As soon as the pick was announced, I almost didn't want to go to Arrowhead Pride or Twitter because I knew this would be the least favorite pick of a solid draft class for the Chiefs. Our own MNChiefsfan is still mourning the loss of Tyler Lockett who I agree would have been a nice fit for the Chiefs.
Mitch Morse is a guy that I actually predicted in quite a few mocks to KC but I didn't think he'd go before the third or fourth round. That said, according to BJ Kissel, Chiefs GM John Dorsey believed someone was going to take Morse shortly after the Chiefs. So, maybe the general public (myself included) had it wrong and Morse was a second round value all along.
Dorsey seemed content with the pick (of course) and indicated right away that Morse would compete at center and raved about his versatility, intelligence, toughness, athleticism.
"Well, he started at left tackle, he's played right tackle, he's played center and he's played guard," Chiefs GM John Dorsey said after the draft of Morse's time at Mizzou. "I would think that you try him at center as a backup there or see if he can play guard. He can probably get you out of the game as a tackle, but his versatility, his athleticism, his smarts, his toughness are really good qualities to have."
I knew that I'd end up volunteering to evaluate Mitch Morse. I thought it would be worthwhile to compare him to Florida State center Cam Erving, the other highly rated center / tackle in this draft class who I covered in the "draft crush" series.
I'll admit this wasn't an easy evaluation because videos on Morse were hard to find. The go-to resource for prospect footage, Draft Breakdown, had exactly ZERO dedicated films for him. Luckily, we were able to find some 2012 games here. I took a similar approach by looking for games featuring defenders Morse faced over his career at Mizzou.
Even when I found videos that included Morse, you had to visually find him on every play as Mizzou moved him all over the place even within games. Eventually, I reviewed seven games -- three at center and four at tackle. Morse only played center for six games in 2012, his first year as a starter in college.
I believe I was able to get a good overall idea of what to expect from Morse as a blocker, regardless of his exact position on the offensive line. Obviously center requires more than just blocking as they have to be near perfect on snaps and are responsible for making the protection assignment calls.
In the limited film from three years ago, you can watch Morse snap the ball and execute assignments at center. Some of the snaps were less than ideal but his consistency as a blocker was pretty impressive.
I believe you also have to factor in his development when projecting Morse back to center in the NFL and attempt to evaluate him based on the characteristics scouts would look for any offensive lineman:
Size, Strength, Initial Quickness / Mobility, Footwork, Use of Hands / Arms, Technique, Intelligence and Consistency
I believe Morse is a player that really improved over his time at Mizzou and we'll hopefully see him apply what he's learned as he transitions back to center in the Chiefs offseason work beginning next weekend.
Morse has great size at 6'5 and 305 pounds. He's thickly built but not soft. The term "country strong" comes to mind. His arms are standard size for a center but short for a tackle at 32 1/4". At the Combine he dominated the strength / explosion categories: 36 reps on the bench, 9'4 in broad jump. He also did well in the short shuttle, beating out all but two of his peers with a 4.50 in the short shuttle.
Now for my film review notes...
Florida at C / RG / RT (2012)
I watched Sharrif Floyd's film for this game but you can see Morse at center. I don't really like using three year old film on a guy because he's not the same player he was in 2012 but to find Morse's work at center, you have to dig.
- Starts the game at center, shifts out to right guard, back to center and then to right tackle.
- I think it's fair to say Morse struggled at times at each of the three positions in this game.
- Morse gets overpowered (and beaten with speed) a few times by Floyd, who was a monster in college.
- His snaps at center looked fine and his technique was OK. He just wasn't strong enough at the time.
- He does show good awareness with combo blocks and blitz pickups.
Here's a GIF of Morse and his teammates battling but getting overwhelmed by Floyd and Easley on short yardage:
SLU at C (2012)
- High snaps again but velocity looks better.
- Consistently drives off the ball.
- Consistently gets upfield on screens and runs.
- Shows aggression and nastiness.
Georgia at C (2012)
- Started at center and shifted out to right tackle again
- Shotgun snaps were noticeably high and slow
Does a nice job in this GIF firing off the ball, taking on the big nose tackle Jenkins. This might be one of the most encouraging snaps to watch when trying to project Morse as a center in the NFL.
Georgia at RT (2013)
- Similar to the Arkansas game above where handles himself fine on the right side.
- Shows a little more aggressiveness at right tackle than left tackle.
- Tough guy, brawler.
- Again shows the big punch but occasionally he'll punch and then not engage so the defender bounces back but is free to run by him.
- Mizzou doesn't run the ball much ... tons of short passes. When they did run, it was always out of the shotgun.
- In run blocking, Morse gets good push, drives his legs, and stays with his blocks.
- A couple of times his defender was able to get up and knock down a pass, you'd like to see your offensive lineman be able to cut the defender down to keep the passing lanes clear.
Auburn at RT (2013)
I was excited to watch this film because it was Morse at right tackle vs. Chiefs 2014 first round pick Dee Ford.
(Side note: Holy hell, you can see why Dee Ford has a chance to be special. VERY fast and fluid, difficult to block, just relentless and his burst off the line is on another level. He clearly needed some work but I think he's going to be fun to watch this season.)
That said, Morse held his own. He got beat occasionally, usually where he'd get a good initial punch but wasn't able to maintain contact / engage, so the defender wins on secondary moves.
Morse was on Ford all day long and Ford ended up with a half sack, half tackle for loss and three total tackles. I'd say that's a successful day for Morse vs. a guy who had 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss that season.
Here's a GIF of Morse blocking Ford in the run game. Morse gets him moving and keeps driving past the first down marker, pushing Ford into another defender and keeping both away from the play.
Here's one where Ford wins with a bull rush and ability to get off the block and get to the QB. He controlled Morse on this snap.
Arkansas at LT (2014)
- Shows nasty punch, jolting defenders.
- Very good but not elite feet for an offensive tackle.
- Good leverage, gets driven back some in pass pro, but generally kept QB clean.
- Competitive, fights through the whistle.
- Worked out of an upright two point stance, which looks ... odd.
- Moves well in the run game.
- He looks like he's gotten much stronger and certainly learned technique since the 2012 games I watched.
This GIF is pretty typical of Morse in pass pro as a tackle: moves his feet, punches, punches and punches some more.
What others have said about Morse
An impressive run-blocker who has a high football IQ and a great motor, Mitch Morse is flying under the radar as a prospect. He's tough and will fight for position without giving up ground. In the trenches he's impressive with instincts and leverage, and he understands angles to get the hook on defenders. He has the light feet to entertain a move inside to guard, especially in a zone-blocking scheme. He shows the explosiveness to get to the second level and can roll his hips and get through defenders in the run game. -Matt Miller, Bleacher Report
The potential NFL guard / center will shock a second level defender with his hand strike and he moves around well enough to occupy them until the whistle. With his short arms making him a better fit as an interior blocker, his power and versatility should aid him in moving up on most draft boards for teams with offensive line depth issues. -Jamie Newberg, Scout.com
"We have seen close to 10 high snaps today and that one almost got away from Franklin. These are drive killers." -Tiger Radio Network in 2012
"As disappointed, frustrated and exasperated as Missouri fans might be with the errant shotgun snaps, nobody's feeling all of those emotions more than Mitch Morse, the center. I'm not sure I've ever seen a player so down on himself than Morse is right now. And to his credit, he answered every question lobbed his way about mistakes that are plain to see for thousands of fans watching." -Dave Matter, Columbia Tribune
"If I have to move back to [center], I'll be just fine. I've accepted the 2012 season, I learned a lot from it, and I had a lot of game-time experience at center, so if that's the position they want me to play, I feel confident going forward I can be an asset for the Chiefs, if need be, at center." -Mitch Morse, KC Star
Mitch Morse looked like dog crap. Oh, not his play. Dude was owning people. A punch here, a slide step there, giving his man hell, taking two-a-days at 100 miles per hour. But the young Missouri Tigers blocker seemed to be getting skinnier with each passing morning, and came off the field gray and slumped, staggering as if he had just walked off the most hellacious roller coaster known to man. "The guy goes in (for a checkup) and he's got mono," Henson recalled. "He's out there, (suffering), and won't say a word to anybody. The guy's just tough." -Fox Sports Kansas City
"I think it gives Mitch an incredible perspective on life. ... He's pretty mean on the field, but he's an incredibly nice person, an incredibly thoughtful person, off the field. I don't think you become thoughtful at 22 without having some perspective on life, so I think it's helped him mentally." -Mitch Morse's dad, KC Star
"Between him and Cam Erving, these are two of the better offensive linemen in this draft. I think both guys have Pro Bowl type potential. Morse is tailor made to be a Pro Bowl center in this league. Extremely smart, good balance, good hand use, good finish. They really got a good one in Kansas City and they weren't the only team that had their eyes on him." -Louis Riddick, ESPN
After watching Mitch Morse as much as humanly possible, I'll look back to my evaluation of Cam Erving and see how the two compare. I expected to see some major flaws in Morse's game that would make people believe he's a fourth round talent w hile Erving was widely considered a first round talent. However, I think my observations on Erving and Morse are nearly identical in some ways.
- Both have good feet, get to the second level, solid on assignments and awareness.
- Both can play offensive tackle but I wouldn't start either one at tackle unless there's an emergency.
- Both had some issues with snaps that are likely a result of them being tackles learning to play center.
The differences are more of the eye test to me:
- Morse looks faster, more athletic and more coordinated (and the Combine results confirmed it).
- Morse also looks stronger, especially with his initial punch. Morse looks to knock his defender back on his heels off the snap while Erving really just walls his guy off.
- Erving is sloppier in his build while Morse looks lean and muscular, which seems to be the profile for John Dorsey's linemen (Eric Fisher, Eric Kush, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif).
- The biggest difference, which I noted as a weakness for Erving and strength for Morse, is the "nastiness" factor and the drive to finish blocks. Morse is aggressive, tough, nasty and likes to jolt defenders repeatedly until the whistle. Erving is more of a "hold your ground" guy, where he holds off his defender but doesn't really try to finish him.
This guy's conclusions on Mitch Morse
I see Morse as your classic blue-collar, lunch-pail o-lineman. He'll get in there and mix it up with anyone and almost never look overmatched. I watched SEC games so you know he's up against top competition. And he generally handled himself very well (with the exception of the Florida game in 2012).
He has near-elite measurable in the strength and quickness categories, which are clearly important to Dorsey and co. I really like what he's able to do with his hands as he's always fighting and punching defenders with accuracy and authority.
Morse played guard, center and tackle and sometimes within the same game, which is incredibly difficult to do. He showed a team-first attitude and willingness to adapt and compete wherever he was asked to play.
Back to Dorsey's quote about Morse: "I would think that you try him at center as a backup there or see if he can play guard. He can probably get you out of the game as a tackle ... " I'd contend the "backup" part of that statement was out of respect to Kush. I believe Mitch has a good chance of being the starter at center.
I probably wouldn't line him up at tackle to start but then again, in case of injury, if he had to slide outside he could do it and not hurt you.
Center might be the position where he could make the most impact. The Chiefs have an obvious need for a starting center or for depth depending on how Kush does in the offseason workouts. Morse could be the ideal NFL center: smart and mobile but nasty and strong enough to take on a nose tackle and win.
His snap issues are the one thing that understandably may scare people. But they are correctable I think. Again, he was a sophomore tackle playing center three years ago when they occurred. To his credit, Morse was honest and resolute in addressing the issue but he was needed at tackle before we had enough of a sample size to confirm they were 100 percent corrected.
Whether he's a center, guard or even a tackle, the bottom line is that he's a capable, athletic blocker who has the physical ability and mindset to help the team at any of the five spots as needed.
Morse checks all the boxes listed above (Size, Strength, Initial Quickness / Mobility, Footwork, Use of Hands / Arms, Technique, Intelligence and Consistency) and should only improve with coaching and ability to (ideally) focus on one position.
If you liked the idea of Cam Erving in the first two rounds, I believe you'll eventually grow to love Mitch Morse. Your least favorite draft pick just might become your new favorite offensive lineman.