Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs offense earned the nickname “Legion of Zoom” thanks to the number of speed threats they feature on offense. The defense must have wanted in on it, too — because the new draft class has plenty of speed.
On Friday night, the Chiefs selected Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay, Jr., who has been timed with a 4.46 40-yard dash. On Saturday, the Chiefs used the 138th overall pick to take Louisiana Tech defensive back L’Jarius Sneed — who ran a 4.37 40 at the NFL Combine.
At first, we didn’t know where Sneed would play for the Chiefs; at Tech, he had played cornerback in 2018 and safety in 2019. But when he spoke to the media after his selection, Sneed was more than happy to specify the position in which he feels more comfortable.
“Corner,” he said.
Sneed began his move back to cornerback during the pre-draft process.
“He did a great job in the NFLPA game moving back to corner,” Chiefs area scout Willie Davis said of Sneed. “I had a chance to see him play safety in the regular season, and corner in the all-star game. He transitioned very well back, and you could tell that’s his natural position.”
But according to Sneed, his transition to an unnatural position was not a waste of time.
“I feel like safety helped me a lot with my mental; it helped me with the game a lot,” Sneed explained to the Chiefs media in a video conference. “Instead of just knowing my job, I have to know other guys’ jobs around me, and that slows the game down for me a lot.”
During his evaluation of the pick, Davis agreed.
“At the safety position, he had a lot more on his plate,” he explained. “He had to be a communicator, he had to understand how to set the defense in the back end.”
Sneed has the body type of a cornerback who fits in Spagnuolo’s scheme: a lengthy frame that brings physicality to the position.
“You have a long, fast kid with really good ball skills, really smart, understands how to play the position,” Davis said of Sneed. “He can play both press, he’s a long big kid that get up in the face of wide receivers, and can play press corner and he has the instincts and knowledge to play off also.”
His length — and the ability to impress it — is what fits him into the cornerback room. But it was something else that likely separated him from other possible selections.
“I think the kid can run as fast as he needs to run,” claimed Davis. “He plays fast — not only in a t-shirt and shorts to run a fast 40 — but this kid plays the game fast.”
Davis’ 40-yard dash time was the fastest among all safeties at the Combine — and he brings a level of speed to the position that the Chiefs currently lack. Davis said that’s important because division foes are speeding up, too.
“If you look at what the AFC West is doing, they are trying to get fast. Instead of stopping us, they’re trying to score points with us. So it’s very important we get faster on defense. I think we’ve done a great job with this draft. L’Jarius is just helping it.”
Sneed will be coming into a defensive backs group that has an obvious leader.
“I like Tyrann Mathieu, man,” Sneed announced. “I love his energy, I started watching him when I was growing up, I always watched him. I liked the energy he played with. The fire he has inside of him. The energy he brings on the field.
“It’s going to be a great time to play with somebody like that, who’s going to motivate you to be better, I’ll soak it all in from him, someone who knows the game more than I.”
That’s the type of attitude you want to hear from a fourth-round selection. The young cornerback will have the leadership ready to help him develop. It will just take dedication and work from him — and it sounds like we can expect that.
“It won’t take me long,” he said. “Soon as I get in, I’m going to get to work. Give it my all, give all my effort. You can’t teach effort, that’s all that matters. I’m going to give effort whatever position I’m playing, whatever spot I’m in on the team. I’m going to give it my effort, give it my all — each day, every day.”