Why the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to draft cornerback Trent McDuffie

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As they set their board before the NFL draft, general manager Brett Veach and the Kansas City Chiefs went through the usual exercises, trying to figure how much they would be willing to give up to move up for their favorite prospects.

The Chiefs, who entered the draft with the 29th and 30th picks in the first round, didn't bother with one of their favorite cornerbacks, Trent McDuffie of Washington. They figured he would be selected too early for them to have a realistic chance of trading up to draft him.

The Chiefs then had to scramble as McDuffie fell into their range. They wound up sending three draft picks -- No. 29, No. 94 and No. 121 -- to the New England Patriots for the right to move up to No. 21 and select McDuffie.

McDuffie was the first cornerback drafted by the Chiefs in the first round since 2015, when they selected Marcus Peters at No. 18. He's the first cornerback the Chiefs have picked before the fourth round since 2016.

"Trent is a guy who can come in here [and play] Day 1," Veach said. "He's wired the right way, [has] extreme knowledge of the game, a three‐year player, a three‐year starter.

"It was a position that we wanted to address."

The Chiefs had addressed cornerback in recent years with a collection of low-round draft picks, trades for developmental prospects and low-priced free agents. Veach said that wasn't necessarily the plan.

"It's more circumstance," Veach said. "Not having a ton of cap space every year and not picking in the top 10, it's hard to just say we're going to go out and get a corner.

"Anytime you can get a good young corner, I think that's something any team wouldn't pass up. Sometimes it's difficult when you have a little bit of cap space and those guys aren't cheap, too."

The Chiefs got good play from many of their cornerbacks but felt they couldn't afford to patch the position any longer after losing three-year starter Charvarius Ward to free agency. They had no obvious candidate to replace Ward, spending their free-agent money on other positions.

The Chiefs drafted two cornerbacks after McDuffie, Joshua Williams of Fayetteville State in the fourth round and Jaylen Watson of Washington State in the seventh. But McDuffie is the one the Chiefs felt they had to have.

"I look at myself almost as a Tyrann Mathieu-type of guy, someone who is going to go in and just play a bunch of different positions and just help out however I can," McDuffie said.

"He was one of those dudes where he wasn't the biggest, he wasn't the fastest, but he was always going to make a play. And that's something I always try to do in my game is just be that person who is going to flash on the screen, be that guy who is always around the football because I'm a football player and I want to create the best opportunities for my team.”

The Chiefs prefer cornerbacks who are taller than McDuffie at 5-11. Ward, for instance, is 6-1. Their other starter, L'Jarius Sneed, is also 6-1. Among their other drafted corners, Williams and Watson are each listed at 6-3.

The Chiefs believe McDuffie has the skills to make up for it.

"There are going to be question marks about his height, his lack of length," Chiefs scout Greg Castillo said. "But the movement, the transition, the competitiveness outweighs all of that."