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Draft Darlings: Kenny McIntosh can be the Chiefs’ third-down running back

Kansas City needs a player who can fill Jerick McKinnon’s role in the offense.

University of Georgia vs Texas Christian University, 2022 CFP National Championship Set Number: X164274 TK1

In 2022, the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense got an unexpected boost when running back Jerick McKinnon turned in his best season since 2017, collecting nine receiving touchdowns. That led all of the league’s running backs in 2022 — and was tied for second-most in league history. His versatility as a receiver (and a pass protector) made him incredibly valuable to the team — and it’s likely that without him, Kansas City wouldn’t have won another Super Bowl.

But McKinnon — now a free agent — will turn 31 in May. Over his career, his injury history is concerning. Even in 2022, he dealt with various hamstring and ankle injuries. While Kansas City could very well bring him back for 2023, the team will still need insurance — both now and in the future — to cover McKinnon’s role as the primary third-down receiving back.

Should the Chiefs be looking for that kind of player on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, no player would be a better fit than Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh.

Here’s what you need to know about him:


Out of high school in Fort Lauderdale, McIntosh was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Oklahoma, Alabama, Michigan and LSU. He ultimately decided on Georgia. Over four seasons with the Bulldogs, McIntosh was largely a role player who registered just 280 carries while backing up eventual NFL players James Cook, Zamir White and D’Andre Swift. Among the running backs of this class, few will have fresher legs.

While McIntosh has kickoff return experience, his main value would come as a third-down receiver. As a senior, he caught 43 passes for 504 yards and two touchdowns — including an 83-yard catch against Georgia Tech — while playing 57% of his snaps on passing downs.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, McIntosh checked in at 5 feet 11 7/8 and 204 pounds. While he ran a pedestrian 4.62 40-yard dash, he had a 1.54-second 10-yard split, which ranked in the 70th percentile.

Film review

As a receiver, McIntosh has a lot of unique skills. Georgia was willing to play him in the slot and let him run option routes — something that most backs cannot do well. But McIntosh has the fluidity (and football IQ) to recognize leverages and attack them. In Georgia's positionless offense in 2022, his ability to run routes from the backfield (or the slot) was a big benefit.

McIntosh possesses soft hands — and can make defenders miss in space — which also allows him to be a vertical threat. Against Oregon, McIntosh ran a wheel route against one of the Ducks’ linebackers to make a play 25 yards downfield. While he isn’t a dynamic athlete, teams still had to respect his receiving ability; they rarely tried to cover him with linebackers.

But the thing to really get excited about is his skill in pass protection. It’s rare for a player to come out of college as a positive pass protector — but right from Day 1, McIntosh could protect the quarterback on any NFL team. Possessing the size and frame to handle linebackers and defensive backs, he’s also a very smart player. Ohio State ran multiple stunts and blitzes at him, but he sorted out every pressure and stonewalled the Buckeyes’ linebackers.

As a runner, however, McIntosh has limits. While he’s not big, explosive or shifty, he could still be adequate in a zone-running scheme. His vision has room to grow — but that’s largely because his run volume has been so low. With more coaching (and NFL experience), McIntosh could be an adequate ball carrier — but that’s all.

How he fits the Chiefs

McIntosh could immediately replace McKinnon’s third-down role in Kansas City. Like the veteran, he can align anywhere, run all the routes and be trusted in pass protection. McKinnon played an outsized role in the team’s passing game last season — and McIntosh should be able to step right in.

The bottom line

McIntosh will never be a primary running back. Even at Georgia, he wasn’t trusted with many responsibilities of the position. He was consistently a backup — but had a niche role as a third-down player.

On Day 3, however, there’s no running back I’d take before him. With his ability as a receiver and a pass protector, he’d be an immediate contributor. With running back Isiah Pacheco on the roster — and with Clyde Edwards-Helaire behind him — the Chiefs don’t need someone for those snaps. What they need someone to take McKinnon’s place — and McIntosh would fill that role perfectly. I’d be thrilled he lands in Kansas City.

Grade: Round 4 or Round 5

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