Defensive Ends (5): George Karlaftis, Charles Omenihu, Frank Clark (Projected FA signing), Mike Danna, 2023 Rookie
Similar to Jerick McKinnon, I’m not counting out Frank Clark returning to the team before the season begins. They may sign another veteran pass rusher but it likely makes more sense to retain Clark due to his knowledge of the defense and veteran leadership with the team. I could see a reality where the Chiefs draft two edge rushers, making a Clark reunion less likely. Karlaftis, Omenihu, and Danna are 100% making the team.
Defensive Tackles (5): Chris Jones, Tershawn Wharton, Derrick Nnadi, 2023 Rookie, 2023 Rookie
There was no position that I spent more time trying to figure out than the defensive tackles. Although unlikely, I’m not ruling out a Chris Jones trade—which I am NOT advocating for but contract talks have been eerily quiet. Tershawn Wharton will most likely make the team. Derrick Nnadi, though less of a lock than Wharton, should also be pretty safe.
Defensive tackle is also the only area where I projected multiple rookies on the final roster. Admittedly, I’m going out on a limb, but I reckon that none of Byron Cowart, Danny Shelton, Phil Hoskins, or Daniel Wise will be on the 53-man roster in Week 1, barring an injury. If it were up to me, I’d draft a run-stuffing DT as well as one with upside rushing the passer, just in case Chris Jones isn’t on the team come the 2024 season.
Linebackers (5): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Leo Chenal, Drue Tranquill, Jack Cochrane
This was one of the more simple units to project. Bolton, Gay, Chenal, and Tranquill are all stone-cold locks, while I think the team will roster Jack Cochrane primarily for special teams purposes (He played over 300 special teams snaps last season). I view it as unlikely that the Chiefs draft a linebacker before day 3. This linebacker class is not very strong, so the value may not be there in the first or second round at the position.
Cornerbacks (6): L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson, Dicaprio Bootle, 2023 Rookie
Another relatively easy position group to project. Sneed, McDuffie, Williams, and Watson are all safe bets, while Dicaprio Bootle may make the team for special teams purposes—like Jack Cochrane. Yes, the team drafted three cornerbacks last year, and L’Jarius Sneed is on the cusp of a long-term contract, but in a conference with Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, and (maybe?) Aaron Rodgers, you can never have too many good cornerbacks. I don’t imagine it will happen in the first two rounds, but it wouldn’t shock me if they selected one in the third round or later.
Safeties (5): Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Mike Edwards, Deon Bush, Nazeeh Johnson
Justin Reid and Bryan Cook are 100% making the final 53-man roster. Mike Edwards should as well. Nazeeh Johnson will make it for the sole purpose of special teams. I’m not confident with the Deon Bush pick. Bush was great for Dave Toub’s unit last year, it would make sense for the Chiefs to draft another safety, though this safety draft class is not exactly the best we’ve ever seen.
Special Teamers (3): Harrison Butker, Tommy Townsend, James Winchester
Let’s not waste much time. Harrison Butker will be the team’s kicker this season for a seventh season, Tommy Townsend will serve as the team’s punter for the fourth straight season, and James Winchester will serve in the long snapper role he’s held since the 2015 season.