Every member of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 draft class has been broken down. Now, we turn our attention to a select group of undrafted free agents. I’ll look at how each player fits into the team’s scheme, and how much of a chance they have to make the 53-man roster. I start with Nebraska defensive back Dicaprio Bootle.
Bootle played at a size of 5’10, 194 pounds his redshirt senior year at Nebraska. He was primarily a boundary cornerback, playing a lot of zone — whether it be in flat coverage or the deep third on his side of the field.
One of the pre-requisites for playing cornerback in Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system is the willingness to get in on tackles and make aggressive plays on quick throws to the flat. He proved he has that ability in his toolkit.
Watching what I can find on #Chiefs UDFA Dicpario Bootle. As an outside CB at Nebraska, he showed the willingness to be aggressive on plays to the flat - something we know is important for a Spags CB (#7 in 2020, #23 in prior seasons) pic.twitter.com/9Ye5vwyDCk— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 28, 2021
Bootle overcomes his smaller stature by playing with aggression and physicality. At his Pro Day, he ran an unofficial 4.38 40-yard dash — and the explosiveness it takes to run such an impressive time shows up on these plays. He also posted an unofficial 6.72-second 3-cone drill — which is in the 86th percentile for NFL cornerback prospects, per Mockdraftable.com.
In that way, he has a similar physical profile as another new Chiefs cornerback: Mike Hughes.
In this particular stretch of 2018 (RS Soph season), Bootle showed an ability to cleanly wall off the WR on deep balls and turn his head to make a play on the ball without getting overly physical. pic.twitter.com/AHhskHj9pK— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 28, 2021
A particular set of three plays from 2018 — his redshirt sophomore season — showed Bootle’s natural feel for covering receivers deep down the field. He gets himself in a great position to cleanly wall the receiver off towards the sideline without being overly physical. With that leverage, he turns his head in time and makes effective plays on the ball.
It’s harder to teach an overly-aggressive coverage defender to clean up his style than it is to teach a fundamentally sound cornerback how to expand his game off of that clean technique.
It’s important to note that Bootle was put in an advantageous situation a lot in his college scheme. I noticed how far off the line of scrimmage he was in his pre-snap alignment at times — and being asked to keep everything in front of him.
For the Chiefs, he will likely be asked to be in a press alignment and disrupt the receiver’s route from the snap more often. He has reps doing so at Nebraska, but he didn’t excel in those situations. However, his baseline physicality should help him grow in that aspect of his game once he gets NFL coaching.
Chances at making the active roster
If there’s any position an undrafted free agent can sneak onto the bottom of the 53-man roster, it’s probably the cornerback position in most seasons. It’s a group that needs bodies but still doesn’t require the fifth or sixth player in the room to contribute much besides a special teams role.
That said, the Chiefs have a solid group of young cornerbacks with some level of NFL experience. Behind the obvious group of L’Jarius Sneed, Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton, the Chiefs also have Mike Hughes, Deandre Baker, and BoPete Keyes. Hughes and Baker have full seasons of starting NFL experience, while Keyes earned a season-long active roster spot last year and was traded up for in the 2020 Draft.
Bootle will have to really impress this offseason to make it over Keyes — but even then, the Chiefs have kept five cornerbacks at the beginning of each of the last two seasons. If he doesn’t make the cut, he should have a strong case to make the practice squad.