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.
NFL teams like to bank on the athletic upside of players.
You’ll see teams take chances on the physical profile of players a round or two earlier than their skill set says they should go. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a risk regardless.
While the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t take a big swing on any players in the 2018 NFL Draft, they did sign a player to a reserve/future contract with excellent athletic upside with no risk. If he doesn’t work out, the Chiefs are not significantly tied to this player financially. They can merely let him walk during roster cuts. If he can put it all together, the Chiefs have a cheap option at the EDGE position.
Tyrone Holmes was drafted by Jacksonville in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Montana. He was the FCS Defensive Player of the Year his final season in Missoula, Montana, after ending his career with division records in sacks (43.5) and tackles for loss (80).
At Holmes’ pro day, he ran a 4.58 second 40-yard dash (1.65 second 10-yard split), 4.3-second short shuttle, a 7-second 3-cone drill, had a 37.5 inch vertical and put up 28 reps at 225 lbs. on the bench press at 6 feet 2 and 253 pounds.
No other position can benefit from explosive athleticism more than pass rusher. Justis Mosqueda has built a density-adjusted athletic testing model that is highly predictive of successful pass rushers in the NFL, especially for day one and two prospects. Players like Justin Houston fit the model. So did Holmes as a late-round prospect.
While most sixth-round pass rushers won’t have successful careers, the athletic ability of Holmes is something to take a long look at. Holmes feasted on FCS competition with his dense power.
This is more Holmes being the best athlete on the field than anything. He uses a rip move to beat the tackle clean for a sack in the final game of his college career in the playoffs against North Dakota State. As you can see, the explosiveness and strength are there.
#LotteryTickets Tyrone Holmes tested well athletically. He moves well for a man his size. Here is squeezing the cutback lane and exploding to the quarterback on the keep read. pic.twitter.com/6wIaQFgcQS— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 27, 2018
The movement skills are intriguing. Here, Holmes does a nice job squeezing the cutback lane on the zone read. The quarterback, who’s reading the unblocked Holmes, thinks he can get the edge on him and decides to pull the ball and run.
Holmes explodes to the quarterback after seeing the pull and gets rid of any leverage the runner thought he had. The quarterback ends up throwing the ball out of bounds, drawing an ineligible man downfield penalty. The problem for Holmes is he didn’t need to do much beyond being a great athlete to be productive at Montana, so the learning curve is going to be steep.
The dense explosiveness he has still show promise at the NFL. Holmes could develop as a good run defender.
#LotteryTickets Tyrone Holmes is still trying to match his technical skills to his physical traits. He could be a problem setting an edge if he puts it all together. (#91 at the bottom of the screen) pic.twitter.com/KDuZe8mjSP— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 27, 2018
The tight end stood no chance. Holmes changes the line of scrimmage by four yards, forcing the outside zone run inside of him. You’d probably like to see him keep a little more outside leverage here, but the dense power he puts on display is impressive.
Where this might be best exemplified is during his only official career NFL sack.
#LotteryTickets This is the only official sack of Tyrone Holmes' NFL career. Lets the tackle get into his chest, knock him off his path and create a wider arc, but shows some flexibility to keep working towards the scrambling QB. pic.twitter.com/vcoWicKdIf— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 27, 2018
Holmes lets left tackle Jonotthan Harrison get into his chest with his right hand, adjusting his route to the quarterback and forcing a wider arc. Had the ball been thrown on time, this wouldn’t matter, but Holmes gets around Harrison with a dip-and-rip move, albeit late. He takes a direct angle to where the quarterback was setting up to throw, but as he closes, the quarterback escapes. Holmes makes a tight adjustment to his angle in pursuit of the scrambling quarterback and finishes the play for the sack.
The bottom line
Holmes is one of the more fascinating bottom-of-the-roster players to me.
He struggles to be consistent, but there’s plenty to work with. He’s racing to refine his skill set enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. The physical traits are there with Holmes, but he needs to tie them to technique to prove his athletic ability to be useful.
He’s been able to get away with some things in limited snaps. The athleticism allows him some wiggle room, which is why he’s still getting opportunities in the NFL.
Teams see the things he can do that others can’t, but have to see enough growth to trust him. If the light comes on soon, he’ll have a chance to earn some money. He’s still only 24, but the growth needs to start happening soon if he wants to stick.
The clock is ticking, but with another year under his belt, this could be the year a team sees enough to keep him on an active roster. Unlike some Lottery Tickets we’ve profiled, there is a sample size of NFL snaps with Holmes.
I’ll be looking in the preseason to see if he’s built off of that limited experience.