The Kansas City Chiefs became the first back-to-back Super Bowl champion in 20 years for a lot of reasons, and beyond the seismic impact of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, they leaned heavily on young players once again. The Tyreek Hill era is long in the rearview in Kansas City, and now the organization is officially more successful after trading the star than it was with him.
Here’s a look at 2024 NFL Draft prospects who could perform similar tasks to those carried out by Chiefs stars and vital role-players en route to winning the Lombardi Trophy for the third time in five seasons. It’s a list other teams should be looking at to copy the Chiefs through the draft.
Thick but explosive, hard-running RB
- For Chiefs: Isiah Pacheco
- 2024 prospects to fit this role: USC’s Marshawn Lloyd, Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright
Backs over 200 pounds with sub 4.40 speed are a challenge to find, but the Chiefs got one in the seventh round of the 2022 draft with Pacheco. Now, Lloyd and Wright probably won’t run 4.37 at the combine like the former Rutgers star did, but they’re similarly sized and flashed explosiveness through the second level like Pacheco.
Also, they run with a rugged, through-contact style that’s become the trademark of Kansas City’s feature back. In the Super Bowl, Pacheco only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. However, he caught six passes for 33 more yards. Both Lloyd and Wright have receiving capabilities too and flip on the jets in a flash with the ball in their hands at well over 200 pounds.
Long, highly athletic man-coverage outside cornerback
- For Chiefs: L’Jarius Sneed
- 2024 prospects to fit this role: Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, TCU’s Josh Newton, Notre Dame’s Cam Hart
Sneed is another Day 3 diamond in the rough discovered by Chiefs GM Brett Veach. And heck, Sneed played safety at Louisiana Tech and has emerged as one of the stickiest, playmaking outside cornerbacks in football. He’s set to sign a monster extension in Kansas City after the season he had with two picks, 16 total pass breakups (including the playoffs), a monstrous forced fumble in the AFC title game. Oh, and he only allowed one touchdown on close to 800 coverage snaps.
Sneed is truly a rare cat, and it’s not just because of where he started positionally in college. He ran 4.37 with a 41-inch vertical at his pro day in 2020. It’s nearly impossible to predict how any prospect will test just based on film alone — and there are always many surprises at the combine — but Mitchell, Newton, and Hart are the most similarly sized to Sneed who appear to have high-level bounce and speed on the perimeter, and they can likely be selected at different portions in the draft.
Like Sneed, they all excel when they’re in the face of the wide receiver at the line in man coverage.
Please check the opt-in box to acknowledge that you would like to subscribe.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Patrolling, active off-ball linebacker with run-defense prowess
It’s somewhat early, but it doesn’t seem like we’ll get a load of linebackers in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. Might not get any. And that helps this comparison. Bolton, after an illustrious career at Missouri with over 200 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons with the Tigers, went in the second round of the 2021 draft. And he thrived floating sideline-to-sidleline against the run and sprinkled in an occasional play in coverage.
I get similar vibes from Bertrand and Cooper, two athletic heady second-level defenders who probably will be available on Day 2 of the draft — although Cooper has a better chance to go Round 1 — and can be instant impact run defenders in the NFL who hold their own when sinking in zone coverage or running with tight ends down the seam.
YAC-specialist wide receiver
- For Chiefs: Rashee Rice
- 2024 prospects to fit this role: LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr., South Carolina’s Xavier Leggette, Western Kentucky’s Malachi Corley
Rice was a second-round pick just a year ago, and finished third in YAC in his rookie season. Amazing. While he stretched defenses vertically more often at SMU than he did in his debut season in the NFL, his burst and contact balance with the ball in his hands on high-percentage throws fully translated to the professional game. Rice’s well-built frame aids in his ability to absorb hits and stay on his feet.
And the three I’ve highlighted above — Thomas, Leggette, and Corley — are the three must-have wideouts with over 200-pound frames who deliver the pop often and are strong enough to repeatedly run through contact. Thomas is the tallest of the group but Leggette and Corley have “RB-esque” body types teams love when attempting to add a YAC specialist like Rice to the roster. At last year’s combine, Rice was just over 6-foot and 204 pounds and his college career was loaded with broken tackles. Leggette erupted in his final season at South Carolina, for years at Western Kentucky Corley was punishing with the ball in his hands, and Thomas made defenders miss in the SEC often the past two seasons.
First appeared on www.cbssports.com