KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs received some unexpected contributions from their 2016 draft class. Lineman Chris Jones was one of their best defensive players, and a case could be made that Tyreek Hill was their most valuable player because of his production both on offense and as a punt returner.
But this class will ultimately be judged by what it produces over the longer haul. If Jones and Hill continue to play as they did as rookies, and at least a couple more among the five other picks become solid contributors, the Chiefs will eventually look back at the 2016 drafts as a great one.
Here’s what the Chiefs can expect from each of their seven 2016 draft picks, looking at 2017 and beyond:
DL Chris Jones, second round: The Chiefs got what looks to be a bargain when they made Jones their top draft pick early in the second round. He played 548 snaps, second among team's defensive linemen behind Dontari Poe, and was a consistent producer, particularly as a pass-rusher. Jones figures prominently in the defensive plan for the foreseeable future, regardless of what they do with Poe, who is a potential unrestricted free agent.
G Parker Ehinger, fourth round: A starter at left guard for four games, Ehinger had his rookie year interrupted by injuries, first a concussion and then a torn ACL. But he showed enough in his 227 snaps that he’ll be a part of things whenever he’s ready to participate. Rehab could impact his 2017 season, but he’s a part of the long-term plan, particularly with the other top guards Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Zach Fulton having contracts that expire at the end of next season.
S Eric Murray, fourth round: A cornerback in college, Murray was moved to safety as a rookie and looked like he has a future there. His playing time next year will depend not only on his progress but with what the Chiefs do with starter Eric Berry, a potential unrestricted free agent, and backup Daniel Sorensen, a potential restricted free agent. Murray steps into a significant role if either Berry or Sorensen departs. He competes for a starting spot if both leave.
WR Demarcus Robinson, fourth round: Robinson was mainly a special teams player as a rookie, getting just five snaps on offense. He was the fifth receiver on the depth chart to begin the season and No. 6 for the remainder. He’s going to have to beat out the existing competition for more playing time next season, because four of the five receivers ahead of him are still under contract. The other one is Albert Wilson, a potential restricted free agent.
WR/PR Tyreek Hill, fifth round: While the Chiefs were hopeful Hill would be able to help as a rookie, what he delivered was beyond their wildest dreams. He led the Chiefs with 12 total touchdowns. No other Kansas City player had more than five. The challenge for the team is to get as much or more from Hill next season and beyond. One way to do that is to give him more playing time. He played 401 offensive snaps, or fewer than half of Kansas City’s total of 990. But the Chiefs need to be careful with what they ask of Hill, who’s only 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. They run the risk of wearing him down by giving him too much work.
CB D.J. White, sixth round: White showed some promise in training camp and the preseason but had a rough time on many of the 130 snaps he played during the regular season. He was inactive for the Chiefs' final two games, including the one in the postseason, and by then was sixth on the cornerback depth chart. He’ll get the opportunity to prove himself again next season. His situation, like the one involving Robinson, will be impacted by the players around him. The five cornerbacks ahead of him on the depth chart are under contract for next season, and the Chiefs also might import some as free agents or draft pick. So it’s no guarantee White has a future with the Chiefs.
LB Dadi Nicolas, seventh round: His situation is complicated by the patellar tendon rupture he suffered in the final regular-season game. That injury undoubtedly will stunt his progress. Nicolas played little as a rookie, just 29 defensive snaps. But he showed enough pass-rushing skills during training camp and the preseason that the Chiefs probably will want to keep him around to see what develops. He’ll have to put on some weight before he’ll be an effective player. The Chiefs listed him at 235 pounds, but that was probably generous. As a comparison, here are the listed weights of their top four outside linebackers: Tamba Hali, 275; Justin Houston, 258; Frank Zombo, 254; Dee Ford, 252.