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The NFL Draft’s hidden gems: Isaiah Land

At the Combine, lesser-known players will get a chance to perform — and the Chiefs should watch this hidden gem.

Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

Talent is talent, no matter where it comes from. All too often, scouts and the media focus on the blue-chip players from the powerhouses of the Power Five conferences. Players from these schools have been in the limelight since their high school days and are well-known headed into draft season.

While they garner more attention, in reality, they have just as much a chance of busting as any other prospect, and in some instances, the conference and their school have inflated their draft status, to begin with.

While it can be a long shot for players from smaller schools to get drafted— or let alone make the NFL — every year, a few prospects emerge with the perfect combination of film and intangibles that leave scouts drooling and shake up the typical way that things are done.

Linebacker Isaiah Land from Florida A&M is one of these players, and anyone familiar with the SWAC would agree.


The first thing that pops off the film for Land is his initial burst off the ball.

The ball is out of the quarterback's hand very quickly, but Land explodes out of his stance, and the left tackle does not even lay a hand on him. The left tackle bumps the 3-technique player (aligned outside of the guard), but he did not anticipate Land to get upfield so quickly.

If the ball is held for any longer, it would have been a free shot for Land.


Having edge rushers with flexibility and bend is becoming increasingly more common across the NFL as the mobile gunslingers of the modern game multiply.

Land used his quick first step to get upfield quickly during his career, but his elite level of flexibility allowed him to finish plays.

While the initial burst off the ball is good, the left tackle can catch up and starts to try to push Land up the field away from the quarterback. This should be a win, but Land can stretch his way back into the pocket and grab ahold of the quarterback just as he is about to throw.

The play does not result in a sack for Land, but it does result in an incomplete pass, displaying his ability to make an impact.


Pressures are good, but sacks are better. In his final season rushing, the passer at Florida A&M Land finished with eight sacks. A season before, in 2021, he finished with a whopping 19.5 sacks, which led all of Division I.

Land starts this play in a wide alignment, almost a whole gap away from the tackle. This has the offensive line thinking that they need to get out to him quickly and prevent him from using the elite bend to work around for a sack.

After covering space quickly, he darts inside, gears down, and gets past the left guard, showcasing high-level balance and flexibility. The quarterback tries to scramble, but he never has a chance.


After a dominant 2021 season, Land had built up quite the reputation for his final year in college. While his production was cut in half, it was mainly due to the attention that the other teams in the SWAC paid to him.

Against rival Jackson State University, he was subjugated to numerous double teams and chip blocks designed to slow down his pass rush.

The winner of the 2021 Buck Buchanan Award and two-time FCS All-American selection faced tests he had not previously taken. At times, teams could take him out of the game effectively and sometimes with borderline dirty tactics.

This would not be the case on whichever NFL team he lands on, especially if it were the Chiefs.

Fit with the Chiefs

Kansas City needs youth and athleticism on the defensive line, and Land would provide it. While he is not the prototypical type of edge that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has typically coveted — larger defensive ends (think Carlos Dunlap) — he would add an interesting skill set to the line.

At 6 feet 3 and 226 pounds, Land will likely start his career in the NFL as a designated pass-rush specialist, and he will likely be used primarily in pass-defense situations.

While he will have to develop other aspects of his game, he can make an immediate impact rushing the passer.

Since Spagnuolo has taken over, the team has never had a player that could be considered a "speed rusher," but Land could break the trend. Paired with a dominant interior player like Chris Jones, he would have ample one-on-one opportunities.

In theory, if Jones could create push in the middle of the line, and a quarterback was to scramble, a quicker edge like Land would have an easier time chasing down a quarterback than a larger, slower end.

The bottom line

Land would not be the first player the Chiefs have gone after from a small school, where they would have a chance to create an impact. Jody Fortson, Josh Williams, Skyy Moore, Andrew Wylie and Tershawn Wharton have all been contributing players who the Chiefs pulled and developed from non-Power Five colleges.

Williams is also an HBCU alumnus from Fayetteville State. Moore and Wylie — Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan — both played in the MAC, while Wharton and Forton are both Division II products.

The Chiefs leave no stone unturned, resulting in a wealth of talent from unlikely places.

Land will have yet another chance to bolster his draft status with the NFL Combine set to begin this week. Hopefully, the Chiefs have done their homework.

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