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On the Draft Board: Western Kentucky cornerback Kahlef Hailassie

Kansas City has scheduled a meeting with a draft prospect who once played at Oregon.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 WKU at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs have been reported to have interest in a few prospects from the University of Western Kentucky, which held its Pro Day on Thursday. The Chiefs had already scheduled a Top 30 visit with defensive tackle Brodric Martin, but The Draft Network’s Ryan Fowler also revealed a planned visit with cornerback Kahlef Hailassie.

What is a top 30 visit?

A top-30 visit gives an NFL team a chance to bring a draft prospect into Kansas City for a wide variety of evaluations. Teams can use these visits to measure a player’s physical traits, test their football knowledge, gauge their physical agility and get a feel for their personality.

Teams are only allowed 30 of these visits, which is where the name comes from. These meetings sometimes occur because there is genuine interest in a prospect. Other times, they may be used to feign interest in a position or prospect to confuse other teams during the draft.

Here’s what to know about this sleeper cornerback prospect:


Even though he also played wide receiver, Hailassie became a three-star cornerback recruit out of his California high school. He originally committed to the University of Oregon, where he played in all 13 games as a true freshman — mostly on special teams. After two uneventful seasons, Hailassie transferred to Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas.

After one year away from major college football, Hailassie enrolled at Western Kentucky, where he immediately became an impact player. Over two seasons, he totaled 123 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 15 passes defended and three forced fumbles. He was named an honorable mention to the 2021 All-Conference USA team and then earned second-team honors in 2022.

At Western Kentucky’s Pro Day, Hailassie measured in at 6 feet and 195 pounds; his arms were measured at 32 1/4-inches. The more noteworthy numbers, however, were his results from the movement drills: he ran the short shuttle in 4.06 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.68 seconds. Both are impressive marks for a player of his size.

Film evaluation

At Western Kentucky, Hailassie played almost exclusively on the outside, mainly matching up against wide receivers in short-zone coverage. There he used his size and movement skills to take up outside space in Cover 2 looks.

In those looks, the Hilltoppers would trust Hailassie to press the receiver at the line of scrimmage. There, he’s confident about delivering the initial punch and slowing down a receiver’s release. His ability to change direction allows him to play in a trail technique after the initial press, daring the quarterback to test the window over his head.

That can lead to an interception like this first one, where Hailassie quickly works up from the line of scrimmage to completely close the small window the quarterback thinks he has.

He also has the trigger to go downhill on shorter routes when he sees them, using his size to either get to the ball or blow up the pass-catcher.

Hailassie comes off as a playmaker, using good instincts in zone coverage to make plays on the ball and anticipate route combinations.

Here — late in the fourth quarter of an important conference game — he isn’t moved by the post route into the end zone. Instead, he sits on the wheel route and makes a game-sealing interception.

He is, however, much more of a playmaker in coverage than he is as a tackler. He displays an inconsistent ability to get off blocks and make solid tackles.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Hailassie is projected to be a Day 3 selection in the NFL Draft — but his name could be called early in the day. His profile is similar to Kansas City cornerbacks Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams. While Hailassie may not have the size that either of them possess, he may have an edge in both athleticism and movement skills — while still showing aggressiveness in coverage.

But both Watson and Williams are very willing tacklers, which allows them to be effective against the run. If Kansas City selects Hailassie, that’s where he will have to improve.

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