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Two of the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting cornerbacks last year, Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes, signed with the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, respectively.

And the team, which finished fourth worst in the NFL with 31 sacks, has yet to sign a defensive end during free agency.

So it’s no surprise that Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said both positions are priorities during the draft.

“They’re both up there,” Veach said. “They’re both there neck and neck in regards to what we feel need-wise.”

In fact, Veach apologized for running late to his Friday morning press conference because his defensive meeting lasted long.

Fortunately for the Chiefs, the 2022 NFL Draft, in which they have six picks in the first three rounds, is particularly deep at defensive end, a sentiment with which Veach agreed.

And the cornerback position has value at the end of the first round.

“They’re in a pretty good position to be able to address that,” said NFL Network and NFL draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

Jeremiah specifically mentioned Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr., Washington’s Klyer Gordon and Florida’s Kaiir Elam as good cornerback options for Kansas City.

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Any of those three would help fill a void.

Not only did Ward sign a three-year contract worth more than $40 million and Hughes sign a one-year, $ 2.3 million deal with their new respective teams, but also versatile safety Tyrann Mathieu, who often played nickel cornerback, won’t be back.

Historically, Veach, though, has not used early-round picks on cornerbacks.

None of the players who started for the Chiefs at cornerback last year were drafted by Kansas City in the first two rounds — where the Chiefs have four picks this year.

“It’s more circumstance,” Veach said. “If you can get a good, long, athletic corner, I mean, you’re going to get one of those guys all day. It just hasn’t worked out.”

Whether or not the draft board falls accordingly this year, defensive end is a pressing need as well. With Melvin Ingram, who turns 33 on April 26, unsigned, they have yet to find a starter opposite Frank Clark.

And Clark had only 4.5 sacks last year, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2015.

The opportunity to upgrade the defensive line played a major role in the Chiefs trading away Tyreek Hill for the Miami Dolphins’ 2022 first-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick, a 2022 fourth-round pick, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick rather than pay him the contract averaging $30 million, an NFL-high among all receivers, to which the Dolphins signed him.

“It became obvious when free agency started that it was going to be tough to do both. So you’re faced with a decision,” Veach said. “If you do the Tyreek thing, then you’re limited in regards to your resources being able to be spent on defense.”

The Chiefs now have the option of spending some of the picks accumulated via the Hill deal on the defensive line, trading/signing for a veteran with about $20 million in cap space that the marquee trade made available or packaging their picks to trade up in the draft.

The Chiefs have 16 to 18 players on their board that they say are draftable in the first round — where they have picks No. 29 and 30 — and that number doesn’t include quarterbacks because they have franchise star Patrick Mahomes locked up through 2031.

Those 16 to 18 players with first-round grades are part of the 194 players they’ve deemed draftable in the seven-round 2022 NFL Draft.

So given their dozen picks in the draft, there are plenty of opportunities for the Chiefs to upgrade at defensive end and cornerback.

“We’ll hopefully with these picks,” Veach said, “add to both of those positions.”

Then again during draft season, general managers don’t want to reveal to other NFL teams what they’re thinking. So you have to take everything they say with a grain of salt.

“I wouldn’t believe anything,” Veach said.

Source: Forbes

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