The Kansas City Chiefs added three pieces to their defense Friday night, trading up to select a couple of defensive front seven players in Ole Miss playmaker Breeland Speaks (No. 46 overall), and also Florida State’s Derrick Nnadi (No. 75 overall).
They then closed out the night by taking Clemson’s Dorian O’Daniel with the last pick of the third round (No. 100).
“These guys are physical players and they play that style that we want to emulate,” Chiefs’ general manager Brett Veach explained. “I always look at those Steelers teams and Ravens and how those guys just kind of rolled their sleeves up and played football. It’s a four-quarter battle and that’s kind of the mentality we want to have.
“They leave it all on the field, and again, they bring that kind of temperament we’re looking for.”
Veach, who spoke multiple times leading up to the draft about being aggressive for guys he likes, didn’t trade up until he felt he couldn’t wait any longer to go up and get a player he really liked in Speaks.
In order to move up for Speaks at No. 45, the Chiefs traded the Bengals the No. 54 and No. 78 picks.
The Chiefs also received the No. 100 pick back from the Bengals in the deal as well.
Veach spoke about the comparison made earlier in the day by head coach Andy Reid of Speaks to former Chiefs’ great Tamba Hali, who finished his career ranked second in franchise history with 89.5 career sacks.
“You get into those bigger outside backers, [Speaks] isn’t 245 pounds with 4.5 speed,” Veach explained. “Tamba was a 275-280-pound guy, ran a 4.8, but he was a point A to point B guy. It wasn’t pretty, it was just physical and that’s what this guy is. It’s not always pretty, but it’s physical.”
Speaks finished his final season at Ole Miss last year with 67 tackles (27 solo), eight tackles-for-loss, and seven sacks.
“If you sit there at 54, you’re not going to get this guy,” Veach added. “And you have to affect the quarterback. You can’t go out there and play 7‐on‐7, and we looked at it as the last opportunity to get a guy that can affect the quarterback. That’s why we did what we did and went up and got him.”
“[Veach] has a pretty good feel on needs of other clubs or wants of other clubs,” Reid explained of the decisions to trade up. “He made the move and went and got him.”
Between the Chiefs’ original pick at No. 54 and the move to No. 45, there were three other edge players drafted within that stretch, and not to mention the fact that eight of the next 27 draft picks following Speaks’ selection were edge rushers as well.
It was a “pocket” that Veach saw coming, and he made the move to get his guy.
“You’re looking and you have [Speaks] up there and then you see what’s behind Speaks – go get him,” Veach explained of his mindset. “And you also know those teams that worked him out, and our guys do a great job of just keeping their eyes and ears open. We felt like there was a very slim chance he’d be there at 54, so let’s be aggressive and get the guys that we want and he was one of them.”
Speaks, who was celebrating with his family and one-year-old daughter when he got the call, wasn’t surprised that it was the Chiefs who came knocking.
“To be honest, I already had the feeling,” Speaks explained. “The Chiefs were probably the best visit I had, and everything just clicked. When I heard it was the Chiefs’ calling, I knew I was going home.”
Reid, who said they were extremely impressed with Speaks after his Top 30 pre-draft visit to the facility, said Speaks will stand up and come off the edge as an outside linebacker but can slide down in passing situations and put his hand in the dirt—not dissimilar to what last year’s second-round pick, Tanoh Kpassagnon, will do as well.
Veach added that he sees the pass-rushing situation for the Chiefs being between Justin Houston, Dee Ford, and Speaks, who will move around and line up in different places.
In fact, Speaks graded as the fifth-best interior defensive player in this draft in regards to pass-rushing productivity, per Pro Football Focus.
“I think what we’re getting here is high-motor, very intense player,” Reid added. “Love his core strength, his ability to play the run and the pass. He’s kind of done a little bit of everything for Mississippi.”
Speaks was also a guy that Veach has liked for a while.
“He has a tendency that when he likes somebody to wear me out with that guy,” Reid laughed. “I can always tell by how much he likes somebody because he’s going to let me know. So, I’ve watched every game that the kid played.
“The thing that amazes me about [Speaks]…he was never on the ground.”
A few of the players Reid said Veach has “wore him out” about in the past are LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Chris Jones, and Patrick Mahomes.
That’s pretty good company for Speaks.
The decision to move up for Nnadi was another one that had strengthening the defense’s ability against the run in mind. The Chiefs finished 25thin the league in that area last year, allowing an average of 118 yards per game on the ground.
“The need was just to get better,” Veach explained. “We weren’t happy where we were. You play a home playoff game and the team drives the ball and chews up nine minutes on the clock—that’s not good enough. Sometimes it just comes down to having guys who are wired right—guys who want to line up and play four quarters of football.
“Our need is to just get tougher. That’s what these guys did. We feel like these guys did that.”
Nnadi, who is a run-stuffing defensive tackle that ranked as one of the best in this draft in that area, was excited that it was the Chiefs who came calling.
“Honestly, it has been a long time coming,” Nnadi explained. “It just shows that all the work I put in paid off.”
Last year at Florida State, Nnadi finished with 53 tackles (22 solo), 10 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
“I see myself as consistent in what I do,” Nnadi added. “I’m really disciplined in everything I do. I feel like everything I do really comes to technique. That’s one thing I’ve always worked on is everything I do is really technique, and everything else follows through after that.”
Finally, the decision to take O’Daniel was one that traditional depth charts might not be able to properly illustrate.
Veach described O’Daniel, who was a finalist for the Butkus Award last year—given to the nation’s top linebacker—as a “dime” linebacker who will find his way onto the field in passing situations.
O’ Daniel had a team-leading 104 tackles (72 solo), 11.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, six quarterback pressures, two interceptions (each returned for touchdowns), three pass breakups, and two fumble recoveries in 14 games for Clemson last year.
“He’ll be in the linebacker room, but he’ll be on the field on passing downs,” Veach explained. “We think he can develop into will linebacker and provide depth behind Reggie (Ragland) and Anthony (Hitchens).
“We play a lot of dime and he’ll continue to grow and develop and add some more weight. But the reality of it is, we kind of like him where he is—let him run around and make plays, and then play on all (special) teams.”
Veach went a little bit further to explain how impact and value is derived from snaps played, which includes as a four-core special teamer, which looks to be a spot O’ Daniel could fit.
“If you’re playing 40 to 50 percent of total snaps in regards to sub-defenses, then playing on all those teams, that’s a full night’s work,” Veach added.
The ability to cover is something O’ Daniel takes pride in as a linebacker.
“I take a lot of pride in it because so often I feel like teams feel like they have a mismatch,” O’ Daniel explained, “but they put me in the situation and I’m able to show what I’m able to do. I’m very confident in my coverage ability and I think that’s what separates me as a linebacker.”
According to Pro Football Focus, O’ Daniel spent 346 of his 727 snaps played last year at Clemson as a slot cornerback.
It’s just part of the versatility he brings to the defense.
“This guy will be on the field and will be able to cover tight ends, do a lot of different things in regards to matching in our sub‐personnel,” Veach explained. “We also had him graded as the highest-rated special teams player (in the draft). So, a guy like that at pick 100 is extremely valuable to us.”
“I really didn’t think I was going to land in Kansas City,” O’ Daniel added. “I didn’t really know where I was going to land because in this draft process you really don’t know where you’re going to end up. But early on, I always felt deep down that Kansas City liked me a lot.
“They didn’t make a mistake with this pick, I’ll tell you that much.”
After spending three picks on defense Friday night, the Chiefs now head into the final day of the draft with four picks—No. 124, No. 196, No. 233 and No. 243.
“The lower you go, the more the small school players come into play and these height, weight, speed guys come into play,” Veach added. “We spend a lot of time on these late round guys trying to stack our board and be prepared for different scenarios. We are excited for it and we are looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully making some more key additions.”