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Chiefs address defense with McDuffie, Karlaftis in 1st round

FILE - Washington defensive back Trent McDuffie participates in a drill at the NFL football...
FILE - Washington defensive back Trent McDuffie participates in a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Indianapolis. McDuffie is a possible pick in the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)(Charlie Neibergall | AP)
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 9:46 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs traded up to select cornerback Trent McDuffie with the 21st pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, then used their pick at No. 30 to grab defensive end George Karlaftis, filling their two biggest defensive needs in the first round.

The Chiefs had two picks apiece in each of the first four rounds, and their 12 overall selections — the most of any team this year — gave general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid the flexibility to move up for a player they wanted.

They wound up sending the 29th pick along with selections in the third and fourth round to New England to jump ahead of the Bills, who also were targeting a cornerback, and land one of the most versatile players at the position.

McDuffie, a track standout in the 100 and 200 meters, has the speed and athleticism to play in the slot or on the outside, making him a good fit for Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. He allowed just one reception of at least 20 yards last season for Washington, and he did not allow a touchdown catch in his past two seasons.

The Chiefs had a pressing need at cornerback after Charvarius Ward, a pleasant surprise the past couple of seasons, left for San Francisco in free agency. But they were expected to address the position with one of their original first-round picks or in the second or third round, rather than aggressive jump up the board for one of the top players the position.

McDuffie was the third cornerback taken after the Texans selected LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3 and the Jets grabbed Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner No. 4. The Bills took Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam two picks after Kansas City.

It was the first time the Chiefs chose a cornerback in the first or second round since 2015, when they coincidentally took Marcus Peters out of Washington at No. 18 overall. But unlike Peters, whose character questions in college followed him to Kansas City, the 21-year-old McDuffie has earned rave reviews for his leadership and maturity.

McDuffie’s job in the new-look Kansas City secondary, where safety Justin Reid was signed in free agency to replace Tyrann Mathieu, should be made a little easier with Karlaftis getting after the quarterback.

The defensive end from Purdue had 39 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks last season, and he had 14 sacks and 29 tackles-for-loss during his first three seasons for the Boilermakers. He is also a natural fit for the 4-3 scheme in Kansas City.

The Chiefs had just 31 sacks last season, better only than three other teams in the NFL.

Most expected Veach and Co. to chase one of the top wide receivers in the first round after dealing three-time All-Pro Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins for a package of draft picks earlier this offseason. But they’ve already plugged the hole in part by signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and they still have plenty of picks at their disposal.

Their trade with the Patriots, sending them No. 94 and No. 121, allowed the Chiefs to keep their two second-round picks at No. 50 and No. 62. The Chiefs also have a third-round pick at No. 103 on Friday night, along with a fourth-rounder and four picks in the seventh round when the draft concludes on Saturday.

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