Kansas City Chiefs: Leo Chenal, LB
Sometimes the athletic numbers paint a significantly different picture than the film, which puts evaluators into a bind. That’s the case for 2021 breakout star Leo Chenal. The leader of the Wisconsin Badgers defense had elite production, including 115 tackles and eight sacks, but looked more like a straight-line athlete than what his offseason testing suggested.
The 6’2”, 261-pounder showed he’s not just powerful as he raced to a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and leapt to a 40.5-inch vertical and 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump. He also pumped out 34 reps on the bench and ran a 6.84-second three-cone drill at Wisconsin’s pro day.
He tested as arguably the most athletic pass-rusher in the class.
Kansas City appears to have the perfect role for Chenal at strong-side linebacker. At worst, if he isn’t comfortable in coverage, he can use his strength and power at the point of attack against the run or proceed to rush the passer. Being surrounded by top-notch athletes Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. will protect him from having to drop into coverage too often.
Chenal should be on the field as a pass-rusher early in his rookie season. Look for him to outperform some of his higher-drafted peers thanks to the unique traits he displayed at the combine and his pro day.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones
The Chiefs lost some of their star power this offseason with the Tyreek Hill trade and Tyrann Mathieu departure in free agency, but there’s still plenty to go around.
No player has converted more first downs or touchdowns as a receiver than Kelce since 2018 (274), and 263 of those have come from Mahomes. One would imagine that Mahomes would lean even heavier on Kelce in 2022 with Hill’s departure.
On defense, Jones is the player Kansas City needs to wreck offensive gameplans week in and week out. Frank Clark hasn’t lived up to expectations coming over from Seattle, leaving the Chiefs thin on impact pass-rushers beyond Jones. His 257 pressures over the last four years rank second among all interior defensive linemen.
Also considered: C Creed Humphrey and LG Joe Thuney
Once he got started in football, Karlaftis found he was not only good at it, but enjoyed it as well.
“My parents pushed me to do just about every sport imaginable,” Karlaftis said. “When you find the one you love, work as hard as you possibly can at it. I think there’s not a whole lot of sense of dedicating almost your whole life to doing something that you don’t do to the maximum ability every single time you’re out there.”
“I love everything about it,” Karlaftis said of football. “I love the offseason. I like the mental and physical challenge and strain and the chess game. I like every single play is a single challenge, both pre-snap, after the ball snap, during the play, whether it’s executing your assignment, making the play, doing the right thing, having the perfect technique and having to do that over and over again and being perfect.
“On top of everything else, you love the locker room, right? You love the connection and the bond you make with the teammates and everything that comes with that.”
Around the NFL
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jeff Gladney died in a car accident early Monday morning in Dallas, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported, per Gladney’s agent. He was 25 years old.
The cause of the crash and Gladney’s death remain under investigation.
“We are devastated to learn of Jeff Gladney’s passing,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his family, friends and all who are mourning this tremendous loss.”
Gladney was a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2020. The TCU product started 15 games his rookie season, collecting 81 total tackles, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. Gladney was released by the Vikings following an indictment for felony assault ahead of the 2021 season.
“We are saddened by the tragic death of former Viking Jeff Gladney,” the Vikings said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends, as well as the Arizona Cardinals organization and Jeff’s current and former teammates and coaches who are mourning his life lost much too soon.”
What seemed destined to happen after the Dallas Cowboys selected CeeDee Lamb in the first round in 2020 and gave him the hallowed No. 88 jersey is now a reality: Lamb is the Cowboys’ clear-cut top wide receiver.
“I feel like that’s just part of me, just being that guy and kinda being accountable for everything,” Lamb said after the first organized team activity last week. “If I don’t get going, nothing gets going, honestly. That’s how I approach the game. Just having this pressure, if you will, on my back, it’s whatever.”
Lamb might not feel the pressure in May, but come September when the games are real, things will be different.
“I think CeeDee is in a situation where all of a sudden, he’s going to have a lot more attention on him and how he deals with that will tell the tale,” Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown told ESPN. “There’s going to be a guy over you and a safety creeping over and that means you got to go to work. You’ve got to learn how to do that, learn how to beat double coverage and then sometimes triple coverage. I think that’s going to be a big adjustment for him.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
George Karlaftis have at least five more sacks than Frank Clark
If this happens, the Chiefs would be absolutely thrilled.
Unfortunately, this is very unlikely — unless Clark suffers a major injury and misses significant time.
Clark is coming off his lowest season sack total with the Chiefs: 4.5. Ironically, Karlaftis is also coming off a season with 4.5 sacks. The difference is that one did it in the NFL, while the other did it against college competition.
So let’s assume Clark again gets 4.5 sacks. That means Karlaftis would have to double his 2021 college sack total during his rookie year.
That seems unlikely.
A tweet to make you think
BuT KeLcE iSN’t ThE bEst TE iN tHe NFL https://t.co/iRRFoOF0Ee— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 26, 2022