An organization in search of its seventh consecutive division title, the Kansas City Chiefs under head coach Andy Reid have evolved into one of the most successful, dominant units football has had to offer over the last decade. For a franchise headlined by All-World talent Patrick Mahomes and one of the best to ever suit up at the tight end position in Travis Kelce—despite headlines this summer centered around the departure of Tyreek Hill—an influx of youth-infused talent could step stool the Chiefs into competing for another title come February.
Following the departure of Charvarius Ward, the selection of former Washington corner Trent McDuffie immediately inserted a film junkie with a nose for the football on the perimeter. The poster child of the Chiefs’ draft class who has stood out early this summer, it won’t take long for Kansas City to reap the reward of his play in a high-flying AFC West.
As much as his rookie campaign will come with speed bumps and detours as he adjusts to the speed of the pro game, McDuffie’s attention to the acute details of the cornerback position has placed him in a spot to not only compete but produce in a variety of ways this fall. A fluid-moving corner who isn’t afraid to stick his face in the mud at the line of scrimmage, he’s the type of player defenses rally around.
Working in tandem with Kyler Gordon during his time with the Huskies, McDuffie presented a black hole for opposing signal-callers to attack each and every week. While his frame doesn’t pop off the screen like a Sauce Gardner or Tariq Woolen, what he lacks in vertical prowess and length he makes up for in his mirroring and matching, playmaking ability, and elite football IQ that has reportedly shined during team periods.
Fellow first-rounder George Karlaftis (Purdue) has also had his moments in camp. While he failed to present the sexy intangibles of a Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson, microscoping Karlaftis’ deep toolkit outside the tackles produced some of the most impressive tape from the college game last season.
Everything for the 6-foot-4 defender starts up top with his hands. He wins early, wins often, and in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s a quick rip move to grease the edge or a “catch” of the opposing tackle’s hands to then quickly swim to the inside, he’s as technically refined as they come out of school. Although he doesn’t possess elite burst or ideal flexibility in his lower half to bend the edge and shorten angles around opposing linemen, it’s his knack for consistently using his power as a launch point that sneaks up on tackles tasked with blocking him—making it a tall task to keep him off the sack sheet and outside of the pocket for a full 60 minutes.
Although it’s been an easy comparison to make, and one that has made its way around inner circles for quite some time, his skill set out of Purdue has mirrored that of former Boilermaker All-American and the Washington Commanders’ franchise leader in sacks, Ryan Kerrigan. Two of the least sexy prospects in their respective classes, neither would go first off the board if you lined up each pool of talent in a t-shirt and shorts, but when you strap up and are forced to block ‘em, heads turn and pads pop.
Where some edge prospects may open eyes in the 40-yard dash or jump out of the gym, Karlaftis is all about production under fire. A much-needed addition at 5-technique for Kansas City, his presence within a veteran front four could provide the juice needed to take the load off of Chris Jones in the middle.
The fun really begins, however, on the opposite side of the ball with second-rounder Skyy Moore and late Day 3 selection Isaih Pacheco.
A small-school product out of Western Michigan, Moore rose late in the draft process. An athlete with outstanding stop-start ability and the knack for creating separation, the 5-foot-10 talent was uncoverable during his three seasons in the MAC, totaling 2,482 receiving yards on 14.5 yards a pop. Nothing has changed thus far in his first camp, as Moore has received a bulk of the work with the starters in a new look wideouts room.
His suction cups for hands have showcased themselves early and often as well, as his catch radius and ability to haul in any throw within a 10-mile radius could offer a security blanket outside of Kelce for Mahomes to target. And considering the number of fresh faces around him in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marques Valdes-Scantling, don’t fall into the trap that is a preseason depth chart—Moore will play a significant role in year one.
For Pacheco, he’s a Ferrari molded in the frame of a Mack truck, and it won’t take long for Chiefs faithful to endear themselves to the seventh-round ball-carrier. A standout at Rutgers whose burst will further expand the Kansas City playbook, he’s been a standout early at camp.
With Hill in Miami, the need for speed within the Chiefs’ offense is at an all-time high. While no one in football presents a skill set like Hill’s, the arrival of Pacheco—someone that can both run through and around defenders—should earn him touches early if all comes to fruition. A backfield headlined by former first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire, offseason addition Ronald Jones, and Jerick McKinnon, Pacheco’s path to snaps will be a treacherous one in the fight to 53. But with a deep bag of traits, it’ll be hard to keep him out of uniform.
Despite his draft slot, early signs in 11-on-11 work have seen him earn snaps alongside Mahomes. While it could be nothing, with smoke, there’s fire—and we aren’t in spring OTAs anymore. A 4.37 40 runner at the combine, what makes Pacheco so darn intriguing is his ability to do it all wherever he aligns at the snap.
It’s no secret offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Reid remain one of the more creative duos in all of football, and with a thoroughbred athlete like Pacheco waiting in the wings, scheming him touches shouldn’t be an issue with all eyes focused on the dynamic tandem of Mahomes and Kelce. While his numbers during his time with the Scarlet Knights failed to jump off the page, it’s all about projection, and there isn’t a single offense in football more scheme-versatile and more willing to tailor scheme than the Chiefs. They do it all.
A between-the-tackles role could be where he finds his straightest path to snaps. Behind a 216-pound frame that will allow him not only to holster against the physicality that comes within the trenches but shake off arm tackles only to stick his foot in the ground and rapidly work up to his 4.3 speed, presents a unique athlete into an offense expected to regress this fall.
Although expectations must be tempered to a point—he is a seventh-round rookie—diamonds are excavated from the rough each and every year and the Chiefs have made it a habit of striking gold often—from 2021 sixth-rounder Trey Smith to Hill, a fifth-rounder out of West Alabama in 2016. Pacheco could quickly provide elite value to an offense with Super Bowl aspirations once again this winter.
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