At the start of training camp, few Kansas City Chiefs observers would have predicted that wide receiver Daurice Fountain would win a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. Fountain — a 2018 fifth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts out of Northern Iowa — did not sign with the Chiefs until May 17, following a minicamp tryout. Fountain also brought a less-than-impressive resume: two career catches for 23 yards over six games.
But speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said that Fountain had made his case.
“He continued to get better every day,” he declared. “And that’s kind of the message we send to these guys when they get here for these rookie meetings and these 90-man roster meetings: that we’re going to go out there and we’re going to evaluate the tape.”
Though Fountain arrived with low expectations, Veach minimized the effect that such a background would have on a player’s opportunity.
“Some guys you’ll draft in the first round, some guys you’ll pay big money to,” he noted. “But in general, we’re going to go out there and be honest with ourselves and the evaluations.”
Veach also made certain to credit Fountain for earning his roster spot.
“You guys were at camp every day — and logging these guys and watching these guys. It was clear to everybody that the kid had an opportunity and ran with it — and I commend him on that.”
Veach added that ultimately, Fountain had made the decision for them.
“It was really just him going out there and earning the spot and making us — we tell this to the guys, too — make the decisions for us,” he explained. “Don’t have us make the decision. ‘You guys go out there and make that decision for us.’ I think he did that with his play — and I’m certainly happy for him.”
When a player like Fountain unexpectedly makes the squad, however, the team has to find a roster spot somewhere else. In this case, Fountain’s success likely came at the expense of fifth-round wide receiver Cornell Powell, who entered camp with what appeared to be a lock to make the roster. The Chiefs waived Powell in Tuesday’s cuts — although the Clemson product returned to the team’s practice squad on Wednesday.
Veach confirmed two truths about Powell: that he isn’t yet ready to help the team reach its goals — and that the team is happy for the opportunity to continue his development.
“Our job is to field the best team,” reiterated Veach. “And some of these guys will take some time; some guys will have to grow and develop. We’re very fortunate to keep Cornell, because we certainly love his upside. Excited we have Cornell back — but again, we have to line up and play Week 1 against a very talented Cleveland team. We’ve got to put the strongest roster we can out for today.”
While Powell is now joining hundreds of other players across the league who feel disappointment about missing final rosters— including at least two other wide receivers drafted in 2021 — he should take comfort (and motivation) from the opportunities the team’s practice squad has produced. Tight end Jody Fortson made the 53-man roster after his third training camp with the team. Though defensive end Tim Ward was waived — which frustrated many Chiefs fans — the New York Jets were impressed enough with his work to claim him on waivers.
These successes (and Fountain’s breakthrough) indicate that with improvement, Powell can see a fair opportunity in Kansas City — or be put in a prime position to get a chance with another team. Veach believes that Fountain’s story can serve as a message to all young NFL players.
“It’s a good story for the rest of these guys when they come into rosters all across the league,” he observed. “If you come in and make plays and show up on special teams, we’re in the business to win here. You’ve got to play and produce — and he certainly did that.”