clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

On the Draft Board: Kansas DE Lonnie Phelps

Kansas City has met with an explosive (and fast) pass rushing specialist from down the road in Lawrence.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Tennessee Tech at Kansas

The NFL Combine kicked off on Monday, leading to many emerging reports and rumors about the NFL Draft in April. On Wednesday, one prospect told reporters that he has met with a number of teams — including the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here’s what to know about a potential Kansas City draft target:


Out of high school, this Cincinnati native was a three-star recruit who started his collegiate career at the University of Miami-Ohio, spending his first three seasons with the Redhawks. Over three seasons at Miami, Phelps had 16 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. He was named to the third squad of the All-MAC team in 2020 and the second squad in 2021 with a career-high 9.5 sacks. For his redshirt junior year, Phelps transferred to the University of Kansas, where he produced 7 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss for the Jayhawks — and in 2022, was voted to the second squad of the All-Big 12 by both the Associated Press and the conference’s coaches.

That was enough to earn Phelps a spot in the 2023 Senior Bowl. Coming into college, he measured 6’3” and 213 pounds — but over time, he bulked up. At the Senior Bowl, Phelps came in at 6’2” and 251 pounds — with 31 1/8-inch arms, 9 1/8-inch hands and a 75 7/8-inch wingspan. While he’s still considerably undersized by NFL standards, he was able to add density to his frame during his collegiate career.

Film evaluation

On film, Phelps is an intriguing prospect. Being an undersized player shows up quickly: his lack of power and length make him vulnerable against the run, you can see that he can’t collapse a pocket with a bull rush. Phelps isn’t overly flexible, either; he shows some hip rigidity while trying to turn corners.

Still, there’s a lot to like in Phelps’ film. He has a dynamic first step — and terrific straight-line speed. You see plays where Phelps runs sideline-to-sideline to chase down a quarterback; it’s clear his motor never stops. While he doesn’t have the flexibility to turn a tight corner, he has enough speed and explosiveness to close the space around a longer corner, using his quick hands to get a better upfield angle.

Once Phelps gets a tackle to overset, he’s particularly dynamic. He loves to attack the tackle’s inside shoulder, using his explosiveness to push off his outside foot and counter inside. On film, you see a variety of moves to work inside; he creates multiple sacks by reading an offensive lineman’s pass set and attack their vulnerabilities. Phelps can attack well with either shoulder — which is an issue for slower NFL tackles.

How he fits with the Chiefs

As a run defender, Phelps doesn’t fit Kansas City. He lacks the length, density and experience to set the edge — and at the next level, and teams will likely attack his aggressive nature. These issues could limit his fit in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, which rotates defensive ends on early downs.

So if the Chiefs want Phelps, it will be for his very good pass-rushing tools; Kansas City doesn’t currently have a pass rusher with Phelps’ explosiveness and speed. He can help the team by being able to rush up the arc — or, when needed, working inside. Phelps also has the juice to chase the league’s growing roster of mobile quarterbacks.

The bottom line

Most teams won’t like Phelps’ lack of size and flexibility, so it’ll be hard for him to make an impact on running downs at the next level. That will limit his potential snaps — and by extension, his draft stock.

Still, I like Phelps as a Day 3 option. Other edge rushers available in later downs lack athleticism — but Phelps has plenty of that. I love when teams draft pass-rushing specialists on Day 3, hoping to find one who can stick. I could see Phelps working out in the NFL — and considering he’s a local product, I’m sure Jayhawks fans would love to see him move from David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium to GEHA Field at Arrowhead.

NEW: Join Arrowhead Pride Premier

If you love Arrowhead Pride, you won’t want to miss Pete Sweeney in your inbox each week as he delivers deep analysis and insights on the Chiefs' path to the Super Bowl.