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Will Tanoh Kpassagnon compete for a starting role in year two?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Rookie Minicamp Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports released rookie class grades on Thursday, and the Kansas City Chiefs were among the three teams in the league writers Jeremy Bergman and Nick Shook described as “exceptional.”

To review, the Chiefs’ rookie draft class consisted of: QB Partick Mahomes (1), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (2), RB Kareem Hunt (3), WR Jehu Chesson (4), LB Ukeme Eligwe (5), S Leon McQuay III (6), K Harrison Butker (Carolina PS).

Here were Shook’s comments:

The last draft of the John Dorsey era netted the Chiefs their heir apparent under center and a running back who’s poised to be the franchise’s lead back for years to come. That alone should make this draft more than passable in the eyes of critics. The long-term grade for this group also relies on the development of Kpassagnon, who was selected due to his measurables with the knowledge he likely wouldn’t be an immediate contributor (despite 2.0 sacks and 14 tackles in a backup role). Years 2 and 3 will provide us with a more determinable grade on this group. GRADE: A-

Shook’s A- grade is about right. We know Hunt is the real deal, and the Chiefs were sure enough about Mahomes being the same that they felt comfortable trading Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. Butker is outstanding, and it remains to be seen with late-round picks Chesson, Eligwe and McQuay as they develop.

Kpassagnon, playfully nicknamed “The Rova from Villanova” by AP contributor Shawn Barber, is the main question mark here at No. 59 overall.

Draft analyst Mike Mayock called a Kpassagnon “genetic freak,” and it was for that reason the Chiefs drafted him. 2017 would be a learning year with eyes on 2018, 2019 and beyond.

But let’s talk about 2017 for a second.

I went to the archive, the last time I had Andy Reid speaking about Kpassagnon and his development was after he played a season-high 28 snaps Week 13 against the New York Jets:

“We’ve been giving him a little bit more and a little bit more each week,” Reid said.
He’s long, he’s working on his pass rush. He’s working on the run game. We moved him to outside linebacker, which is kind of a new thing for him. But again I think he’s one of these guys, he’s another one, a young guy that’s getting better every chance he has to play. We’ve obviously liked what we’ve seen because we keep putting him back in and giving him opportunities.”

Kpassagnon played 15 snaps the next week, and those snaps decreased the rest of the way (other than in the Chiefs’ meaningless Week 17 matchup with Denver, in which they primarily played backups).

He was held completely out of the playoff game against the Titans other than three special-teams snaps.

To me, that painted a clear picture of where the Chiefs felt Kpassagnon was at by season’s end: not ready.

The move from defensive end (where Kpassgnon played in college) to outside linebacker is an interesting one, as Dee Ford had another injury-ridden and underwhelming season and many, including myself, believe Tamba Hali will be cut. Frank Zombo, though a good run-stopper, isn’t the starting answer at right outside linebacker.

So that leads me to question: Are the Chiefs under the impression Kpassagnon could compete for a starting role in 2018?

My thought is they wouldn’t have taken him with the 59th overall pick if that wasn’t the case.

Kpassagnon’s offseason work and how it translates to 2018’s training camp will thus be a point to watch.

As for now, A- isn’t bad.

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