When the Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill last offseason, many wondered whether they could maintain a Super Bowl-caliber offense. As it turned out, the Hill trade was a big part of building their Super Bowl-caliber defense.
The Chiefs picked up additional first-, second- and fourth-round picks in the 2022 NFL draft in the Hill trade, and those picks contributed to an outstanding rookie class that has made a huge impact for the Chiefs this year. (The Chiefs will also have additional fourth- and sixth-round picks in this year’s draft from the Hill trade.)
Veteran Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed was knocked out of the AFC Championship Game on the fourth play, and for the rest of the game, the Chiefs had three cornerbacks, all rookies: first-round pick Trent McDuffie, fourth-round pick Joshua Williams and seventh-round pick Jaylen Watson. They also had a rookie safety, second-round pick Bryan Cook, logging significant playing time. With all those rookies playing against a Bengals offense led by Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, the Chiefs’ secondary could’ve been boat-raced out of the stadium. Instead, they played very well.
“It’s crazy how those things work, but the kids stepped up,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game. “They didn’t lose their confidence. I was optimistic, but you don’t know how the journey is going to go. Here we sit and they did a good job.”
It wasn’t just the rookies in the secondary stepping up. Rookie defensive end George Karlaftis had a sack. Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco was the Chiefs’ leading rusher and third-leading receiver. Rookie receiver Skyy Moore had three catches in the AFC Championship Game, while rookie linebacker Leo Chenal led the team with 22 special teams snaps.
When you trade a player like Hill for draft picks, you need to hit on your picks. The Chiefs did, and that’s a big reason they’re in the Super Bowl.