Now that the Kansas City Chiefs’ general manager Brett Veach has executed some good drafts over the past few years, he has built a young team with just seven players over the age of 30. I am among those who believe that good teams are built through the draft — rather than free agency — so Veach’s recent drafts should play an important role in keeping the team’s championship window open.
But we shouldn’t overlook another source for young talent: draft-eligible players who are not taken in the draft — and are therefore free to sign with any team as undrafted free agents (UDFAs). Most of them are signed in the hours after each draft concludes; GMs and their staffs must scramble to sign the prospects they want.
Safety Deron Cherry is one of the greatest safeties in Kansas City history. He — along with three-time All-Pro running back Priest Holmes and two-time All-Pro offensive guard Brian Waters — are among the UDFAs who are now enshrined in the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame. No fewer than nine UDFAs were on the team’s 2022 championship roster — including Andrew Wylie, Jody Fortson, Tershawn Wharton, Shane Buechele, Tommy Townsend and James Winchester.
Training camp is always the real proving ground for UDFA rookies. As it gets underway, let’s consider three who could push for a roster spot in 2023.
Offensive lineman Jerome Carvin (Tennessee)
Jerome Carvin is one UDFA that the Chiefs signed that I think has real shot at making the 53 man roster. pic.twitter.com/yxFKRfVPUx— Rece Veach (@ReceNickelz) July 21, 2023
Checking in at 6 feet 4 and 307 pounds, Carvin brings much experience and versatility — traits that head coach Andy Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck both value greatly. Through a five-year career with the Vols, Carvin logged 21 starts at left guard, 17 starts at right guard and five starts at center. Like fifth-year player Nick Allegretti, his ability to play all three interior positions could make him a good depth piece for the Kansas City offensive line.
He also possesses chemistry with some of the team’s other linemen, having played alongside starting right guard Trey Smith and rookie third-rounder Wanya Morris during his time at Tennessee.
Cornerback Kahlef Hailassie (Western Kentucky)
The Chiefs list this six-foot, 193-pound cornerback as a safety. They were interested in him early in the process, bringing him in for a Top-30 visit prior to the draft. He started his last two years with the Hilltoppers, tallying 107 tackles (11 for loss), three interceptions, three sacks, two forced fumbles and 16 passes defended.
He is a versatile defender who can play in multiple spots on the back end. Fluid and controlled in his movements — which always translates well to the NFL — he attacks the ball when it’s in the air and can make big plays.
Whether it’s to get the final roster spot for a cornerback or a safety, Hailassie will be making a strong push.
Running back Deneric Prince (Tulsa)
Big and strong, Prince brings 4.4 speed in a six-feet, 216-pound frame; in the open field, he is a load to bring down. He averaged more than five yards per attempt in each of his three seasons at Tulsa. Like he says, he has the makings of an every-down NFL running back, possessing good vision and agility. He has the soft hands needed to catch out of the backfield — and is strong (and willing) enough to pick up a blitz as a pass protector.
Special-teams coordinator Dave Toub is already eyeing Prince as a kick returner, which might be his ticket to claim a roster spot; given the team’s running back room, it might otherwise be difficult to carve out a role. Still, he is going to keep the pressure on every player in front of him. Like Isiah Pacheco last season, he might take another grown man’s job. He could be the most complete back on the roster.