Defensive line help is at the very top of the needs list for the Kansas City Chiefs — both along the interior and at pass rusher.
Which position is of greater need is open for debate, but wouldn't it be cool if instead of having to draft two guys to fill these roles, the Chiefs could find a defensive Swiss army knife who can play anywhere along the line?
This isn't a foreign idea for the Chiefs.
In fact, I would argue it's the direction the defense is heading. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo routinely kicked edge rushers like Carlos Dunlap and George Karlaftis inside last season, while moving Chris Jones out to defensive end. This versatility allows Spagnuolo to exploit individual mismatches along the opposing team's offensive line. If a team is weak in one place, he can shift a specific pass rusher into that position.
Of all the players in this draft, Bowling Green defensive end/defensive tackle Karl Brooks fits that mold best.
Brooks was a three-star prospect coming out of Sexton High School in Lansing, Michigan. He played his senior season at Sexton at 6'3" and weighing 220 lbs. Brooks was the number 2,078th-ranked prospect and the 45th-ranked linebacker in the nation. Bowling Green was the only Division I school to extend an offer to Brooks. Besides Bowling Green, a handful of Division II schools were also interested in him.
Once at Bowling Green, Brooks bulked up to 300 pounds and shifted to the defensive line. If we are judging a prospect on production alone, you would be hard-pressed to find a better player than Brooks. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 93.00 in 2022 — when he compiled 12 sacks, 49 hurries, four batted balls and 36 stops. One small area of concern for Brooks is his missed tackle rate. In 2022, he missed nine tackles for a missed tackle percentage of 20.5%.
Recently, at his pro day, Brooks said that the day after Bowling Green lost the Quick Lane Bowl to New Mexico State, he boarded a plane to Florida and began training for the draft process.
“I’ve been down there ever since, up until March 10, down there training, eating right, making sure I’m going to bed early.”
Brooks was one of the more inexcusable snubs at the NFL Scouting Combine this year, especially after he had a solid showing at the Reese's Senior Bowl.
The one thing that might knock Brooks in the Chiefs' eyes is his arm length. He only measured in with 32-inch arms and a 77-inch wing span at his pro day. That being said, the Chiefs drafted George Karlaftis in 2022. Karalftis only boasted a 78 5/8-inch wingspan.
In 2022, Brooks lined up over the tackle for 231 snaps, while lining up outside 387 times. Whether coming from the inside or the outside, Brooks shows good power and sudden violence with his hands. He has a plus bull rush from both positions. He is not the bendiest player, so some experts believe he will make his living on the inside at the next level. But as we've seen with the Chiefs — with players such as Karlaftis — they are okay with sacrificing some bend as long as the player possesses enough power which Brooks has in spades.
While there are highlights out there of Brooks just blowing up opposing defenders, I chose these clips because they are against Mississippi State. These particular opponents aren't small school fodder for the hype reel; this is the SEC.
Karl Brooks is a guy with inside/outside versatility who plays with a lot of fire in his gut and doesn't take plays off. pic.twitter.com/tKseZsPW22— Rocky Magaña (@RockyMagana) April 6, 2023
Brooks rarely takes a snap off, maintaining his intensity throughout the course of the game. In the play above, Brooks starts out wide and then stunts back in toward the middle of the line, catching the tackle off guard and gaining inside leverage, which allows him to beat the double team through sheer will and collapse the pocket.
One thing I did notice about Brooks while watching his film is that when he lines up on the outside, he looks a little more comfortable rushing from the left side than the right.
Bowling Green DT/EDGE Karl Brooks puts a lot of pressure on the QB with his pass rush, but he's also athletic enough to drop back and spy the QB. pic.twitter.com/LMdBWiE9Gd— Rocky Magaña (@RockyMagana) April 6, 2023
In this clip, Brooks shows positional flexibility and a little bit of his linebacker background. While you aren't going to want to leave Brooks one on one with George Kittle, you can drop him back to spy on the quarterback on occasion, and he has the athleticism to read and react to the quarterback's eyes (as he does above), batting the ball down.
How he fits with the Chiefs
Brooks is a natural fit for where the Chiefs want to go with their defense. Pairing him next to Chris Jones on the interior would give the Chiefs pass-rush juice from the middle that we haven't seen in the Andy Reid era.
Brooks could also be an edge replacement for Karlaftis when he is off the field.
The bottom line
Brooks' versatility is his superpower. There will be teams out there who covet his mixture of size, speed, power and athleticism — and whether the Chiefs will be one of them remains to be seen.
It would be worth the additional investment in resources to trade up to the top of Round 3 to nab Brooks.