KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach spoke with the media during a post-draft news conference Sunday. Following are his comments.
OPENING STATEMENT: “Appreciate you guys for joining to kind of go back and review the last three days. Certainly, we’re excited about how this draft unfolded. Huge tip of the cap to my personnel staff. We stayed aggressive all weekend long even though we didn’t do trades in the first two days, but you guys knew I had to sneak one in there at the end. Our guys did a really great job. Really excited about our draft class, and I think our guys really hit a home run after the draft. Some of these guys that we were able to land in free agency were guys that we were considering in the fifth round there, so a lot of these guys that were on the board for that final pick, we were able to stay aggressive and sign after the draft. Again, really excited about the future of the Kansas City Chiefs and looking forward to personally welcoming these guys once they get here. But again, can’t thank my personnel staff enough for their hard work, and with that I’ll open it up for questions.”
Q: Looking at Willie Gay Jr. and the two DBs (L’Jarius Sneed and BoPete Keyes, really fast guys. Is that because you needed to upgrade or is that how these positions are played now days?
VEACH: “Well it’s certainly how those positions are played now days. When you have guys that test extremely well and perform at the Combine or if they had Pro Days, those guys are certainly going to be – if you didn’t like them on tape – those guys are the ones that are going to get second and third looks just because of their athletic attributes. Guys like Willie Gay and (L’Jarius) Sneed and (BoPete) Keyes, when you see their performances on tape you get even more excited. We certainly want to target guys that run and test well, but they don’t just test well, they’re football players that test well. Not testers that play football.”
Q: Where are you with Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones contracts and do you have confidence you will get deals done before camp?
VEACH: “I would like to think that we’re fairly confident, and we have a lot of time. (They’re) cornerstones in this organization. We do have some time, and now that the draft is over, and the free agency period here with the pandemic and the virtual draft, there was certainly a lot of distractions. But now that this is behind us here, we have a window now that we can kind of reset as an organization. We have a lot of time and this will be the focus of where we are to make sure we get these guys locked up and head into training camp, whenever that is, ready to rock and roll. Again, you can never put a definitive answer on anything, but we are certainly hopeful and confident, and we’re going to put in a lot of work from now until the start of camp.”
Q: What did you like about L’Jarius Sneed and BoPete Keyes?
VEACH: “We like guys – certainly in our scheme – that have some length and can run, bigger, longer, press-type corners. We liked both players’ size and physicality. Sneed was a guy that when Saturday started, that was our guy. If we had the first pick in Round 4, it would have been Sneed, so we were certainly holding our breath there. Our guys did a good job of helping me be patient and work through this because being patient and letting the board play itself out and getting Sneed there at the bottom of four there certainly enabled us to use the other equity to go up and get Keyes. Keyes was an interesting guy, too. They were two bigger corners that we like as press-guys on the outside, and when we got to the fifth round, we were kind of going back and forth between Keyes and (Mike) Danna. Once we got off the clock and selected Danna, our guys did a great job of reorganizing the board. I had mentioned earlier, the value of not having a sixth or seventh will be to really assess the board, and once the draft ends, to attack it. Once the board started to unfold once we were off the clock for the day, I think you start to look at the corner stack and understand that with so many picks left in the draft, the odds of this guy getting selected here is very high. So, let’s just see what we can do to get back up there while those guys continue to monitor who’s getting drafted, and where we’re going to allocate our resources. So, those guys are working on that, and I was able to call through and get some teams. Got ahold of Jon Robinson at Tennessee and we went back up and got the guy we almost took in five, so we were excited about that.”
Q: You traded a 2021 draft pick to move back in to the seventh-round. On that move, how much of that is the advance work and being able to predict a little bit of what next year’s draft class looks like? How accurate can you be trying to gauge what you gave up, is part of it knowing next year’s cornerback draft class isn’t as strong?
VEACH: “Yeah, I don’t know if you can sit there and know the whole depth of the corner class. Certainly, you’ll know some guys early on. But to your point, that is a good point, that you can’t sit there and accurately detail what corners would be there in (rounds) five or six next year. What I can say is we felt like this kid was a fifth- or sixth-round pick. We’re potentially looking at compensatory picks in four and five and we’re all hoping that pick is 6-32. So, if that pick is 6-32, when you add in the compensatory picks in rounds three, four and five, you’re looking at a seventh-round value. If that’s a seventh-round value and we’re swapping a seventh-round value this year for a guy that we felt was really on our board really at that (DE Mike) Danna selection, we kind of looked at it like that. Compensatory picks, hopefully our pick is late in the sixth round, 6-32, if you add in the compensatory picks in rounds three, four and five, now you’re into the seventh round when you talk about total volume of numbers. For where this kid was ranked this year, to your point we don’t know exactly what will be there next year, but we also don’t know if there will be someone that we had graded so high. So, we felt the risk was worth the reward. We were very confident that (BoPete) Keyes would have been drafted. In fact, his agent texted me with a text message from another team – I won’t say the team – but he was going to go, I think, four or five picks later. We like him. None of this is a guarantee. The more great players you have the more likely you are to have success with these guys. We certainly liked him, and we felt that made sense when you factor potential compensatory picks next year and hopefully the sixth-round pick being later in the process there.”
Q: Going back to some of the offensive linemen that are going to be joining the team. What did you like about Lucas Niang or learn about him through this process? From a UDFA standpoint, you signed Yasir Durant and Darryl Williams and seems like you made them priority UDFA guys. What did you see in those guys as well?
VEACH: “We were hoping that we that we could get someone who was fluent in French so that we could pair them with Larry (Duvernay-Tardif) there up front, so I think that was important for us. He needed a wing-mate there. So, the fact that he’s fluent in French is a big deal. Listen, he’s a smart kid, he picks up the game extremely fast. Potentially not having rookie minicamps or OTAs and jumping into this thing is going to be a challenge for young guys, really on both sides of the football. So, I think the fact that this kid is coming in here with a high football IQ and is extremely versatile is going to be something that will help us get him up to speed quickly. The kid’s a very interesting player. He has some really good tape. I know you guys on this chat do a bunch of tape work, but I think there was an ’18 game where they played Ohio State and I think you guys can see him go against Chase Young and (Nick) Bosa and I think Chase Young kind of mentioned out there that he didn’t have a great day versus Lucas. So, there’s talent there and we also feel there’s a lot of versatility in regard to his ability to play guard. We feel the same way about (Yasir) Durant from Missouri. Certainly, a local guy that we got to watch a lot. He played a bunch of tackle, but we do think that sliding him to guard might be his best position. Any time you can get a couple 6’6” guys inside there protecting Pat (Mahomes) will be beneficial. With Darryl (Williams, he was an extremely productive player at Mississippi State. That’s a guy that we feel has center-guard flexibility, has done both there at Mississippi State. As I mentioned to Willie (Gay Jr.) on our conference call the other day, we’ve had a lot of success with Mississippi State players. It’s funny, when you take a step back and look at some of these schools that tend to produce a lot of players, Mississippi State seems like every year when they go to the NFL – I don’t have numbers in front of me, I don’t have statistics, just my overall impression of when I think of players that get drafted from Mississippi State – they always tend to work out. Hopefully Darryl falls in that line and is able to crack our roster and is able to help us compete next season.”
Q: You’ve talked about drafting guys like Willie Gay, who you thought was a higher value than where he was picked. How do you balance the upside of not having as much tape versus going with something that may be a more for sure thing?
VEACH: “I think we are always looking, it is a projection business that we are in. To your point, there are guys that you may feel have maximized their athletic abilities. At the same time, you’re not going to sacrifice the ability to come in and have a long career. There are some guys that we always consider “make it guys” just because of the way they are wired. You’re always going to look at the athletic ceiling of a player because these are young guys and you always say to yourself, ‘where do I see this guy in 2, 3, or 4 years.’ Has he maxed out athletically? Is there more to get out of him? There is that balance of wanting to take this player to the next level in regard to where he can be as a player on the field. There are also some guys that have never shown the degree to improve their game, they have always been talented, but their career has always been kind of even keel. So you certainly look for those guys that have a higher athletic ceiling that have shown signs that they can progress and get to where you think they need to be to be successful at this level.”
Q: With the potential to not get on the field due to the pandemic, what is your confidence level that these rookies can get on the field and contribute as the season begins?
VEACH: “We are very fortunate, it is always an advantage to have a great coaching staff, but when you have a coaching staff that has been together for so long, this is where I think it will really help. Our coaching staff, particularly the offensive side, has been together for such a long time now. The ability to communicate on different levels with guys that have been here with guys that are just getting here will be important. We’ll put a lot of that burden on our coaching staff and thankfully we have a great one. It’s going to come back to these kids and understanding the environment that we live in and putting it back on them to make sure wherever they need to be before they get here, or when camp starts, they have to make sure that they are prepared because they potentially won’t have a rookie mini-camp or an OTA. I guess we won’t know until we get there. As far as my confidence level, I’d like to think that because we’ve done a lot of work on these guys, they love the game, they love to prepare. We’ve never gone through something like this so I don’t know that I can compare or put a percentage on it. We’ll trust the process that we utilized to acquire these players and we’ll certainly trust the process of our coaching staff.”
Q: You’re the defending Super Bowl champions, how different does your job feel this year compared to last? Has that changed how you look at things or your general hunger or approach?
VEACH: “I think when you are envisioning winning a Super Bowl, in the back of your mind you’re like once we get one we can maybe alter our approach and take a step back. Once you get there though, you know how tough it is, I think you realize if you really want to stay on top it is that fine line between being aggressive, because that is what got you there, some of the moves we made and some of the things we were able to go out and do, they were obviously considered aggressive, that’s what got us the first Super Bowl in 50 years. If we weren’t aggressive, we wouldn’t have been there potentially. There is also that balance of being smart and understanding that you need future assets to maintain depth. It is a battle of attrition. We lost all those defensive lineman last year, our quarterback got hurt, our wideouts got hurt. So if you don’t have a bunch of draft picks and you don’t have cap flexibility, you’re going to be in trouble because you’re just not going to have the numbers. It’s that fine line, staying aggressive but then being decisive, being aggressive when you want to be aggressive. It’s also having that flexibility when you want to pull the trigger, to pull the trigger. The selective aggressiveness you realize is what works best moving forward.”
Q: I know you are a big sports fan and you have been watching the Chicago Bulls documentary ‘The Last Dance’ and seen the relationships with the general manger and the players. How do you envision yourself with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes going into the future? How involved was Patrick in the draft?
VEACH: “That’s obviously a tremendous show and I know we’re all excited to watch it tonight. To your question about Pat and the draft, I can’t imagine there is a stronger coach, quarterback, GM relationship than the one that coach and I have together and with Patrick. The thing about Pat is he’s the ultimate sports fan. He’ll be able to tell you who’s on the leaderboard during a golf weekend and what’s going on in the NBA. Pat, like a lot of these guys they follow the draft and we know that. So, Coach and I were just having fun with him on Thursday night and we always talk about what makes Pat Mahomes special and it’s his instincts. So I told Coach I said, ‘I’m just going to ask Pat for three random names and see what he says’. Just wanting to see if his instincts were accurate and where he was and Clyde (Edwards-Helaire) was like the first guy he mentioned when we said, ‘Hey give us a skill player’, without blinking. We certainly weren’t asking him for input because Pat certainly respects what we do. But we’re always going to talk to Pat and have fun with him because we know how much he loves every aspect of all sports. So this is no different. Pat will sit there like a lot of these guys. I’m sure Tyrann Mathieu was the same, watching guys and having guys they follow throughout their career just like these college kids follow their career. We were sitting there about an hour before the draft and shot Pat a quick text, Coach and I did on a three-way text, and I was just like, ‘Hey if you had to name a skill player go ahead’ and when he mentioned Clyde we were laughing because it’s very consistent with this kid. His instincts are good, so we felt good about that. But just in general the relationship we have with him, he wants to win and wants to compete, loves the process, trusts the process and there’s a lot of faith in the way we all operate.”
Q: As your talking about Patrick you’re dealing with a contract that maybe the league’s never seen before. What do you rely on about getting this done? How do you go about doing something that maybe the league hasn’t seen before in terms of dealing with a contract?
VEACH: “Well I think you rely on communication, trust, creativity, dialogue. We have time and I think the ultimate goal for both camps is the same and that’s to establish a long line of winning here and continue. Certainly the foundation was laid from the day we drafted him and then going to the AFC Championship game and the following year following that up with a Super Bowl win. His goal and his mindset is the exact same mindset that we’re in and that’s just to win championships here and create legacies. Pat wants to certainly create his own legacy and he wants to do that in Kansas City and we want to establish a long line of winning Super Bowls here. I think at the end of the day we all understand the dynamics that go into making that happen, both individually and as a team. Like I said, the good thing is there isn’t a kid that believes in team more than Pat and we’ll have a lot of time. The fact that there’s dialogue and there will continue to be dialogue and there’s a lot of trust and faith in each other I think will help us as we navigate the next few months.