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Draft Darlings: Kelee Ringo could be a high-ceiling bet at cornerback

Our draft team feels Ringo could have an elite ceiling.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Texas Christian at Georgia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last offseason, we saw the Kansas City Chiefs overhaul their cornerback room.

The Chiefs traded up for Trent McDuffie in the first round and selected Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft. All three of those guys made major contributions on the way to the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory last season. Kansas City decided to gamble on three rookie cornerbacks — creating a secondary good enough to win a Super Bowl. The bet worked out.

In the context of the 2023 NFL Draft, there isn’t a lot of discussion about the Chiefs potentially looking to further address the cornerback position. With Kansas City needing to fill holes at offensive tackle, wide receiver and along the defensive line, cornerback has been pushed down the needs list. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chiefs address cornerback in the top 100 of this draft. They don’t need someone to start immediately but could look for someone with high-level traits and develop them beyond this season.

If looking for a potential high-ceiling bet at cornerback, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo would fit what the Chiefs typically like. Here’s what you need to know about Ringo:


Coming out of high school, Ringo was the top-ranked cornerback in the country and the fourth-ranked player nationally. Ringo had offers from every major school, including Alabama and Oregon, but ultimately decided to play at Georgia. Ringo has started 29 games over the past two seasons for the best defense in college football. Ringo made All-SEC second team voted by the Associated Press and the coaches.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Ringo measured at a staggering 6’1 3/4” and 207 lbs. Ringo’s arms are a bit shorter at just 31 1/4”, but his size profile is one of the bigger we’ve seen in a while. His 40-yard dash was impressive, running a 4.36 time. His other tests were not great having just a 33 1/2” vertical jump (17th percentile) and a 10’2” broad jump (49th percentile).

Ringo is one of the strongest cornerbacks I’ve ever watched. It’s not just his height and weight, but it’s also how well-built he is as a cornerback. When Ringo’s allowed to jam at the line of scrimmage, receivers have little chance of getting Ringo’s arms off his chest. He’s also extremely strong at the catch point, where he works through the hands and body of a receiver to destroy their chance to catch it. That strength also shows itself when Ringo goes to tackle, where he’ll throw you into the dirt if you attempt to run his way.

Ringo’s an interesting athlete. He’s not a particularly fluid athlete and has some rough moments on film changing directions. Ringo’s initial speed out of his stance isn’t terrific and he can get caught up trying to match a receiver at the line of scrimmage. However, Ringo’s build-up speed is some of the best I’ve ever seen. When Ringo is in a full sprint, he’s a terrifying force for opposing receivers. With his size and speed combination, I would trust him to hold up against any NFL wide receiver in a one-on-one matchup down the sideline.

The thing that I don’t feel Ringo gets enough credit for is his intelligence. Ringo’s route recognition — particularly in zone coverage — is terrific. When Georgia is playing zone coverage, Ringo is consistently peeling off his zones and reading where the ball is going according to the quarterback. Ringo might not have pulled in a ton of interceptions but multiple throwing windows were closed simply by Ringo reading a route concept and interfering with the receiver's ability to run into space.

How he fits the Chiefs

Georgia has presented an all-time collegiate defense over the last two years, but I would argue the scheme wasn’t a perfect fit for Ringo. Georgia doesn’t let their cornerbacks jam at the line of scrimmage often, preferring to have them try and match wideouts with their feet. Ringo’s too big to handle that, and that’ll be a problem in the NFL. He needs to go to a team that will let him get physical with receivers in bump-and-run coverage.

Well, no team fits that archetype more than the Chiefs. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves physical cornerbacks who disrupt timing at the line of scrimmage and is willing to give them help over the top with safeties. Ringo’s built for that, but he doesn’t need safety help to protect him vertically. In the Chiefs’ scheme, Ringo would thrive.

The bottom line

I feel the draft discourse around Ringo has been strange. I agree with the concerns about his athletic limitations — he’s a stiffer athlete who has scheme-specific limitations. If he’s playing for a more Quarters-heavy team that forces him to play more reactively, he’s going to struggle. Ringo’s too big to play in zone coverage and off the line of scrimmage.

Still, Ringo’s got the potential to be an elite press cornerback in the NFL. Few cornerbacks have his combination of straight-line speed and strength. There won’t be a receiver in the NFL who will like to feel Ringo’s hands on their chest. In the right scheme fit, I still think Ringo’s a positive contributor.

For the Chiefs, Ringo would bring a higher ceiling than Williams or Watson. Both are competent cornerbacks, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of room for growth in their futures. If Ringo’s falling to the end of Round 3, I would snatch him in a heartbeat. Guys with his size and speed shouldn’t be there in that range.

I doubt he makes it that far, but if he does, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him.

Grade: Round 3 or Early Round 4

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