As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas from April 28-30, we’re taking a look at some of the players the team could be targeting with their 12 draft picks: Round 1 (29 and 30), Round 2 (50 and 62), Round 3 (94 and 103), Round 4 (121 and 135) and Round 7 (233, 243, 251 and 259).
As the Chiefs enter the final preparations for the NFL Draft, cornerback is still one of the roster’s thinnest positions. In the early days of free agency, Charvarius Ward — who started 12 games and was named the team’s ‘Most Improved Player’ by Pro Football Focus in 2021 — signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
In the last month, the Chiefs have been linked to now-Indianapolis Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore in free agency — and the New York Giants’ James Bradberry has frequently been rumored as a trade target. But with less than two weeks until the draft, all talk of adding either player has ceased. L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton are currently slated to be the starting corners, with Deandre Baker and Dicaprio Bootle as the only other Kansas City cornerbacks who saw game action in 2021.
As the roster stands, the Chiefs need at least one cornerback able to play immediately. One such option could be Coby Bryant of Cincinnati. He offers a rare combination: being ready to play without requiring premium draft capital.
Bryant played in 2021 as a redshirt senior, playing opposite likely top-ten draft selection Sauce Gardner. While he will be selected much later than his old teammate, Bryant did earn first-team All-American Athletic Conference during his final two seasons with the Bearcats. As a senior, Bryant also won the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the nation’s best defensive back.
With two draftable cornerbacks on the outside in the Cincinnati defense, Bryant did not see a high volume of targets thrown his way. In his final season, he had 44 tackles and two forced fumbles. He also recorded two interceptions and 11 passes defensed.
At the NFL Combine, Bryant registered a 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds. He measured in at 6 feet 1 and 198 pounds, with 30 5/8 inch arms.
College film evaluation
As implied by his 40 time, Bryant does not win with elite athleticism. Instead, he depends on reaction and instinct. Every successful secondary has at least one high-IQ player who wins in situations where he should be outmatched.
Coby Bryant sure looks like a Chiefs Spagnuolo corner. He makes the play by being in the right place and timing the ball even though he's beat. Like many Chiefs corners, he will make some plays in the league that instantly have everyone checking for a flag. pic.twitter.com/j4tCoamVPL— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) April 13, 2022
In this clip, Bryant times a deep pass and breaks it up to prevent a touchdown. In a paradox of conventional team-building, the Chiefs have managed to have unprecedented success with minimal investment in the position. Bryant’s effort on this play should remind Chiefs fans of several key plays made by Ward (and Bashaud Breeland) during the team’s recent Super Bowl seasons.
Chiefs fans have also learned that banking so much on timing to break up a pass can also lead to costly penalties. Here, Bryant avoids a flag — but playing on Sundays in the NFL, he will not always be so lucky.
Bryant can maintain his football intelligence even when he is being aggressive. This is especially apparent when he offers support in the running game — a trait that Spagnuolo values in his defensive backs.
My next write up for @ArrowheadPride will be Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant. Most Bearcat opponents barely threw at him, so there's not much great film. Love his effort here to keep Kyron Williams limited to a 2-yard game. pic.twitter.com/Lc0i3IYdZb— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) April 13, 2022
Here, Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams — who had 1321 yards from scrimmage in 2021 and is likely to be drafted — has nowhere to go once Bryant recognizes the play. Williams appears to have cut to the outside and is primed to run through the secondary — only to be stopped for just a two-yard gain.
Bryant’s vision of the entire play (and his smarts) will give him some chances to make plays — especially when offensive players make mistakes.
Bryant only had two interceptions his senior year, mostly because opponents didn't target him. He is really good at reading the ball when he has an opportunity though. He can make NFL quarterbacks pay for bad decisions. pic.twitter.com/fC7UzRkUJ4— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) April 13, 2022
Here we see that Bryant instantly knows that he’s defending a lousy throw; the receiver has no chance to catch it. So he tracks the ball perfectly, delivering an interception. In the NFL, he will not see as many such golden opportunities — but he will still likely make at least a couple of smart plays on the ball during plays with errant throws or poor routes.
Bryant’s limited athleticism was more than sufficient for most Cincinnati opponents. However, there were times that the competition was simply more athletic than he was.
Bryant knows his limitations, and he gives Jameson Williams too much respect to have any play on the ball, though he is in great position prevent YAC. He might have to give a cushion to too many NFL receivers if asked to do too much. pic.twitter.com/gkoBRb7f30— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) April 14, 2022
In this clip, the Bearcats’ secondary is facing wide receiver Jameson Williams — so talented that he will likely still be a top-20 pick while recovering from an ACL tear. (Note: Bryant changed his number to 8 for the College Football Playoff in honor of the late Kobe Bryant, whom he claims to be named after).
Bryant appears to know he has no chance of completely stopping Williams, so he puts himself in a position to limit yards after the catch. He will need to further develop his instincts about how much respect to give to faster receivers — of which he will see many.
How he fits with the Chiefs
If the Chiefs were to add only Bryant to the cornerback room this season, that could be disastrous. If the Chiefs manage to add a veteran starter (or use a top-50 selection on a cornerback), they likely would pass on Bryant.
But where a selection of Bryant could really pay off would be in combination with a more athletic raw talent at the position. The Chiefs are known to have visited Fayetteville State cornerback Joshua Williams and Gregory Junior of Ouachita Baptist — two very athletic prospects from lower levels of competition. With 12 selections, the Chiefs would have the ability to pair a high-upside player who may need extended development with a high floor option like Bryant, who likely will be able to contribute early in his rookie season.
With Fenton entering the last season of his contract (and Sneed possibly in line for an extension after the season), the Chiefs also need numbers in the position group. Bryant’s understanding of the game would make him a good addition to meetings, a dependable option to rotate in sub-packages — and when needed — a trusted spot starter.
The bottom line
With so much pressure to turn in a strong draft, Kansas City general manager Brett Veach will have to have the perfect balance of swings on high-upside prospects — along with safer selections of players like Bryant. While the former Bearcat is not an ideal prospect, Spagnuolo has been able to scheme good situations for limited cornerbacks during his entire tenure with the Chiefs. If paired with dependable safeties, Bryant would be a good candidate to continue that trend.
Bryant is likely to be one of those players that coaches love — and therefore lasts in the league longer than his athletic profile would suggest. He will never be a defensive cornerstone — but right from his first game, he is likely to be one of those rare third or fourth-round picks who can dependably handle a significant role.