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UDFA Breakdown: Zayne Anderson

The Chiefs have struck gold on undrafted free agents before. Could the BYU safety be next?

BYU v Houston Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

We’ve broken down every member of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 draft class. Now we turn our attention to their group of undrafted free agents, looking 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 started with a look at DiCaprio Bootle, then looked at linebacker Riley Cole. Next up, it is BYU safety Zayne Anderson.

Team fit

Anderson played outside linebacker for the beginning of his college career, then transitioned to safety in the last few years. He played games in six different seasons; In his true senior season of 2018, he suffered an undisclosed injury four games into the season and used his redshirt designation. He had to use a medical redshirt designation for 2019 for shoulder surgery.

As a second-level defender at 6’2 and 210 pounds, Anderson showed value in run defense with block-shedding ability and the willingness to stick his nose into plays.

He was aligned on the line of scrimmage like a SAM linebacker, off the ball like a traditional WILL linebacker — and in the slot at times. He was a playmaker in the run game, especially against six-ranked Wisconsin in 2018. He totaled 11 tackles that day, following a 12-tackle performance the week before. Unfortunately, he only played one more game this season before being shut down for injury.

After a one-game 2019 season, he converted to a deep safety in 2020 and played in all 11 games. He was trusted in both one-high safety alignments and two-high and mostly ranged around the back of the defense like a traditional free safety.

However, he showed more man-to-man coverage ability and press snaps in his days as a linebacker.

He was tasked with covering the Wisconsin tight end for most of this matchup, and showed a few different ways to cover:

He played a trail technique to secure his interception; he knew he could play behind a little with a chance at a pick on an under-thrown pass because he has the acceleration to catch up quickly with the tight end if needed.

He also had an effective jam on the tight end off the line of scrimmage while not breaking stride in his coverage drop.

Anderson currently has too thin of a physique to be considered a linebacker in Kansas City. He’ll be thrown into the safety mix with the understanding that he has shown natural instincts at the linebacker position in terms of making plays in both the run and the pass.

If that all sounded like Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen — another BYU alum — there’s a reason. Their play styles are similar, and they have similar measurables:

  • Sorensen was 6’1 and 205 pounds as a prospect, while Anderson measured up at 6’2 and 206 pounds at his Pro Day.
  • Sorensen had 31-inch arms, and Anderson’s measured at 31.25 inches
  • Anderson has bigger hands by more than an inch, and ran the 40-yard dash .23 seconds faster; Anderson recorded 4.44 at his Pro Day, while Sorensen ran a 4.67.
  • Anderson finished with slightly better results in both the vertical and broad jump; they both benched a similar amount of reps.
  • Sorensen had better results in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle — mainly because he was in the 98th and 94th percentile, respectively, for safeties in both.

Sorensen was an undrafted free agent way back in 2014. Anderson can hope to follow his path to a similar NFL career.

Chances of making the active roster

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

As previously stated, Anderson should firmly be considered a safety in the Chiefs defense. Even when a player can play a college linebacker role at a smaller frame like Anderson, it’s just so unprecedented for a player his size to become an NFL linebacker.

The safety group is top-heavy with Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill, but the rest of the group doesn’t have a clear long-term outlook. Dan Sorensen, Armani Watts and Will Parks are all signed only through the end of 2021. While Sorensen’s contract makes him a very unlikely cut candidate, Watts and Parks are not guaranteed a spot on the team. Watts has not made any defensive contribution since defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took over. Parks has no experience in the system and has likely hit his professional ceiling.

If Anderson can stand out this offseason as a possible factor on special teams, the Chiefs may ditch one of the experienced, reserve safeties in favor of a player with more developmental upside to work with. Anderson will have competition for that opportunity with a few undrafted free agents and second-year safety on a reserve/future deal: Rodney Clemons.

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