Rookies will play more for Chiefs in 2018 than last season

Prospect Profile: Breeland Speaks (0:32)

Former Ole Miss DE Breeland Speaks has the durability and versatility to make an impact on a defensive front. (0:32)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When the Kansas City Chiefs made their six draft picks, they didn't just have the 2018 season in mind, of course. But the quantity of their choices practically guarantees Kansas City will get more from these rookies than it did last season.

That's because the Chiefs' top five picks were defensive players. The Chiefs, while loaded at many spots on offense, were thin at many positions on the other side of the ball even before they cleared out some longtime starters.

"These guys will be on the field and be contributors," general manager Brett Veach said. "They will make their presence felt because of how they play and the way they play."

Last season, the Chiefs were second to last in the NFL in number of snaps played by rookies. And the majority of that work went to running back Kareem Hunt. Taking away the season's final game in Denver, in which the Chiefs started mostly backups after clinching the AFC West championship the previous week, only one rookie other than Hunt played more than 20 snaps all season.

Here's a look at each of the Chiefs' six 2018 draft picks and how they'll fit in as rookies:

Ole Miss OLB Breeland Speaks, second round: The Chiefs moved up eight spots in the round to get Speaks. They saw it as their last chance to land a high-quality pass-rusher.

"I think what we're getting here is a high-motor, very intense player," coach Andy Reid said. "Love his core strength, his ability to play the run and the pass. He's kind of done a little bit of everything [in college] for Mississippi.

"I never saw him take a play off and he played a lot ... He chases everything, he's relentless. I've asked the question: Does he do that during practice? Our scouts have seen him practice and they said he did. I talked to the coach and the coach said he did. So I appreciate that. I hope he transfers that over to us."

The Chiefs, who don't begin full-squad practice until later in May, are already confident in penciling Speaks in as the third outside linebacker behind starters Justin Houston and Dee Ford.

"I think last year we had a situation where Dee was hurt, right?," Veach said. "Frankie Zombo had to play a lot of plays. Now bring Breeland in here ... and then Frankie can assume more of a [special-]teams role."

Florida State NT Derrick Nnadi, third round: Nnadi will come in as a backup but playing time will be available, most likely at nose tackle. The Chiefs won't hesitate to give Nnadi some work if he earns it.

The Chiefs need help against the run. It's why they drafted him.

"When it comes to stopping the run, I kind of see that as my bread and butter," said Nnadi. "I take a lot of pride in that."

Clemson ILB Dorian O'Daniel, third round: At only 220 pounds, O'Daniel isn't built for every-down duty. The Chiefs won't ask him to be a starter but to play on obvious passing downs.

"This guy will be on the field and be able to cover tight ends, do a lot of different things in regards to matching in our [substitute] personnel," Veach said. "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. If you're playing 40 to 50 percent in regards to [passing situations] and then playing on all those teams, that's a full night's work."

The Chiefs also had O'Daniel as their top-rated special-teams player in the draft. That's where he might have his biggest impact.

"I feel like sometimes guys ... don't really want to spend as much time or pay attention to the detail on special teams as they would on defense," O'Daniel said. "For a guy like me, special teams was a huge part of my development at Clemson. I saw how much it benefited me and how far it got me and how much it can separate you from [another] player and at this level how it can extend your career. I know there are guys in the league that make a career on special teams. Anything for me to become the best player that I can be and contribute on any level, I'm all for it."

Texas A&M S Armani Watts, fourth round: A bruised shoulder caused Watts to miss the final two days of the Chiefs' recent rookie camp, but the Chiefs are confident he will be ready to play by late May, when the full squad begins practice.

Watts won't be a starter then, but even with Eric Berry's return from last season's torn Achilles, the Chiefs are looking for help at safety. They released longtime starter Ron Parker and neither of the two Berry replacements, Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray, nailed down a spot given the way he played last season.

Central Arkansas CB Tremon Smith, sixth round: Smith played at a smaller school but still distinguished himself by breaking up a number of passes at rookie camp.

He won't be anywhere near the head of the line for playing time once full-squad practice begins. But like Watts at safety, the Chiefs are in no position to deny him playing time if he earns it since just one of the top six cornerbacks in terms of playing time returns from last season.

Tennessee DL Kahlil McKenzie, sixth round: McKenzie played on the defensive line for the Volunteers but will switch to offensive guard with the Chiefs. Kansas City doesn't have an immediate need at his position, so they can take their time with McKenzie.

Because of that, McKenzie has less of a chance for immediate playing time than the other five draft picks.