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Why Deneric Prince is a good bet for Chiefs’ 53-man roster

Kansas City likes the running back’s size, strength and ability in the return game.

Tulsa v South Florida Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Last year, general manager Brett Veach and the Kansas City Chiefs struck gold with their second-to-last selection in the NFL Draft, taking Isiah Pacheco out of Rutgers with the 251st overall pick in the seventh round.

In 2023, they hope for a similar outcome regarding an undrafted signee in the same room: Tulsa running back Deneric Prince, who chose Kansas City over Miami.

“He’s a guy that we’re excited about,” said Veach of the running back in May. “He’s a big kid that can really run. He ran one of the fastest 40 times at the combine [and he] has done a good job over the years of working on the passing game. So he’s, again, another talented kid that we’re excited to bring in here and we’re excited too about Isiah’s second year, and obviously, he had a breakout season last year... It’s a good room, and certainly Prince is going to come in here and compete for playing time and possibly a roster spot there.”

The 6-foot, 216-pound Prince has already drawn comparisons to Pacheco, and his measurables at the NFL Scouting Combine — highlighted by the 4.41 40-yard dash — place him in a similar overall percentile as Atlanta Falcons first-rounder Bijian Robinson.

Pacheco’s offseason surgeries have kept him off the field for organized team activities (OTAs) — and reigning December and January AFC offensive player of the month Jerick McKinnon has not been spotted at any of the three sessions open to media viewing.

That has led to critical reps for Prince, who is working with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and La’Mical Perine. With Veach mentioning Prince’s pass-catching ability in early May, it was timely when Prince showcased that ability Thursday, when he caught a touchdown pass right in front of media members as Veah chatted with them.

Watching from afar, head coach Andy Reid noticed.

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“Listen, I saw Veach over there coaching you guys up,” he said after the practice — drawing a laugh from reporters. “Yeah, he’s got really good hands and it looked like he caught one right when Veach was there, in the end zone, right in front of you guys.

”He’s done a nice job. Again, that’s part of the game. So, another part is the running game which we’re not doing [yet], except versus air, so we’ll have to see how all of that goes once we get there. But he’s a sharp kid, he’s got skill, looks like. He’s big and can run and has good feel for things right now.”

As Reid nudged, it will take more than good reps without pads for an undrafted free agent to crack a 53-man roster. What should help his case significantly is the special teams coordinator Dave Toub liking Prince as the candidate to replace Pacheco as the second-year running back takes on a more significant offensive role this season.

“[Prince] reminds me so much of – you guys remember (former Chiefs running back) Knile Davis?” asked Toub last week. “He reminds me of Knile; he even has the same number (No. 34).”

Davis had three kick-return touchdowns in his Chiefs’ career, including making one of the most important plays in franchise history on a score that led to the slashing of a two-decade-long playoff win drought.

Toub continued.

“[Prince] didn’t [return] in college, but he’s showing traits right now that he reminds me so much of Knile that it’s kind of scary — and, you know, Knile was pretty good for us. As he went on, obviously the touchdowns. And so, I see him in that role.”

Like any young player, Prince will have to grow in the pass protection department. But with the Chiefs so high on his size, strength and return ability — and having kept four backs at last year’s deadline — he will likely be afforded that opportunity as a member of Kansas City’s initial 53-man roster.

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