Kansas City Chiefs: Trade-up targets in the 2021 NFL Draft

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images) /
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2021 NFL Draft, Gregory Rousseau
2021 NFL Draft prospect Gregory Rousseau #15 of the Miami Hurricanes (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Edge. Miami. Pick Analysis. Gregory Rousseau. 1. player. 834. Scouting Report

When it comes to the edge defender position, the Chiefs need to find someone who can anchor the left side of the defensive line. Alex Okafor was brought in during the 2019 offseason to be a veteran edge defender on the left side, while Tanoh Kpassagnon converted from outside linebacker when the team switched to a predominately 4-3 defense in 2019. Now both men are free agents and the Chiefs are effectively riding into the offseason with only Frank Clark on the right side of the defensive line and understudy Michael Danna serving as his primary backup.

They will need to address this position at some point in the draft and depending on how the rest of the free agency period goes, it could serve as the team’s biggest need heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

If general manager Brett Veach wants to address the position early, then taking a shot at University of Miami edge defender Gregory Rousseau makes a ton of sense for the Kansas City Chiefs. Although Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season (due to COVID-19), he still showed plenty of promise in 2019 to warrant first-round attention this April. Rousseau lit up opposing quarterbacks two seasons ago, earning himself an impressive 20 tackles for a loss and 15.5 sacks, both of which ranked number one in the ACC, according to Sports-Reference.

At 6-foot-7, 265-pounds Rousseau would serve as the primary pass-rusher off the left side in Kansas City, anchoring a defensive line with a lethal combination of run-defense and pass-rushing abilities. Rousseau has the size to kick into the interior defensive line as well, making him an ideal, multi-faceted line defender, who could be used as an all-gaps defender while kicking outside to pass-rush on throwing downs.

His lack of starting experience in Miami (only played in 14 games thru two seasons) is overshadowed by his overwhelming upside in the NFL and should be one of the most coveted edge defenders in this year’s draft class.

Cost to move up

So what would it cost to move up for Rousseau? Unfortunately for Veach and the Chiefs’ front office, it may require a bit more than they might like. Rousseau ranks twenty-third on the PFF Draft Big Board, making him a late first-rounder. What makes Rousseau less likely to fall to the Chiefs is the teams drafting directly before them who also need edge defender help in the 2021 NFL Draft and will likely take a shot at the big Miami pass-rusher.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who draft twenty-fourth overall in the first round, just lost starting pass rusher Bud Dupree in free agency. The Steelers have always prioritized having two quality edge defenders at any one time, so it’s probable that Rousseau would be a target for the Steelers’ front office in the first round. This would require the Chiefs to move up from 31 in the first round to circumvent the Steelers at 24, which might not be an easy task.

The Chiefs’ best bet to circumvent the Steelers would be trading with the Chicago Bears to move up to twenty. Despite this being an 11-spot jump in the first round, the Bears give the Chiefs the best chance at appropriating Rousseau’s services in 2021. The reason: While the Bears have eight draft picks in 2021, only three of those picks are in the first four rounds, giving them an incentive to trade back to acquire more picks.

The Bears need high-end talent in the early rounds, as they haven’t had a first-round pick in two seasons and just four picks in the first four rounds since 2018. Since they are already drafting at 20, it is unlikely they will be able to score one of the premium players in the first round, meaning they should be looking to trade down and secure extra picks in later rounds.

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The Chiefs have two fourth-rounders in the 2021 NFL Draft, meaning they have a good chance at packaging one of them with their first-rounder to move up in the draft. If the Chiefs decide to get serious about an edge defender in the first round, they should seriously consider moving up in the first round. Teams ahead of them like the Tennesse Titans, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets also need pass rusher help this year.

The Kansas City Chiefs could find themselves drafting the third, maybe even fourth-best edge defender in the 2021 NFL Draft if they choose to stay where they are in the first round. Parting with a fourth-rounder to secure an elite pass-rusher is a good use of resources and would be worth the price tag, especially if Rousseau shakes out to be an elite NFL pass-rusher during his career.