The Kansas City Chiefs became the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in 20 years for many reasons, and beyond the seismic impact of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, they relied heavily on young players once again. The Tyreek Hill era is long in the rear view in Kansas City, and now the organization is officially more successful after trading the star than it was with him.
Here’s a look at the 2024 NFL Draft prospects who could perform similar tasks to those performed by the Chiefs’ stars and vital role players en route to winning the Lombardi Trophy for the third time in five seasons. It’s a roster that other teams should look to in order to copy the Chiefs through the draft.
Thick, but explosive, strong RB
- For bosses: Isiah Pacheco
- 2024 prospects to fit this role: USC’s Marshawn Lloyd, Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright
200-pound backs with sub-4.40 speed are a challenge to find, but the Chiefs got one in the seventh round of the 2022 draft with Pacheco. Now, Lloyd and Wright probably won’t run 4.37 at the combine like the former Rutgers star did, but they have similar size and explosiveness in the second level as Pacheco.
Also, they run with a gritty, contact style that has become a trademark of Kansas City’s running backs. In the Super Bowl, Pacheco averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. However, he caught six passes for another 33 yards. Both Lloyd and Wright also have the ability to pick up and roll the planes quickly with the ball in their hands at over 200 pounds.
Long and very athletic outside corner coverage
- For bosses: L’Jarius Sneed
- 2024 prospects to match this role: Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, TCU’s Josh Newton, Notre Dame’s Cam Hart
Sneed is another Day 3 diamond in the rough discovered by Chiefs GM Brett Veach. And heck, Sneed played safety at Louisiana Tech and has emerged as one of the most sticky, play-making cornerbacks in football. He has decided to sign a monster extension in Kansas City after the season he had two picks, 16 total pass breakups (including the playoffs), a monster forced fumble in the AFC title game. Oh, and he allowed just one hit in nearly 800 snaps.
Sneed is indeed a rare cat, and it’s not just because of where he started college. He ran 4.37 with a 41-inch vertical at his pro day in 2020. It’s nearly impossible to predict how any prospect will test based on film alone — and there are always plenty of surprises at the combine — but Mitchell, Newton and Hart are most similar in size to Sneed, who appear to have top-level jump and quickness on the perimeter, and they will likely be selected at different parts of the draft.
Like Sneed, they all shine when facing the wide receiver in man coverage.
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Patrolling linebacker, active off the ball, with defensive running ability
It’s kind of early, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to get a load of linebackers in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. It might take none. And that helps this comparison. Bolton, after a stellar career at Missouri with over 200 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons with the Tigers, went in the second round of the 2021 draft. And he thrived cruising from sideline to sideline against run and splash on a random play in coverage.
I get a similar feeling from Bertrand and Cooper, two athletic second-tier backs who will probably be available on the second day of the draft — though Cooper has a better chance to go in Round 1 — and can be immediate impact NFL running backs holding their own when diving into zone coverage or running tight ends down the seam.
YAC-specialist wide receiver
- For bosses: Rashi Rice
- 2024 prospects to fit this role: Brian Thomas Jr. of LSU, Xavier Leggette of South Carolina, Malachi Corley of Western Kentucky
Rice was a second-round pick just a year ago and finished third in YAC his rookie season. Amazing. While he stretched defenses vertically at SMU more often than he did in his rookie NFL season, his balance of burst and contact with the ball in his hands on high-percentage throws translated perfectly to the pro game. Rice’s well-built frame aids in his ability to absorb hits and stay on his feet.
And the three I’ve highlighted above — Thomas, Leggette and Corley — are the three must-have 200-plus-pound wideouts who often deliver pop and are strong enough to consistently sustain contact. Thomas is the longest of the bunch, but Leggette and Corley have the “RB-type” body types that teams love when trying to add a YAC specialist like Rice to the roster. At last year’s combine, Rice was just over 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, and his college career was loaded with broken tackles. Leggette broke out in his final season at South Carolina, for years at Western Kentucky Corley was punishing with the ball in his hands and Thomas made defenders miss in the SEC often the last two seasons.