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Film review: Chiefs cornerback BoPete Keyes

Keyes: “It was shocking to some people, but for my teammates, it was normal because things like that in practice happen all the time.”

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Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback BoPete Keyes is in a unique situation for most draft picks. He knows that when the Chiefs drafted him, they had eyes for him and only him.

General manager Brett Veach moved back into the draft by surrendering a 2021 sixth-round selection to make sure the Tulane product did not get snatched up in the final picks of the seventh round or in undrafted free agency — he made sure that he got his guy.

“I feel very appreciative. They just grabbed a great player who can be productive and potentially fit in their secondary,” said Keyes on the season finale of the AP Draft Show.

From a measurables and traits perspective, I agree with Keyes’ assessment that he’s a perfect fit in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.

Here are some of the things that excite me about him:

Ball skills

Keyes has flashed some special ball skills — making an outstanding play against Florida International.

“It was shocking to some people, but for my teammates, it was normal because things like that in practice happen all the time,” Keyes said.

Keyes possesses great long speed for a bigger cornerback speed, which helps him carry with receivers down the field. He didn’t have a ton of ball production in his final year, but that doesn’t mean the ability isn’t there.

This play is one of the more impressive of the entire draft class. The physical traits are on display with the jump and extension by his long frame — the ball tracking, focus and hands to bring this down is special.

There aren’t many athletic profiles like Keyes possesses, and getting a player with his raw talent so late in the draft has the potential to be great value.

Length and athleticism

The most difficult thing for defenses to handle is a play out of structure.

When the initial design of the play breaks down and more random variables are included, things become more difficult. This broken play forces Keyes to react, run and recover on a shot to the end zone. With a receiver streaking down the sideline, Keyes turns and runs — catching up to him. The ball is out of bounds, but from the end zone view, you can see how his length was going to be a problem — even if it was a better throw. Keyes measured in with the second-longest arms in the entire draft class — his 32 5/8-inch arms tied with Jeff Okudah.

Even if Keyes gets beat off the line of scrimmage or is late to transition with poor eye discipline or beat on double moves, his recovery speed, hip fluidity and length allow him to challenge plays. You don’t have to be perfect with the measurables Keyes has, but if he can get to where he’s more than just the raw traits, he has a chance to be a good player.

Keyes is fluid in his hips for a man his size. This is not common and one of the things that makes him different than Charvarius Ward — a player with a similar physical profile.

Keyes wants to operate outside the numbers, and he’s best turning and running with outside releases from receivers. He does a good job here mirroring the receiver and running with him. He’s not using his hands to disrupt on this play, which makes it more impressive — something he’s best doing. He displays good feet and transitions on this play, and it leads to good positioning down the field.

Keyes is a very competitive player and is going to work to challenge everything he can. He will make things as difficult as possible on a quarterback — whether that be at the catch point or simply in the passing lane.

Reducing the margin for error a quarterback has with length and size is a valuable tool. Keyes does a good job on this play trailing the receiver on a crossing route on third-and-7.

He’s able to challenge the throw and get his hand on the football. What I appreciate about this play is that even a better throw still puts the offense short of the line to gain for a first down. Keyes is challenging the throw, but he’s also in position to make a tackle.

Physicality and tackling

“In high school, I played safety so that I gained that physicality in me at an early age.”

You don’t have to ask Keyes to hit — he’s active at the point of contact and willing to fight through blockers to make a play.

Being a bigger cornerback outside will benefit him trying to get off blocks at the next level. Keyes operates best in press at the line of scrimmage. He uses his long arms in press coverage to re-route and disrupt receivers. There’s going to be contact and Keyes is often delivering it. He not only gets off this block by the outside receiver but also delivers a good hit.

Here, Keyes is taking on a bigger player than him. He’s not afraid or remotely passive at the point of contact. All these traits will serve him well as he transitions to the NFL.

His size, athleticism and physicality will help him stick on a roster as he develops at cornerback. Keyes will likely have to play special teams to maintain a role on the 53-man roster, but that’s not a problem.

“I’m comfortable on special teams,” Keyes said. “Special teams changes the game way more than people realize. I feel like playing special teams is something I’ll do forever.”

The bottom line

The Chiefs were aggressive to grab a player with prototypical size and length to fit Spagnuolo’s profile. Keyes has all the tools to be a quality player in the NFL.

He still needs developing, but the good news for him is he should be able to earn that time to develop by playing special teams, where he should succeed. This pick has a chance to be a steal of a pick to go on top of an already great draft class.

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