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Drafting Darwin Thompson seen as Chiefs’ most ‘under the radar’ offseason move to love

The Chiefs took the Utah State running back in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

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Utah State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

SB Nation NFL’s Christian D’Andrea recently compiled a list of the league’s under-the-radar moves—defined as “the non-headlining moves — the Day 3 picks and budget signings — who should create major value for their teams in 2019.”

D’Andrea provided one under-the-radar move to love for each team. When it came to the Chiefs, D’Andrea said he loved their move to draft Utah State running back Darwin Thompson in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

D’ANDREA: Thompson runs like he’s been shot out of a cannon and was an advanced stats darling. He’s going to feast in the Chiefs’ murder-you-to-death offense.

Why I agree (John Dixon)

Thompson is more than just a running back who put up some good stats at Utah State.

Darwin Thompson - Utah State

Year G RAtt RYds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
2018 13 153 1044 6.8 14 23 351 15.3 2

The Aggies run a lot of RPOs, and Thompson excelled in them. In 2018 (per Pro Football Focus), Thompson had 101 rushing attempts in run-pass option plays and had a PFF grade of 81.1 in them. Both of those numbers were fifth-best in his class. He was one of the most elusive running backs, too, measuring at 0.33 missed tackles per attempt in RPO plays and 4.9 yards per attempt after contact.

This is why the Chiefs were trying to trade up to get Thompson — which luckily for them, they didn’t end up needing to do. To the Chiefs, he’s not just a depth running back acquired late in the draft. Instead, he’s a player with skill and experience in a type of play that they use more often — and with better effect — than any other team in the league. He wasn’t just the best player available in the sixth round. He was a player the Chiefs were targeting right from the beginning.

I don’t know that we’ll see Thompson used to great effect in 2019. He has just one year of Division I experience under his belt and therefore may need some seasoning to achieve his full potential. But the Chiefs clearly see him as a player perfectly who fits the schemes they run: a shifty, elusive player who runs with a low center of gravity.

If Thompson becomes a productive player in the Chiefs offense after being selected in the sixth round — whether it’s this season or in seasons to come — that’s about as under-the-radar as you can get.

Why I disagree (Pete Sweeney)

I like the fact the Chiefs were able to find a running back they coveted in Thompson so late in the NFL Draft. Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has gone on record in saying he even went as far as attempting to trade up for Thompson.

But the drafting of Thompson, who I believe profiles as more of a third-down back and less as a starter for the Chiefs, is not the under-the-radar move I loved the most this offseason.

I know I’m slightly bending the rules of the article (bear with me), but I’d say trading a 2020 sixth-rounder to the New York Jets for linebacker Darron Lee fits the bill for the Chiefs’ under-the-radar offseason move I loved the most. There will be people who say the trade is not so under the radar, and I would say it only feels that way since it happened so recently. When you think back to the offseason a couple of months from now, I doubt the Lee trade is the one that sticks out in your mind.

What I love about the deal is the Chiefs believe they not only found a potential starter in Lee; they also view him as one of the “best pure cover linebackers in football.”

The move feels so ahead of its time. Pro Football Focus has made a point this offseason to explain why coverage in today’s league is beginning to matter much more than pass rush—a reason the Chiefs were willing to let Justin Houston walk and trade Dee Ford.

In Lee, who will make $1.8 million this year, the Chiefs acquired a former 20th-overall pick and potential starting Will linebacker for a day-three draft pick. And what will eventually be forgotten is Veach’s poise. The Chiefs were reportedly talking to the New York Jets for weeks about a deal. The Jets wanted a fifth-rounder for a player they would likely cut, and the Chiefs weren’t willing to budge. When the Jets shocked the league by firing GM Mike Maccagnan for head coach and interim GM Adam Gase, the Chiefs “sensed opportunity” and called Gase. He quickly agreed to deal.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the Thompson pick, but I love that the Chiefs stuck to their guns on their price and landed a player that could play the bulk of the defensive snaps in today’s pass-first league. It reminds me a little of last year’s trade for safety Jordan Lucas—one that didn’t mean much at the time but we grew to love at Arrowhead Pride.

Former Chiefs to love

Interestingly enough, D’Andrea thought the signings of three ex-Chiefs were the under-the-radar moves to love for three different teams.

D’Andrea liked the Browns signing former Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris, the Colts signing former Chiefs running back Spencer Ware and the Jaguars signing former Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley among the 32 moves he listed.


Do you think the Chiefs’ drafting of RB Darwin Thompson was their best "under-the-radar" move of the offseason?

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