Mike Danna and Carlos Dunlap are simply better players today but that likely won’t be the case beyond 2022.