The Chiefs were once again without a first-round pick, but their two second-round picks, as well as a free agency addition, could very well see playing time next season…so what should we expect of them?
The Chiefs were without a 1st-round pick for the fourth time in six years (’16, ’18, ’19, ’21) but through last week’s trade with Baltimore for LT Orlando Brown Jr. they were able to gain a second pick during the second round, giving them two picks on day two of the draft.
With these two picks (#58, #63) the Chiefs selected inside linebacker Nick Bolton out of Missouri with the first pick and center Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma with the second.
Both Bolton and Humphrey were listed in the top three at their position by Mel Kiper in his 2021 ‘Big Board’ and both have intangibles that they bring to the table, but are they talented enough to start the season at their respective positions? If so, what kind of statistics should Chiefs Kingdom be hope to see from them?
Let’s start with Bolton, coming in at just over 5′ 11″ and weighing in at 237 lbs, he is shorter than most linebackers selected as high but he did run a 4.60 40-yard dash and had a 32″ vertical (according to PFR) which is why he was valued so high by experts and analysts across the country.
In his three seasons at Mizzou, Bolton was named AP second-team All-American in 2020 and first-team All-SEC two years in a row (’19, ’20), in those two seasons he had more tackles than any other SEC defender despite his height.
As a sophomore Bolton racked up over 100 tackles (8.5 of them being for a loss), seven pass deflections, one sack, and two interceptions–one of which ended up in the endzone. During his junior year, a season shortened by COVID-19, he still managed to collect 95 tackles–eight for a loss–with two sacks, and five pass deflections.
So what could Bolton do from the ILB position in Kansas City?
First off, he’d have to beat out 4th-year LB Ben Niemann for the starting position (assuming 2nd-year LB Willie Gay Jr. is still recovering from surgery on his meniscus) and after that, he would have to prove he is able to retain the starting position by doing exactly what he did against the SEC offenses the past three seasons.
Niemann was brought back this offseason because it’s obvious the LB position is one of the weakest that the Chiefs bring to the field every week. With Gay Jr. being underutilized during the regular season, and unable to take the field during the postseason, it became apparent that depth was needed at the position.
If Bolton is able to start Week one, one can presume that he will have more tackles than Niemann had in his best season (56) simply due to the difference in skill and the different ways that they play the game. Nolton will also likely shred Niemann’s career sack number (1.0) and could easily have upwards of 10 tackles for a loss if DC Steve Spagnuolo can find the right ways to use him alongside ‘Sack Nation’ and newly added DT Jarran Reed.
All-in-all, if healthy and starting from Week 1 to Week 18, Nolton could prove he’s the Chiefs’ LB of the future–even over the stud Willie Gay Jr.–by his speed and his instincts as well as his ability to shoot the gaps quickly and with ease.
As far as C Creed Humphrey goes, there are fewer expectations for the upcoming season, especially since the Chiefs signed Rams’ C Austin Blythe earlier this offseason.
With Blythe coming in with experience and a great track record–starting every game for LA since 2018–it will be difficult for Humphrey to see more than the bench this season, but that does not mean he won’t be used or useful in certain ways.
The great thing about the drafting of Humphrey is the depth that Kansas City continues to add to their depleted offensive line. With this addition, there have now been seven new players added to the offensive line from last season (including Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang who opted out of last season).
What’s also nice about the Humphrey pick is that, if for any reason, the right guard position becomes open due to injury or poor playmaking then recently-added Blythe has a history of playing RG both in LA and in college at Iowa.
Humphrey, much like Blythe, has a wrestling background, can hold the line at the point of attack, and can change direction with extreme prejudice. His zone-blocking ability, as well as his quickness and reaction time, will allow him to possibly start at C if Blythe is needed at the RG–or possibly LG–position later this season.
The Chiefs also added RB Jerick McKinnon early on Friday, allowing them to focus on other aspects in the draft (not that RB was a major priority anyway). McKinnon will soon turn 29 and has spent his first four seasons in Minnesota before moving to San Francisco last season.
McKinnon will not be expected to start and, at best, could be a second-stringer behind 2nd-year starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire just in front of 4th-year RB Darrel Williams.
The former 2014 3rd-round pick will likely get minimal touches throughout the season, but if he has similar stats to his years as a backup RB in Minnesota and San Francisco then he could end up with over 400 rushing yards and possibly even 300-400 receiving yards with the way Coach Reid and Patrick Mahomes like to throw to the RBs.
In McKinnon’s best season (Minnesota, 2017) he had 570 rushing yards, 421 receiving yards, five total TDs, and averaged 3.8 yards/rush. That season would be his last until 2020 due to a torn ACL that had serious setbacks over the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Overall, the Chiefs possibly have their future set in the positions drafted (C, ILB) and look to the third round for their replacement for Sammy Watkins and possibly even more depth on the defensive line or possibly even at cornerback or safety.