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UDFA defensive lineman Malik Herring shows lots of promise for 2022

The Chiefs have struck gold on undrafted free agents before. Could the Georgia defensive lineman be next?

NCAA Football: Samford at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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’ve broken down DiCaprio Bootle, Riley Cole and Zayne Anderson. Now, I’ll take a close look at Georgia defensive lineman Malik Herring.

Team fit

At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, Herring was a uniquely large defensive end for Georgia during his senior season. After racking up two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and two passes defensed, he was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he tore his right ACL during the week — meaning he likely won’t be able to play during the 2021 season.

On the field, Herring showed impressive bend around the edge and ankle flexion for his size.

You can tell he works on his pass-rushing craft by how well he uses his hands to leverage himself and get blockers’ hands off of him; not every college pass rusher shows the intelligence to use their hands like Herring does. Whether it’s going around the edge or countering back inside, he always has a plan when he rushes the passer.

He isn’t the fastest or most athletic player, but he does have some burst that he can use to his advantage.

That burst — coupled with his strong hands — sometimes allows him to succeed on inside swim moves. His lack of speed upfield can sometimes get him washed out through the other side of the pocket, but he looks natural using the swim. His willingness to work in counter moves helps against offensive linemen who are trying to predict how he will attack them.

Another move he uses effectively is a powerful club. It’s similar to the swim move, but there’s more force behind the initial punch.

He put a few opposing linemen on their butts with his club move — and at 280 pounds, you’d expect some raw power to show somewhere.

His 32.5 inch arms don’t fit the profile of a typical defensive end in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system, but he does have an 82” wingspan — 73rd percentile for NFL defensive end prospects — and 10.5 inch hands, which is in the 90th percentile.

Herring’s lack of general athleticism and arm length put him between being a defensive end and an interior defensive lineman. The problem is that he doesn’t have the anchor (or the mass) to hold up inside full time. He might have to make an NFL career out of being a situational pass-rusher, but at least he shows the versatility to do so from both the edge and the interior.

Chances of making the active roster

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

For 2021, the answer is unfortunately easy: Herring won’t make the active roster because of the torn ACL he suffered in January.

Coming out of college, he’s in a very similar position to that of Chiefs defensive end Tim Ward, who was signed in 2019 as an undrafted free-agent after suffering an ACL tear the previous November. The Chiefs used his rookie season as a medical redshirt by placing him on injured reserve before the the season began. We should expect the same for Herring.

Without his injury, he was talented enough to have been drafted. A former four-star recruit, he played in at least five games during all of his four seasons at Georgia. Remember his name for 2022 — when he should be ready to compete to be part of the defensive line’s rotation.

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