Why this draft needs to be a defensive one for the Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It’s difficult to look at what the Kansas City Chiefs are building on offense and not see a bright future. Many of their best offensive players, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, haven’t even turned 25 years old. Their oldest offensive regular next season will be right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who doesn’t hit 29 until June.

On defense, the story is different. Their best defensive players are linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry, both 29.

Kansas City’s defense, statistically one of the worst in the NFL last season, doesn’t just need to get better. It needs to get younger, too.

That’s why this year’s draft has to have a decidedly defensive flavor for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs are aware of their roster imbalance. They might have spent more of their free-agent money on defense rather than splurging on a wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, if they weren’t so unimpressed by the depth of this year’s class of defensive players.

Similarly, the Chiefs won’t be able to fully restock on defense in the draft. They don’t have a first-round pick, having traded it last year to the Bills so they could move up to draft Mahomes.

But the Chiefs have eight picks, including two in the third round and two in the fourth, so they can get a start.

The Chiefs are already younger on defense than they were last season. They parted with veteran linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, both well into their 30s.

Meanwhile, they traded for cornerback Kendall Fuller, 23. They signed linebacker Anthony Hitchens and cornerback David Amerson. Both will be 26 when next season begins.

Those players join what is a slim group of young but proven defensive talent. Maybe it includes just one player, lineman Chris Jones, who is 23. Maybe it includes more, depending on what you think of linebacker Dee Ford, 27, and cornerback Steven Nelson, 24. Linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon, 23, could eventually become that type of player.

Looking at potential free agents for the Chiefs in 2019, many of the most significant ones play on defense: Amerson, Ford, Nelson and lineman Allen Bailey. The Chiefs may retain some of those players, but not all. They won’t be able to replace the ones lost with what they have on the roster, other than possibly Kpassagnon for Ford.

So the Chiefs need to cover some defensive ground. The draft is the perfect time for them to continue the project.