It would be difficult not to be excited about the future of the Kansas City Chiefs’ linebacker position — especially after the 2022 NFL Draft. The franchise added Leo Chenal to a room that already included Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. It’s a rather compelling trio of young players.
However, Chenal wasn’t the only acquisition on draft weekend that impressed as a college linebacker. After their draft picks, the Chiefs secured former Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose as an undrafted free agent. He was impressive in Ames, earning the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2020 while also being named to the first-team All-America team by The Athletic.
In 2021, he didn’t rack up the same accomplishments — but he still showed why he could be an impact player at the next level. I dove into two games of his from 2021: matchups with Northern Iowa and Kansas State. Here’s what I learned about the young linebacker:
Rose was a three-star outside linebacker recruit from Ohio — committing to Iowa State as part of the 2018 recruiting class. He immediately contributed, racking up 75 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two passes defended as a true freshman.
His statistics consistently progressed over his four years on campus, ending with a senior year that saw a career-high with 12 tackles for loss and three sacks, despite missing two games to injury. His All-American 2020 season featured five interceptions and a career-high 99 total tackles.
For the Cyclones, Rose was a hybrid linebacker — splitting his time between being a box defender and a slot-aligned linebacker to help in coverage and on plays towards the sideline. In 2021, he played 39% of his snaps in a slot alignment according to PFF; he was second on the team in run stops as well.
Mike Rose is a LB prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.07 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 226 out of 2419 LB from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/P9ejnNcd1J #RAS— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) May 2, 2022
Rose was invited to the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, measuring at 6 feet 4 and 245 pounds — showing off a wingspan in the 91st percentile for linebackers historically and hands larger than 10 inches (85th percentile). He ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash at Iowa State’s Pro Day, with an impressive 6.94-second result in his three-cone drill.
College film evaluation
Rose had the versatility to make plays against the run and the pass both in and outside of the defensive box.
#Chiefs UDFA LB Mike Rose was a decorated college player. Big 12 POY in '20, The Athletic's first-team All-American that year as well— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 23, 2022
Played 3-4 OLB, widening as far as the slot a lot of times. His size didn't make it easy on TEs to deal with on the front of stretch runs pic.twitter.com/quxYoZ6xMk
His size never made him an easy block for tight ends or fullbacks on the front side of outside runs. His frame allows him to control the blocks with those kinds of players, but he has the athleticism to also move quickly around an oncoming blocker to force them back inside.
Rose appears to have a good feel for how to setup a blocker to miss in the run game, reading the ball carrier and putting himself in a good position to pounce last second at the ball carrier #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/hzb8BrMW1C— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 23, 2022
He does a good job getting the most of that athleticism by being an intelligent player at the point of a block. He looks to have a good feel for setting blockers up in the run game; on the front side of typical zone runs, the running back reads the helmet of that edge defender, knowing to cut up or outside depending on the leverage.
Rose has the explosive hand work and quick feet to give one read, then shed blocks, jump to the other direction and still be in a good position.
Rose boasts a 91st percentile wingspan and 85th percentile hands to go along with his 6'4", 245-pound frame. That length combined with decent seped can equate to a chase-down tackle on toss runs like this pic.twitter.com/VF3pIKbgGg— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 23, 2022
When he’s playing from the box, that athleticism translates to having pretty good range — especially because of his wingspan and arm length. He looks comfortable avoiding open-field blocks on the move, using jab steps to get second-level blockers off balance.
As you may have noticed in some of the Rose clips, he doesn't always finish the tackle once he gets to the point of attack. He actually missed 21.7% of his tackle attemps in 2021 per PFF -- the 2nd highest rate among Big 12 LBs (min. 500 snaps) pic.twitter.com/64fdJXQSB7— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 23, 2022
Rose looks great in a lot of the aspects that it takes to get to the ball carrier — but unfortunately, missed tackles do pop up frequently in his game. He missed 22% of his tackle attempts during the 2021 season, the second-highest rate among Big 12 linebackers.
He just plays too high at times, which can make him naturally slip off instead of putting a solid shoulder into the player. Yet, there are also times he doesn’t have the change-of-direction skills to keep up in space with receivers.
If he’s going to be the same type of hybrid linebacker at the next level, that will only get harder.
Part of the reason Rose won Big 12 POY in 2020 was his 5 INTs, which led the team.— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 23, 2022
You can see his comfort dropping into coverage, and also coming up to make a play on the ball here pic.twitter.com/5wKgmZ6i5Y
Mike Rose seals the Game pic.twitter.com/skqlIM2x2T— cyclone.sports (@clones_sports) November 8, 2020
One of the biggest reasons Rose won the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year was his five interceptions — the third-most in college football. He was asked to play in coverage much more than he was asked to blitz; he only blitzed on 10% of his total snaps his last season.
He moves well, carrying vertical routes up the seam and using his length to blanket the potential receiving window, also coming up and having a lot of surface area to defend passes at the catch point.
The bottom line
Rose will round out a very competitive group at the fringes of the linebacker position, competing for roster spots and special teams roles. Yet, his college résumé has the production of a player that could be more. He also had higher pre-draft expectations: The Athletic’s Dane Brugler graded him as a fourth-to-fifth round prospect — the 14th-ranked linebacker in the class.
Rose would’ve gone in 4th or 5th if not for injury that was diagnosed after the season. He has NFL starter tools. At minimum, a quality backup.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) May 23, 2022
He should be added to the group of Chiefs rookies to get excited about seeing for the first time this summer.