Kansas City Chiefs 2019 Rookie Report Card

Kansas City Chiefs 2019

The Kansas City Chiefs entered the 2019 season with six rookies on the roster. None of them were expected to be large contributors to this year’s campaign. However, thanks to the injury bug that seems to have bitten the Chiefs, four of the six rookies have found themselves in significant roles. With over half the season in the books, let’s look at how these new Chiefs are performing.

Kansas City Chiefs 2019 Rookie Report Card

Mecole Hardman

Round Two, Pick 24

It didn’t take long for Mecole Hardman to break into the starting lineup. Tyreek Hill went down with a shoulder injury week one against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He would miss the next four weeks with a sternoclavicular injury. During this absence, Hardman totaled 246 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He is still producing even with Hill back in the lineup. In fact, Hardman has only 10 less receiving yards than Hill currently. Lining up in the slot has presented some favorable mismatches, allowing Hardman to use his speed against slower linebackers. While he still has some improvement to make in his footwork, the former Georgia Bulldog has been an instant contributor this season.

Grade: B+

Juan Thornhill

Round Two, Pick 31

Kansas City’s secondary was a mess in 2018. They ended the season as the second-worst pass defense. This season, the secondary is ranked 11th in passing yards allowed. Much of this can be credited to the play of Juan Thornhill. It was a surprise to many when Thornhill was announced as the starting safety next to Tyrann Mathieu. Most expected the veteran Daniel Sorensen to have this role. Instead, Sorenson has found himself in the nickel role. This is for the better since Thornhill does struggle to make tackles occasionally. In the nine weeks that have passed, Thornhill has demonstrated an impressive range and superior coverage abilities. According to Pro Football Focus has allowed 0.09 yards per coverage snap, the lowest in the league. It is early on but it seems the Chiefs may have picked the best safety in the draft.

Grade: A-

Khalen Saunders

Round Three, Pick 21

Khalen Saunders didn’t impress during the preseason. It was believed he would sit most of the year out learning from Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi. He didn’t see any action through the first four games until Jones suffered a groin injury. He was productive, posting six tackles, one sack, and two quarterback hits. Now that Jones has recovered from his injury, it’s unlikely we’ll see Saunders playing many downs. He hasn’t been disappointing for a late third-round pick. On the other hand, he hasn’t been particularly impressive either.

Grade: C

Rashad Fenton

Round Six, Pick 29

It’s no secret that Kansas City’s secondary was a disaster last season. It was surprising that they waited until the sixth round to draft a cornerback. Rashad Fenton didn’t get an official start until Week 7 after Kendall Fuller suffered a broken thumb requiring surgery. Against the Denver Broncos, Fuller had four tackles and a pass defended. In the three games Fenton has played in there have been flashes of brilliance. Pro Football Focus has given him a 65.4 grade this season, the second-highest grade of any cornerback on the Chiefs’ roster. For a late sixth-round pick, Fenton has been a steal.

Grade: B

Darwin Thompson

Round Six, Pick 42

Darwin Thompson on paper is the perfect fit for Kansas City. He’s extremely athletic, posting a 4.5 second forty yard dash time and a 39-inch vertical. In the preseason Thompson demonstrated explosive speed and averaged four yards a carry. He impressed coaches, moving up the depth chart above recent off-season signing Carlos Hyde (who was later cut). Thompson had carved out a role for himself in Andy Reid‘s offense until the Buffalo Bills cut LeSean McCoy. Reid scooped up his old running back quickly, pushing Thompson out of any playing time. This season he only has four rushing attempts. The talent is there, and he seems to fit into the scheme, but until an opportunity opens up we will be left waiting until next year.

Grade: C

Nick Allegretti

Round Seven, Pick Two

Nick Allegretti‘s lack of playing time this season should come as no surprise. The guard from Illinois has mainly been used as an extra blocker (technically tight end) in those single back 3 tight end sets Andy Reid loves so much. He also can play center if the Chiefs needed him to. Having a lineman with that type of versatility allows the Chiefs some roster flexibility. Unless the offensive line sustains more injuries, however, it’s unlikely we see Allegretti much this season.

Grade: C+

So far this season, the Chiefs 2019 rookies have been a good bunch. Keep in mind these grades are not just performance-based. Where they were drafted also is a factor when grading rookies. If there was a redraft tomorrow it’s possible Hardman and Thornhill would be first-round picks. As for the others, we will have to wait and see.

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