Once again, in 2022, the Kansas City Chiefs enter training camp with solid depth at the running back position. Starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire, veteran Jerick McKinnon and fourth-year running back Derrick Gore return to the lineup. The Chiefs signed veteran Ronald Jones in free agency and selected Isiah Pacheco in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
It has undoubtedly created an uphill roster battle for undrafted free agent Jerrion Ealy, but perhaps a practice-squad spot could be in the cards.
A highly-touted prospect, Ealy was mostly rated as a high-end four-star running back coming out of Jackson Prep in Jackson, Mississippi. Ealy immediately impacted the Ole Miss Rebels and earned over 100 carries as a true freshman. In fact, his 104 carries his freshman season were the fewest in his three-year collegiate career. He was also a dangerous kick returner, having returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2019 and again in 2020.
He totaled over 2,200 rushing yards and scored 20 rushing touchdowns while in Oxford. He was also utilized as a pass-catcher with 545 career receiving yards and catching four touchdowns. Ealy left Ole Miss with multiple postseason accolades and ranks sixth at the school for career rushing yards, less than 1,000 yards shy of Deuce McAllister for most rushing yards in school history. It was a stellar college career for a talented running back.
Even though he left a significant mark on the football field, Ealy is also known for his talents on the baseball diamond. He was a member of the Ole Miss baseball team during his time there and was even selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 31st round of the 2019 MLB Draft before he decided to join the Rebels.
Ealy didn't blow anyone away with his NFL Combine workout and, as a result, wound up going undrafted and signing with the Kansas City Chiefs.
College film evaluation
3rd & 10, Ealy gets the check down and he wastes zero time getting upfield and keeps the offense on the field by moving the sticks pic.twitter.com/LL9henXiSy— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) June 28, 2022
Ealy is talented in multiple facets of the game, and here we see him do what coaches love seeing. He does the little things right. On a third down-and-10, the quarterback checks it down to Ealy, who has some nice space to work in, and he gets north and runs behinds his pads after securing the catch.
He finishes the run with power and momentum and doesn't waste any motion to get the offense the first down. These non-highlight plays are the ones that land people jobs.
Ealy doesn’t like to go down without a fight pic.twitter.com/0Vb4VplJSP— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) June 28, 2022
Ealy is a fighter, and he doesn't go down easily. This is not a big play by any means, but you can see the toughness Ealy runs with. There isn't much space, but he gets what he can and keeps his feet pumping even after contact. He eventually goes down, but it took three tacklers to do it.
Ealy could make the Chiefs roster if he can provide this as a kick returner in the league pic.twitter.com/fvIcteZcbT— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) June 28, 2022
As fun as Ealy is to watch as a piece of the offense, his playmaking ability as a kick returner could be his ace in the hole. If he can carry over his success as a special teamer to the NFL, he could eventually land on the 53-man roster.
The Chiefs have been lacking a consistent return man who isn't Tyreek Hill, and now that Hill has gone to Miami, the need for a returner is greater.
Jerrion Ealy with some tough RZ running and finishes the drive with 6 pic.twitter.com/Pm9U1jJxSd— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) June 28, 2022
Red-zone scoring has been problematic for Kansas City during stretches of the season, and Ealy is a compactly built runner who packs a wallop. He can be leaned on — not only as a pass-catcher between the 30s but also inside the 20 — as he can get you the gritty short yards that can be so hard to get.
Here we see how hard he gets downhill and bulldozes his way into the end zone, punishing the would-be tackler.
Ealy making the play as a receiver again pic.twitter.com/xCUNyqRzY6— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) June 28, 2022
Ealy makes another nice play in the passing game.
This one is deeper and more electrifying, which is good to see on film. Ealy doesn't play scared or shy away from a big hit, so that could get him some reps on third downs. It is well-documented just how integral a pass-catching running back can be in an elaborate NFL offense.
The bottom line
Ealy has an uphill battle as it is to land a roster spot.
With a loaded Chiefs backfield, his special teams' prowess is what could earn him a roster spot. Showing he can be effective catching passes at the NFL level could help as well.
The Chiefs have voids that Ealy could fill, and the advantage for him is that he could fill multiple at the same time. He could be in a tough competition with fellow rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, who also provides versatility.
It is never easy to make an NFL roster, especially coming in as a bubble player, but keep an eye out for Ealy.