Chiefs Pick Hometown Star Felix Anudike-Uzomah of K-State
The Kansas City Chiefs picked a hometown boy with the last selection in the first round of the hometown NFL draft.
The Super Bowl champions bolstered their pass rush Thursday night when they chose Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah with the 31st overall pick. He was born in Kansas City and became a prep star in the suburb of Lee's Summit, Missouri, before helping the Wildcats to a Big 12 title last season, when he was voted the league's defensive player of the year.
“I got drafted by literally my favorite team growing up,” Anudike-Uzomah said. “It's definitely a dream come true.”
Anudike-Uzomah fills a big need for the Chiefs, who released Frank Clark not long ago to create some salary cap space.
The Chiefs also used a first-round pick last year on defensive end George Karlaftis, and now they have two young players to anchor their pass rush for years to come. Karlaftis had six sacks while helping the Chiefs win the Super Bowl as a rookie.
“Felix is a heck of a player. He’s also a KC native, so we appreciate that part of it, too,” coach Andy Reid said. “When you’re picking right there at 31, you take the best player available. He was that guy.”
“It’s one thing to get drafted in the NFL," Chiefs general manager Brett Veach added. "To have a local kid get that call on draft night, while the draft is being held in Kansas City, needless to say he was pretty excited.”
Kansas City had been in the spotlight all night before the Chiefs made their pick. The draft was being held for the first time at historic Union Station, where the largest stage complex in its history was erected near the National World War I Museum.
Thousands of fans began arriving nearly 12 hours before Carolina went on the clock with the first pick, and 125,000 packed the area by the time the Chiefs made their pick. And while jerseys representing almost every NFL team were in the crowd, the vast majority were Chiefs jereys that formed a rollicking sea of red as fans awaited their selection.
Earlier in the night, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce had greeted fans by bringing out their latest Lombardi Trophy. But for their selection, two finely dressed gentleman brought out their other two Lombardi trophies before Chiefs owner Clark Hunt carried out the third one and the champions finally made their pick.
At that point, it was anyone’s guess what Veach might do.
The Chiefs were long linked to wide receivers in the first round after losing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in free agency, and signing Richie James as the only noteworthy replacement. But beginning with Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the Seahawks at No. 20, four wide receivers were selected in a row, and that left the Chiefs without one with a first-round grade.
Then there was the offensive line, where the Chiefs declined to use the franchise tag on left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. for a second consecutive year and allowed Andrew Wylie to leave as well. The Chiefs signed Jawaan Taylor with the intention of moving him from right tackle to left tackle, but they are still searching for help at the other end of the line.
Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison was a potential fit but he went four spots earlier to Jacksonville.
The other big hole was at defensive end, where the Chiefs signed Charles Omenihu to play alongside Karlaftis but still needed a long-term solution. Nolan Smith would have been an option, but the Georgia standout’s long slide ended when the Eagles — who lost to Kansas City in the Super Bowl — selected him one pick before the Chiefs went on the clock.
So, they pivoted to another pass-rushing option.
Anudike-Uzomah was considered a fringe first-round pick, but the Chiefs saw enough value in him to make the selection, rather than trade out of Round 1 altogether. Anudike-Uzomah joins a group of pass rushers that also includes Mike Danna and Malik Herring, but where there will be ample opportunity to make an immediate impact.
The Chiefs still have nine more draft picks, including second- and third-rounders on Friday night.
“We did have some calls (on trading down),” Veach acknowledged. “You know, it’s a situation where you have a guy that’s clearly the top guy left, and the calls we had, you’re talking mid-40s, that’s a long ways away. So we thought, ‘Let’s not get cute here. There’s a guy we like. Let’s go ahead and make the pick.’ And we're glad we did.”