Unless you have been living under several rocks since Thursday, you’re familiar with the name of the Kansas City Chiefs’ initial first-round draft selection by now:
University of Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie
Not only did the Chiefs select him 21st overall, but they also traded additional third and fourth-round picks to move up and acquire him.
McDuffie pops off the screen with his skill in about any game he’s in — but the specific traits that make this the case is what we will dive into here in this profile.
Trent McDuffie will turn 22 years old on September 13 — right around the very start of the NFL regular season. He measures in at 5 feet 10-inches, weighs 193 pounds, has extremely short arms at 29-and-three-fourths inches, and ran a very fast 40-yard-dash at 4.44 seconds.
Despite his smaller stature, McDuffie displays exceptional burst and physicality on the field. He also lined up close to the line of scrimmage pre-snap more than the vast majority of highly-ranked cornerbacks in this year’s class — something defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is sure to ask of his corners.
Career snaps played at outside cornerback in press coverage, per @PFF:— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) April 22, 2022
Ahmad Gardner (762)
Trent McDuffie (506)
Derek Stingley Jr. (432)
Kaiir Elam (387)
Kyler Gordon (373)
Andrew Booth Jr. (197)
Now, let’s turn to the film to see what kind of impact player the Chiefs are ultimately getting:
First, we should designate a difference in physical, hands-on press coverage and soft press technique. McDuffie’s length is not conducive to being an aggressor at the line of scrimmage, and it shows in his approach. He is much more likely to rely on his footwork and patience to mirror the release of wide receivers than any sort of hand usage. At Washington, he also liked to half-turn inward after the snap in zone coverage, keeping his eyes on the quarterback with leverage on top of the wide receiver as he processed route concepts in real-time.
McDuffie is a footwork matching man coverage player at the line of scrimmage; less reliant on hand usage. pic.twitter.com/SrRx1ucrzQ— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) May 1, 2022
If a player has the skill to do this at a high level, it can be a great thing for a cornerback’s upside, as someone with McDuffie’s approach is much less likely to be called for pass interference/holding penalties in the NFL.
One of McDuffie’s primary strengths is his football intelligence — he keeps himself in good position to take away options from the opposing quarterback very consistently. This could mean pre-snap leverage on a receiver’s inside shoulder or having good zone spacing in between two routes to make it difficult to fit a pass in toward either offensive player. In critical situations, he knows the proper techniques to utilize that give him the best chance to succeed.
In off-man coverage — something he chooses to execute more often in third- or fourth-and-long situations when it is clear how far the offense needs to move the football to keep a drive alive — he displays exceptional comfort, foot speed and ability to get out of breaks very quickly.
So pumped to start a McDuffie film review— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) May 1, 2022
3rd and long here ~ off man coverage, awesome ability sifting through traffic but the finish too. pic.twitter.com/3oJZXb8neH
Awesome off-man technique from McDuffie. pic.twitter.com/gIRJNHp5bd— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) May 1, 2022
He is what I would call a get-your-defense-off-the-field type of player — meaning whether it be via tremendous coverage/body positioning, closing speed and effort when pursuing ball carriers, or the ability to get hands in the way of the football and make a play when targeted — he is going to be a contributing reason why the defense can finish drives and force punts or turnovers in key situations.
The acceleration, quick twitch and competitive effort in his game make for a rangy player that can legitimately go sideline-to-sideline and finish plays off.
4th-and-5 to close the game - you see the awareness to get on the WRs front hip and takes away any chance of a conversion to his man. pic.twitter.com/3gKyRht0WU— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) May 1, 2022
Even though ball production in college was limited with just two interceptions in 27 games, this appears to be more due to a lack of targets than it is McDuffie not having the skills to attack the football well.
He flashed the ability to go up high and snatch the ball out of the air, force fumbles or simply knock down passes when opportunities were presented. He logged six pass deflections during the 2021 season alone and forced three fumbles during his tenure as a Washington Husky.
Perhaps his lack of length will make matchups against very big receivers more challenging moving forward, but the Chiefs will likely try to avoid putting him in any tough positions without at least providing some semblance of safety help.
McDuffie is just a competitor and closer. High point/ball skill flash here. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/6mSlpadSmQ— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) May 1, 2022
Overall, this is a cornerback who brings the coverage skills necessary to keep quarterbacks from finding easy, open targets nearby in the first place. If we just look at some of the collegiate production — or lack thereof — McDuffie allowed from opposing receivers, it becomes pretty clear that he was maybe the best cover corner in all of college football last year.
Good morning, #ChiefsKingdom! Just sitting here thinking about how new Chiefs' cornerback @trent_mcduffie allowed:— Matt McMullen (@KCChiefs_Matt) April 29, 2022
- A grand total of 111 yards last year (No. 1 in FBS)
- 3.1 yards-per-target last year (No. 1 in FBS)
- ZERO TDs in each of the last two years
That is all!
The bottom line
McDuffie immediately provides the Chiefs a day one starter at the cornerback position — in the outside lane or in the slot. He has the positional versatility that teammates like L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton share.
Head coach Andy Reid has already provided a hint about where we can expect to see McDuffie align when training camp begins:
#Chiefs head coach Andy Reid says the team likes Trent McDuffie strictly as an outside cornerback.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) April 29, 2022
Joins L’Jarius Sneed, Rashad Fenton and Deandre Baker in the CB room. Reid sees McDuffie as a day-one contributor.
If things aren’t going as well for McDuffie on the perimeter, he can undoubtedly kick into the slot and be very effective. McDuffie, Sneed and Fenton all combine to create what should be a very sticky starting coverage unit at the cornerback position. While the latter two players have already proven themselves at the NFL level, it is McDuffie who has the most significant overall upside.
As a corner who didn’t elect to use his hands at the line of scrimmage much in college, it will be interesting to see if his approach changes at all. It should be viewed as unlikely — but if he does, it could signal a slight shift in Spagnuolo’s approach to coverage as well. Only time will tell.
On the night of the draft, I graded the pick of McDuffie an ‘A-’ and predicted he would have Pro Bowl selections coming in his future. Following further review, nothing about these thoughts has changed.
With a slew of young, fast, explosive talent now injected into the Chiefs’ secondary — McDuffie can start to build a résumé as an on- and off-field leader of one of the NFL’s most athletic defensive back groups — a stark change from what has been the case the past few seasons in Kansas City.