Lottery Tickets is a breakdown series of the lesser known players who have a chance to make the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 1 roster. Leading up to training camp, we’ll be profiling the intriguing undrafted free agents and reserve/future contract players that show the ability to potentially stick in the NFL. The players we discuss are high upside players that haven’t significantly affected the Chiefs bottom line, but the returns could be substantial.
Part of being able to find value in undrafted free agency is being able to identify players whose ability, even if more limited than other players, can be best applied within the confines of your scheme. Some players may have narrower skill sets than others, but if they can find a place specific to their best traits, they can have success.
There’s are many paths to NFL success and failure. Being dropped into a great situation for their talents can afford undrafted players a fighting chance.
(FYI: It took everything in me not to call this article “Hope Springs Eternal.”)
Several evaluators were surprised when former Oregon cornerback Arrion Springs went undrafted this year. Inside the Pylon had Springs as a top 100 player on their board. Dane Brugler considered him a day-three pick. Pro Football Focus gave him the seventh highest grade among corners in the 2018 draft class.
When I put on his tape I see a smart, savvy, sound cornerback who is willing to do the little things to be successful. He’s not perfect, but there’s plenty to work with.
Why he went undrafted
Springs doesn’t profile as a good athlete. He has an average-to-below average athletic profile for a corner. He’s not the quickest or fastest player. Put within a structure that require those traits, he is going to be on the street.
Not a great snap here for Springs. A little sluggish with his hips, puts his hands on the receiver because he’s beat, blown past on the post. Had they thrown this, it might have been six. I do appreciate how Springs gets the most out of himself though.
The fact that Springs fought through the play for a pass breakup here is impressive. This was a slow transition from bail to break on the throw. He wasn’t there in time initially, but he finished the play and was rewarded with one of his 15 pass breakups for the season. You’ll never watch Springs and not think he’s a competitor. You can tell he cares about football. He plays with energy and toughness whenever he’s on the field. That can be seen in his desire to stick his nose in the run game.
I love seeing a corner be willing to play the run. If something matters to you, you’re not taking plays off. If Springs is on the field, he’s going to do everything he can to make a play. These are the kind of things that can help a guy on decision day. Displaying sound football acumen can help as well.
Utah is running a scissors concept (post and corner crossing) with the number two and three receivers. Springs is playing from the slot over number two. He identifies the concept and carries with the corner crossing his face without any hesitation. He sorted through the concept correctly. He did his job.
Another reason Springs is appealing to the Chiefs is because of his ability in man coverage. If the Chiefs really do intend to be a press man-heavy team, Springs will have a chance to make the team.
Springs did a nice job staying tight to the receiver. He got his hands on the receiver at the top of the route and broke on the ball better than the receiver did. He might have been a little too handsy, and he’ll have to watch that at the next level, but overall, he played the route well.
Another nice rep on this dig route from Springs. Handsy at the top of the route, but he got away with it. Had the ball been thrown his way, this would’ve been another pass breakup.
Even though he’s not an elite athlete, he has shown a knack for sticking in man coverage. He’s also got a knack for big plays.
There are three big moments that Springs showed up in the games I watched:
Springs played this fade well. He was step for step to the goal line, the receiver shoved Springs to create a little space, but he recovered to contest the catch. A well-executed moment to keep a touchdown off the board.
#LotteryTickets Springs Big Play 2/3: Some corners don't want to be active in the run game. Springs will. If he wants to make the bottom of the roster, he'll have to make some plays like this one at the goal line. pic.twitter.com/sWcW7mnqjb— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 24, 2018
There is Springs being active in the run game again. Good play recognition and effort to finish the play at the goal line in a tight game. He plays with enthusiasm and energy. Oregon wanted him on the field even in situations like this. They trusted him. They put him on an island with the game against Arizona State on the line.
This was a third down with little time left in the game. Oregon needed a stop on this play to have a chance to win. Springs was aware of the situation enough that he didn’t honor the outside release of the receiver too much and maintained good position for in-breaking routes. Because he was sitting inside, he made a great (and legal) play, reaching around the receiver to give his team a chance.
The bottom line
Springs might have a more narrow skill set than others, but what he does perfectly aligns with what the Chiefs are supposedly set out to accomplish in 2018.
Springs has some impressive ability in man coverage, a knack for making plays on the ball and the football character to overcome the adversity of being an undrafted free agent. The Chiefs have the opportunity and situation that Springs could have success in.
Springs made the right choice in picking Kansas City as his destination after not hearing his name called. Of the pool of undrafted free agents, I think Springs has an above average chance of making the Chiefs 53 man roster. He has the qualities and football character at a relatively thin position for things to align for him in Kansas City.