The Kansas City Chiefs kicked off the 2022 NFL Draft by making an addition to their secondary on Thursday night, trading up to select University of Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie with the No. 21 overall pick.
Here are five things to know about the newest member of Kansas City's defensive backfield.
1. McDuffie was among the best cornerbacks in all of college football last season.
The numbers speak for themselves when reviewing McDuffie's final season with the Huskies. He only allowed 16 receptions on 36 targets for a grand total of 111 yards – the fewest yards allowed in college football among players targeted 30+ times – across 11 games. He yielded an opponent passer rating of just 52.0 while playing 296 total coverage snaps, allowing only 3.1 yards-per-target (also the best mark in the FBS).
It was just a continuation of what turned out to be a stellar career for McDuffie, who surrendered just two "deep" receptions – which are passes of 20+ yards – during his three years in school. Additionally, McDuffie didn't allow a touchdown reception in each of the last two seasons.
2. He was projected by many to be a much higher selection.
The draft often presents curveballs that lead to deviations from the consensus projections, and McDuffie's availability at pick No. 21 is a prime example. In fact, the majority of draft experts predicted that McDuffie would be selected within the first 15 picks.
He was the No. 11 overall player (and No. 2 cornerback) available in this year's class according to Pro Football Focus, the No. 12 overall player (and No. 2 cornerback) according to The Athletic's Dane Brugler and the No. 14 overall player (and No. 3 cornerback) according to NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah. With those rankings in mind, it simply wasn't realistic to expect McDuffie to be available when Kansas City made their pick. Chiefs' General Manager Brett Veach said as much following Round 1, and it's why he felt motivated to move up from No. 29 to No. 21.
"With our first pick – it's a little funny – every year, we go through what we think is every scenario possible. We didn't go over McDuffie's scenario, [because we didn't think] he'd be there," Veach said. "With the way the board was falling, knowing that we're picking really late in the draft, the odds of a guy like McDuffie being at No. 21 – let alone at No. 29 – were very low. We just felt like it was the right time to make a move."
That move meant that Kansas City could capitalize on some of the best value in the draft, as Cynthia Frelund from NFL.com ranked the selection as the fourth-best value pick in Round 1. Here’s what she had to say about McDuffie:
"McDuffie was my third-ranked corner and my eighth-ranked player overall ahead of the draft. Comparing his résumé blindly to the results of the previous 10 drafts, his range would have fallen between pick Nos. 9 and 15 -- and many of those drafts included multiple top-tier QBs… My models liken him to Jaire Alexander, which is a lofty comp."
3. McDuffie is versatile and can line up anywhere in the secondary.
Chiefs' Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to move his defensive backs around, and he'll have that luxury with McDuffie. He primarily served as an outside cornerback at Washington, but McDuffie also logged snaps in the box, in the slot and at deep safety during his college career. PFF wrote about his versatility in their pre-draft analysis:
"McDuffie can play outside, he can play slot, and he could even play safety if you want. He's got a versatile skill set that can handle any coverage role."
He also spoke about his versatility and willingness to play wherever he's needed on Thursday night.
"I look at myself as someone who is going to be able to go in and play a bunch of different positions and just help out the team however I can," McDuffie said. "That's a big thing for me moving forward, just going in there with the mindset of however I can get on the field and however I can help out this team, I'm going to do everything I can to do it."
4. He also contributes as a run-defender.
It may seem like an obvious requirement to play professional football, but the reality is that many cornerbacks – even in the NFL – are not willing tacklers against the run. Spagnuolo demands that skillset out of his defensive backs, however, and McDuffie fits the bill. He racked up 94 tackles during his three years with Washington, including a 35 tackles and 4.0 tackles-for-loss in 2021.
PFF had this to say about McDuffie's mentality as tackler:
"The best tackling corner in the class. Comes in with un-coachable ferocity."
5. McDuffie wore No. 22 at Washington in order to honor his late brother.
The second-youngest of five siblings, McDuffie lost his older brother, Tyler, to a heart attack when Trent was in eighth grade. Tyler wore No. 22 in high school. Just a few years later, Trent was coincidentally assigned No. 22 at Washington, providing him with a means of honoring his late brother every time he took the field.
Trent spoke about his brother and the meaning behind his number in an NFL feature earlier this month.
It's been an incredible journey for McDuffie, and after establishing himself as one of the best players in all of college football over the last three years, he's headed to Kansas City to join the Chiefs.