The expectations of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 rookie class

The Kansas City Chiefs traded away their first-round pick in 2021 to acquire offensive tackle Orlando Brown from the Baltimore Ravens. Even without their first-round selection, there is reason to be excited.

This is a massive year for the Kansas City Chiefs, who are coming off their second straight Super Bowl appearance and falling just short to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their most recent Super Bowl appearance. The expectations for the rookies in 2021 are just as high as they are for the rest of the roster.

The first selection made by the Chiefs was linebacker Nick Bolton out of Mizzou. Brett Veach made it very clear this off-season that LB and offensive line were going to be a priority and he wasn’t lying. There has been much made of the LB play over the past few seasons.

It has been arguably the weakest position group of any on the entire time. The Bucs had a clear game plan in the Super Bowl of exposing the weak underneath coverage by the LBs and executed the plan to perfection.

Bolton may not start right away. From all reports from mini-camp, Anthony Hitchens, Willie Gay, and, yes, Ben Niemann was getting the one reps. I would expect Bolton to see the field in certain spots early and eventually take over a starting role by mid-season, with the eventual plan being replacing Anthony Hitchens as the Mike LB. Bolton has the ability to play all three downs.

If you put on his film last year against Alabama you can see why the Chiefs selected him in the second. Be on the lookout for a breakdown of Bolton and Willie Gay on The Coach’s Corner YouTube page.

With their next selection, the Chiefs completed their OL re-build by selecting Center Creed Humphrey out of Oklahoma. Creed was one of, if not the, best center in the entire draft. He has all the tools to be a high-level starting center in the NFL.

He made all the protection calls at Oklahoma, plays with good leverage, has good athleticism and understands how to use his body to win blocks. Humphrey is the day one starter and could be a staple along the interior in Kansas City for the next 10 plus years.

Again, GM Brett Veach wasn’t lying when he said OL was a priority and we are going to see an all-new OL in 2021 with Humphrey in the middle of it. Me and fellow ArrowheadLive content creator and co-host of The Coach’s Corner with myself, Caleb James, did a full breakdown of the new OL and some of the run schemes on our YouTube page, here.

The Chiefs’ next selection did not come until the fourth round and that is where they selected a raw, but talented defensive end out of Florida State, Joshua Kaindoh. Kaindoh flashed in college, but never really had the production that would anticipate for someone of his athletic ability.

This was a swing for the fences type pick. In Bleacher Report’s scouting profile on him, they said he, “has a chance to be a better pro than college player.” Kaindoh will likely be nothing more than a rotational player in his first year. He may get chances to show off some of that long frame in pass-rushing situations, but will not be an every down player.

He is at least a year away from that, but the potential is there. If defensive line coach Brendan Daly continues to work his magic along the front, Kaindoh could end up being a home run pick for the Chiefs. This is a re-visit in three years and see where he is type of pick.

Noah Grey, the tight end from Duke, came off the board for the Chiefs in the fifth round and by all accounts from mini-camp, the Chiefs absolutely love him. I was not that high on his film coming out of Duke. I thought he lacked a little burst and athleticism, but the Chiefs are giving him every opportunity to be the guy behind Travis Kelce.

I hope that Grey is able to prove me dead wrong this coming season. He could be used to spell Kelce, who is already 31 years old, in situations and really keep Kelce fresh for the late playoff and Super Bowl stretch. The Chiefs also brought back Blake Bell.

Bell is a good run blocker and I could see the Chiefs going back to a lot more 12 personnel like they were in 2019. This will give Grey even more opportunities to see the field. I would expect to see Grey on every special teams unit as well.

The wide receiver spot after Tyreek Hill is seemingly going to be a battle this year. The Chiefs brought back Demarcus Robinson on a one-year deal. Mecole Hardman is returning and so is Byron Pringle. They also drafted Cornell Powell out of Clemson in the fifth to compete for the spot.

Powell is in the Sammy Watkins mold. He is physical, has strong hands, and wins contested catches. He lacks some of the burst and overall speed Watkins had, but there is certainly a role on this team for Powell. I could see him beating out Robinson and Pringle for reps.

He is a better route runner and is more physical right now than any Chiefs WR. His upside probably isn’t any higher than a 3rd or 4th WR on the roster because of the lack of a second gear, but he can play in the NFL for sure. Here is a full breakdown of him on the Coach’s Corner YouTube page.

The last pick and maybe most exciting pick is Trey Smith. He was selected in the sixth round and is a physical guard out of Tennessee. Flat out, he may end up being the steal of the entire draft. There were some health concerns coming out of college with blood clots in his lungs, but those issues haven’t come about for two seasons. The Chiefs are also one of the most cautious franchises when it comes to injuries.

This tells me he has a clean bill of health. The Chiefs drafted their starting RG in the sixth round of the draft, and he isn’t just any sixth-rounder. He is a stud. A mammoth of a man. A mauler. He is the player that wants to just bury his defender every. single. play. With the recent injury to Kyle Long, I would anticipate Smith getting the starter reps and keeping the job well into the future. They may be starting two rookies along the offensive line in Humphrey and Smith, but these aren’t your everyday rookies. They are going to be staples along the KC OL for years to come.

This draft class has the potential to be one of GM Brett Veach’s and HC Andy Reid’s best. They found starters at multiple positions and could have a home run pick in Kaindoh. Many of these players will be seeing the field early in their rookie years and will be asked to play vital roles in the team’s success. If you include Orlando Brown as one of the draft picks, since the Chiefs used their first-rounder to trade for him, you could see three starting offensive linemen come from this draft. That is impressive in itself. Then add a starting LB, a WR3, and a potential starting DE down the road and this has the chance to be a heck of a draft class.

The expectations have never been higher in KC. Even talks of 20-0. Those expectations don’t exclude rookies. The expectations are just as high for them.