Brett Veach’s first draft pick with the Chiefs is showing out in a big way. The only problem: he’s 27 and in the USFL.
Five years after the Kansas City Chiefs made Breeland Speaks the third defensive end off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft, he has finally put together a performance worth noting in a professional football game.
Fortunately for Speaks and his current team—the USFL’s Michigan Panthers—he was awarded the USFL’s defensive player of the week for his performance in a hotly contested Week 1 win over another historic USFL franchise, the Houston Gamblers.
Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, Speaks never came close to a performance like this in the NFL. His 3 sacks, 7 tackles, and 1 forced fumble were certainly a sight to behold in an opening week for the USFL that many did not know was occurring, including myself. While there are some big names associated with the USFL, as the headline above clearly states, Speaks’ performance was so loud the entire football world could hear it.
As a Kansas City area blogger, I am certainly mourning the fact that I not only never got to utilize that headline or express those characters in a tweet, but that we also saw only half of that production from Speaks in his only actual season as a Chief in 2018. That year he amassed an underwhelming 1.5 sacks.
I’ll never forget where I was the night the Chiefs drafted Breeland Speaks—not because of the fact that Kansas City drafted Speaks. I was in attendance for the Chiefs Season Ticket Member Draft Fest at Arrowhead Stadium. My buddies and I were on the field, checking out the view that Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, and first-year starter Patrick Mahomes would be taking in when the season kicked off five months later.
We got to go into the locker room and check out where the players got ready. I got to dap up Kareem Hunt, which in hindsight seems like the wrong guy to have gotten friendly with but was also stunningly mortal looking. It made me think that if I had otherworldly athletic ability, my 6’2″ frame could have potentially gotten me a spot on an NFL roster. Damn genetics.
Anyway, we even got to check out the tunnel that the team comes out of during home games. It was quite an experience for someone who had grown up holding the hallowed ground I was standing on with such high regard and worshipping the players who made their money playing on it on Sundays.
About two hours into the event, both Jumbotrons lit up. Kansas City had traded up from 54 to 46 and was on the board. With a new hotshot GM taking over for John Dorsey, we were all elated to see who Brett Veach would take in his first draft at the helm. When Breeland Speaks’ name and picture popped up on the big board, there was a collective “hmmm” that echoed across those in attendance. A quick Google by yours truly produced this result:
"After a relatively dormant first couple of seasons, Speaks turned his flashes into production while operating from a variety of positions along the Ole Miss front. He can be chippy and emotional on the field and needs to mature, but he has the talent and ability to continue getting better. He’s inconsistent at the point of attack along the interior and his best fit could be at an end spot in a 3-4. He has the upside to become an eventual starter, but his floor must be taken into account."
This did not stir hope in me, nor did Speaks’ time as a Chief—a tenure that was, for lack of a better term, uneventful. He only spent two seasons with the team and looked generally out of shape and lethargic when he was on the field. The former Ole Miss standout rarely did so in any games he played in at the professional level and bounced around to the Raiders, Cowboys, Giants, and Bills practice squads before eventually landing with the USFL’s Panthers this season.
While there will always be swings and misses in evaluating and drafting players, this one luckily seems more like an exception as opposed to the norm for Brett Veach. Has he missed on other players? Sure, you could say that. But Speaks was certainly one that stands out above all other draft picks in the Veach era. All’s well that ends well, though. Speaks is doing his thing in the USFL and you’ve got to be happy for him. Will it result in another chance in the NFL? Doubtful. But he’s still playing a game he loves at a high enough level for us to write about him, so there’s that.