Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Draft Retrospective

Kansas City Chiefs 2016 NFL Draft Retrospective

How does the Kansas City Chiefs 2016 NFL Draft class look three years later?

By the time the spring of 2016 rolled around, Kansas City Chiefs fans were finally getting used to the winning ways of Andy Reid and his staff. In fact, the regular season had been (another) proving ground for Reid, a miraculous run that featured one of the biggest in-season turnarounds in NFL history. After starting the season at a miserable 1-5 record, Reid’s roster held its head high enough to still believe in the face of such long odds and reeled off a streak of 11 straight wins. The win streak included a 30-0 shellacking of the Houston Texans on the road, the team’s first playoff win in 22 years.

Behind the scenes, John Dorsey was mid-stride in establishing himself as one of the single best talent evaluators in the business (it would be another year or two before even early picks like Eric Fisher and Dee Ford blossomed enough to cement that status), and Reid’s staff was clearly in tune with a front office who got them the right developmental players for the team’s schemes. K.C. made believers out of more than just Chiefs Kingdom in 2015 and better things were yet to come with yet another successful draft.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the NFL punished them for “tampering” with Jeremy Maclin and took away their third round pick. Dorsey would use the draft to add back value through trades in order to make up for the loss.

Original Grade

Sports Illustrated: B-

While the grade is low, Doug Farrar correctly called the volatile nature of this class. Dorsey went for the gold with many, many picks here, and he’s fortunate to have so many of them pan out.

FanSided: B

The positive sentiment here was correct but that’s about it. Nobody jumps out from this class, but it is solid,” reads the opening line on a class with two young Pro Bowlers about to potentially be the richest at their respective positions in Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones.

Draft Class

Round 2 (No. 37)

Chris Jones

DL, Mississippi State

Current Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Jones came into the NFL with a clearly high ceiling after dominant stretches at Mississippi, but labels like “inconsistent” were applied alongside a pre-draft arrest for driving on a suspended license. The question marks created bumped Jones’s draft stock just enough to fall into the second round, and Dorsey read the draft board perfectly. The Chiefs traded out of the first at No. 28 (and a 7th round choice) to grab a 2nd, 4th and 6th from the San Francisco 49ers. In the process, the Chiefs dropped 9 total picks and waited patiently to stop Jones’s freefall.

When teams talk about taking the best player on the board, this is the prime example. The Chiefs had greater needs at other positions and already had Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey and others along the defensive line, but the Chiefs went ahead and grabbed the BPA. So far Jones has eclipsed even the most bullish projections for his immense talent with a breakout season in 2018 in which he finished third in the NFL in total sacks with 15.5. He’s the best interior defender this side of Aaron Donald, and there’s no telling just how high his ceiling can go.

Round 3 (No. 74)

KeiVarae Russell

CB, Notre Dame

Current Team: Cincinnati Bengals

The Chiefs needed secondary help coming into the draft after losing Sean Smith and Husain Abdullah in the offseason. Jamell Fleming, Steven Nelson and Phillip Gaines was set to compete for the spot opposite Marcus Peters, but the Chiefs wanted to add one more body to the mix. Enter KeiVarae Russell, a hybrid player out of Notre Dame to plug in as competition and hope the cream rises to the top.

Russell would go on to become the single biggest mystery (or miss?) in Dorsey’s draft record with the Chiefs. Russell signed his rookie deal in May and by mid-September, the team had released him. No official reason was ever given by the team—at least one that made sense—but the Cincinnati Bengals were quick to snatch him up. He’s played sparingly since then, appearing in 20 games for the Bengals since 2016. Clearly he’s never lived up to his third round billing but at least the Bengals have enjoyed some depth at the position. To give up on a third round pick—the same round in which Dorsey would find Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, Steven Nelson—before he could even play a single NFL game is a serious head-scratcher.

Round 4 (No. 105)

Parker Ehinger

OL, Cincinnati

Current Team: Free Agent

The Chiefs came into the draft with a semi-serious need for an interior lineman after Jeff Allen signed a four-year deal with the Houston Texans. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was still developing as a starting right guard and some combination of Jah Reid, Jarrod Pughsley and the newly signed Paul Fanaika was set to fight it out on the other side. The Chiefs answered the need in the fourth with the selection of Parker Ehinger, a road grader out of Cincinnati.

Ehinger came into the NFL as a four-year starter at three different positions along the line and looked like an instant upgrade at left guard for the first few games of his rookie season. Unfortunately a torn ACL and MCL sidelined him for the final half of his rookie year and would lose his job to Bryan Witzmann the following year. The Chiefs would eventually flip Ehinger to the Dallas Cowboys in a preseason trade last September for cornerback Charvarius Ward. Given the way Ward looked down the stretch, consider the trade a big win for Brett Veach as this pick will pay dividends for quite some team.

Round 4 (No. 106)

Eric Murray

DB, Minnesota

Current Team: Cleveland Browns

The Chiefs got back a third round pick by trading out of their natural second round spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In return for No. 59 overall (which TB used to select a kicker of all things), the Chiefs picked up a third (used on Russell) and this spot in the fourth with which they grabbed safety Eric Murray from Minnesota.

Ron Parker and Eric Berry were locked in as the team’s starters and Dan Sorensen was growing into his role as third safety but the roster was barren at that point. Given how often the Chiefs played in sub packages of 5-plus defensive backs, the addition of Murray provided depth and developmental talent as well as some help for Dave Toub’s special teams coverage units.

Given the serious injuries to Berry and Sorensen in the last couple seasons, Murray has had every opportunity to prove he’s a starting safety but he’s failed to seize the brass ring. It makes sense, then, that the Chiefs just flipped him to the Browns for Emmanuel Ogbah.

Round 5 (No. 165) 

Demarcus Robinson

WR, Florida

Current Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Consider the state of the wide receiver position coming into this draft: Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson (again, the 2016 version), Rod Streater, Jason Avant, Frankie Hammond, Da’Ron Brown. Yeah, basically this is why analysts expected the Chiefs to grab a receiver much earlier, and explains why Dorsey at least grabbed two wideouts in the fourth and fifth rounds.

While both draft picks could be considered a success, Demarcus Robinson is definitely the lesser of the two imports. Robinson has enjoyed a couple sensational training camps with the Chiefs but has never quite turned the corner during the regular season to develop strong chemistry with either Alex Smith or Patrick Mahomes. Still he’s played in every single game since he was drafted and has come up with the occasional big catch. A solid pick for Dorsey overall who could still blossom in a bigger role.

Round 5 (No. 162)

Kevin Hogan

QB, Stanford

Current Team: Denver Broncos

Before Nick Foles joined the roster as the No. 2 quarterback behind Alex Smith (an early August signing), the Chiefs were flirting with developmental options like Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray. John Dorsey decided to add Stanford’s Kevin Hogan to the mix to allow for more competition. The Chiefs clearly didn’t like what they saw from anyone because the Chiefs would release both Murray and Hogan in early September, leaving Bray as the surprising last man standing for the third and final spot on the roster.

Hogan would bounce around to the Cleveland Browns for a couple seasons before earning a brief stint with the Washington Redskins in 2018. He eventually landed with the Denver Broncos last September, where he’s remained on the depth chart behind Case Keenum.

Round 5 (No. 165)

Tyreek Hill

WR, West Alabama

Current Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Absolutely no one saw this coming. Dorsey’s willingness to take a flyer on a player with a domestic violence charge on his record was a major risk, even in the fifth round, but the Chiefs did their homework and came away from their pre-draft visit confident in him as a person. Two years later this would come back to haunt the Chiefs, with allegations of abuse tethered to his legacy, have made soured the excitement of this pick. An investigation remains open into Hill’s involvement in his son’s broken arm and tapes were released in which Hill allegedly threatened his fiance by saying she needed to be afraid of him.

As a player, Hill jumped right in at every level and showed that his top speed is a marvel even at the professional level. The end result was a Pro Bowl nod in his rookie season as a do-it-all weapon as a returner, rusher, and receiver.

Two years later, Hill has bloomed into one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers and the best deep threat the league has seen in quite some time. He set the Chiefs single-season record for most receiving yards in a season in 2018 and was named to his third straight Pro Bowl with 1,479 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He has 34 total touchdowns through his first three seasons in the league.

Round 6 (No. 178)

D.J. White

DB, Georgia Tech

Current Team: Free Agent

Dorsey continued to add options for the Chiefs in the secondary in the sixth round after already selecting KeiVarae Russell and Eric Murray. D.J. White fell a bit lower than some expected in the draft after showing great instincts at Georgia Tech. He earned plenty of playing time for a rookie sixth rounder for the Chiefs in 2016 with 11 games played including a single start. Unfortunately for White, it was the most playing time he’s earned to date. White would be waived by the Chiefs in the fall of 2017. The Indianapolis Colts claimed him immediately and have kept him ever since.

Round 6 (No. 203)

Dadi Nicolas

OLB, Virginia Tech

Current Team: Free Agent

Tamba Hali wasn’t getting any younger and Justin Houston was dealing with injuries heading into the 2016 draft. Dee Ford had yet to develop into a reliable, consistent pass rushing threat across from Houston as of yet, so it made sense for John Dorsey to use a pick on Dadi Nicolas, a project of an edge rusher whose length and athleticism provided plenty of assumed upside. He would last two years with the Chiefs before being cut shortly after the 2018 NFL Draft when the Chiefs had apparently exhausted their hopes for Nicolas ever reaching his ceiling. Since then, Nicolas has spent time with the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins to no effect. He’s now a free agent.

Retrospective Grade

Two All-Pro players gearing up for major extensions are the products of a class without a first-round pick.

Bottom Line: There are plenty of questions stemming from this draft, but that’s due in part to the Chiefs trading down for so many extra picks. The odd release of Russell so soon into his pro career is the biggest miss for John Dorsey in this draft class, but overall it’s hard to argue with any draft class that includes two Pro Bowlers. The Chiefs are expected to give both Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill extensions in the next few months, which means Dorsey’s hits were big ones. Add in the fact that Demarcus Robinson and Eric Murray continue to be NFL contributors and that Veach turned Parker Ehinger into Charvarius Ward and you have a very nice draft class.

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