The Kansas City Chiefs closed out their Day 2 selections in the NFL Draft by selecting Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal. When Chenal met with local media late Saturday night, he was quite bold in describing his fit with a team.
“People who watch my game know I’m going to be one of the most violent guys on the field at all times,” Chenal proclaimed. “Just being physical with every single play that I’m in.”
His tape shows the very physical style of play that should immediately translate to the NFL. Chenal went into depth about his willingness and drive to improve as he begins his pro career.
“The areas where people would say I struggled in college, I’m just going to continue to grow and grow,” he predicted. “Freshman year going into college, I was struggling with a lot of the things that you see as my strengths right now. I’m going to continue to grow and adapt and do whatever I can to be the best I can for this defense.”
Chenal’s pre-draft evaluations praised his run-stopping ability, something the player considers key to his identity.
“It’s love for attacking the ball,” he explained. “I had seven brothers growing up. So it’s kind of having that mentality where I’ve got to attack; I’ve got to be the best. It’s just that competitiveness that was instilled in me growing up. Obviously I was developed amazingly at Wisconsin — that’s kind of what they do. Just putting all that together fit perfectly.”
One place Chenal could help the Chiefs defense is by augmenting their pass rush — which finished 29th in the league in 2021 with only 31 sacks. Chenal had eight sacks for the Badgers last season — fifth in the Big Ten Conference. Chenal spoke of playing a versatile SAM linebacker role while continuing to work on his pass coverage skills — universally considered his biggest weakness as a draft prospect.
“Yeah, I’m for sure excited because of that,” Chenal agreed. “I was training at EXOS in Arizona, and I worked out with a ton of different guys, say like (San Diego State pass rusher and Arizona Cardinals third-round pick) Cam Thomas — I worked on EDGE drills with him. I worked out with (Minnesota Vikings third-round pick) Brian Asamoah from Oklahoma. He’s got good DB skills. I love pulling out things that I kind of struggle in and working on those things and continue to grow because certain things are unfamiliar, and I just love knowing that I’m going to get better every single day.
“It’s kind of scary for opposing offenses because I’m going to continue to get better. Like I said earlier — the strengths you see in me now, I sucked a those things like three years ago. So I’m just going to continue to grow better, get better every single day. Wherever they need me to play, I’m going to do my best every single day.”
In his remarks after the draft, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach discussed how Chenal complements incumbent starters Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton — second-round selections from the previous two drafts.
“I think this last pick with Leo allows us to play Willie more at a natural position at the Will linebacker,” Veach explained. “Now we have a Sam, Leo will also have backup Mike ability and Nick is so important to us — he kind of runs that show. So now you have a guy that can play SAM and can also kind of back up that MIKE position — have value similar to a guy like Damien Wilson, who we had in the past. We were kind of looking for that, and also to get bigger up there in the front seven, so we were excited about that.”
Chenal appreciates the winning atmosphere he has found himself in as he transitions from Wisconsin.
“I’m so excited,” he reiterated, “Just coming into a franchise like this — they want to win, want to run it back. I’m just excited to learn more. I’m new to learning about the team and I’m excited to learn everything I can about the city, about the whole organization, the history, the culture.
“I kind of slid to where it was expected, but I slid to the perfect spot. I’m so happy that I got chosen by you guys. I’m just excited.”