Thus far, you haven’t read a lot about Kansas City Chiefs tight end Nick Keizer in these pages; honestly, there’s been little to tell.
Keizer entered the league in 2018 as an undrafted free agent for the Baltimore Ravens out of Grand Valley State, but he didn’t make the Baltimore’s final roster. The Ravens brought him back to the practice squad in November and kept him around until the following May, when he was released.
Two weeks later, the Chiefs picked him up, keeping him through training camp and signing him to their practice squad at the beginning of last season. There he remained throughout the championship run.
But in last the couple of weeks, you’ve seen his name brought up more and more — first from the AP Nerd Squad’s Matt Lane, who identified the 6-foot-5, 251-pound Keizer as the dark horse candidate to become the team’s backup tight end in 2020.
From a size and strength standpoint, Nick Keizer has the best profile to mimic what Blake Bell [who departed Kansas City for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason] was able to do as a blocker. He understands blocking angles — and also has the size to down-block defensive linemen or seal the edge. When he’s working up into space, he has enough baseline movement ability to cover all the distance that is required — and while on the move, does a good job framing his blocks.
Keizer’s receiving ability is a bit more old-school than the other guys in the room — but it is still vastly better than Bell’s was last season. He has enough speed and size to run the seam and present a large target — and has even flashed some ability to use his size in one-on-ones for in-breaking routes.
But that was before we knew that a groin injury would keep tight end Deon Yelder from all of the team’s full training camp practices so far — or that fourth-year free-agent tight end Ricky Seals-Jones would miss some of those practices, too.
So Keizer’s name has been on the lips of several Chiefs players and coaches in the last week.
“He’s done a great job with that,” said tight ends coach Tom Melvin of the additional practice reps Keizer has been getting. “He was with us a year ago — so for him, it’s basically just putting data in his hard drive by getting more reps.”
Melvin said Keizer had improved in the very area about which Lane had expressed concern.
“He’s much better in the passing game — down the field. He’s pretty good on the end of the line of scrimmage. We’re really happy with the amount of experience that he’s getting now — especially with the ones to run against a number one defense.”
Speaking to reporters after Sunday’s practice, Keizer himself said that was something he had specifically wanted to improve.
“I’ve felt like I’ve always been a pretty strong blocker,” he said, “but this offseason, I spent a lot of time working on my routes, quickness, speed, releases and stuff like that. I feel like that’s kind of brought me to a little better level of overall versatility.”
Keizer said he’s learned that in Andy Reid’s defense, the small details matter.
“There might be a route that might seem like a simple route — but then based on the coverage, what the look is and what’s going on, there’s little tweaks and things you might need to change,” he explained. “Just being crisp on those every single play can be challenging.
“Every once in a while,” he continued, “I’ll miss a read or something. It’s something I just get corrected with by the quarterback or my coach. They spend a lot of time — and they’ve been patient — and I’ve been working really hard getting in the playbook, trying to get as many reps as I can.”
On Sunday, quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he’s noticed the difference.
“What’s impressed me the most is the way he’s able to correct things — to do things the right way the next time — and then have success with some of the different stuff that he’s learned from Travis Kelce and some of those guys from last year,” said the Super Bowl MVP. “You’re really seeing his game evolve. You’re seeing how he’s seen how all the older guys have done it — and had success with it — and he’s adding that to his game. And then he’s finding that he’s good at it; he’s going out there and having success with that.”
Keizer echoed Mahomes in his Sunday remarks.
“Obviously he’s one of the best to do it,” he said of Kelce. “Being behind him has been a great asset for me and my game — and every aspect of it: routes, receiving, blocking — every little thing he’s got, he’s got tips and little tricks. I’ve been able to use those and develop them and twist them in my own little style. I think it’s made my game a lot better; I obviously appreciate him for all that.”
Mahomes isn’t the only Chiefs player to recently have taken notice of the heretofore-unsung tight end.
“You go up against guys like Keizer at the tight end position, and you know he’s making me better each and every day,” said rookie linebacker Willie Gay Jr. earlier this week — after being asked about whether he was having a good time playing against rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
“He’s been productive — he’s doing a great job,” noted linebacker Ben Niemann. “He’s gotten a lot of reps this camp and he’s taking advantage of them — so he’s a fun guy to compete against.”
Whether Keizer has improved his game enough to make the team’s final roster remains to be seen. But with the injuries to the other tight ends vying for a spot, there’s no doubt that his chance to make the team has improved.