The Kansas City Chiefs held their three-day rookie minicamp this past weekend. In all, 72 players hit the field in hopes of making the Chiefs final 53-man roster come September.
The NFL draft is not the only path players take to fulfill their dream of playing professional football. If there is a place to see the different routes one could take, rookie minicamp is it. This year’s minicamp consisted of the six draft picks, 17 undrafted free agents already under contract, nine current Chiefs’ players who were eligible to participate and 40 players called in to try out.
To be able to succeed at the pro level it takes more than just being able to play football. You must be able to understand the terminology and be able to adapt to the speed of the game. An NFL playbook is massive, and you must be able to show that not only can you learn it, but can also translate that onto the field.
Playing on the gridiron is not only a physical grind but also a mental one. Everyone is out to prove they deserve a roster spot and the competition can wear on you emotionally. With a lot being thrown at players, coaches are looking at how players respond physically, mentally, and emotionally.
While we can not gauge all aspects the coaches grade players on, we can get a glimpse of how well they play. Let’s take a look at some highlight and notes from this years camp.
There was a lot of hype surrounding second-round pick Juan Thornhill coming into camp. After day two of the draft, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach noted that Thornhill had a knack for taking the ball away. It’s safe to say Thornhill did not disappoint.
On the very first day of camp, he proved Veach right.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 4, 2019
Thornhill, who was labeled a ballhawk in college with 13 picks, looked in complete control. He was out there communicating with the linebackers and other defensive backs pre-snap and looked comfortable on the field.
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid had this to say of what he saw out of the rookie:
“Everyday he got his hand on the ball. Everyday. He almost had one here in the red zone (on Monday). It looks like he’s got a pretty good feel for things. He’s got a little bit of a knack there. Good worker, smart, but again, you have to have that feel back there and he seems to have that.”
it’s going to be fun to watch how well he and newly signed safety Tyrann Mathieu can come together to help a defense that ranked 31st against the pass.
From the six Chief’s draft picks, none has been under the microscope more at rookie minicamp than Mecole Hardman.
When Kansas City moved up five spots from 61 to 56 to pick Hardman, many were left puzzled. And with Chief’s pro bowl receiver Tyreek Hill not participating with the team due to off the field issues, the questions only mounted.
Word started to go around that Kansas City had picked the speedy receiver out of Georgia to replace Hill if he got suspended or outright cut. But Would Hardman be able to fill the hole left by Hill was the question on everyone’s mind?
A rough start, but a strong finish.
Hardman’s first deep route he ran was not ideal, Reid went as far as to call it ‘brutal”. Draft experts stated that Hardman was going to need to improve his route running and it showed. He played in a run-heavy offense in Georgia so he never really got a chance to develop this skill, but as the days went by you could see improvement already.
Take a look at this at how well he can snatch this ball out of the air on this play.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 7, 2019
By the end of camp coach Reid was pleased with what he saw from Hardman.
“Every day he got a little better,” Reid said. “These are all new. These routes are new to him. He did a nice job in the red zone, which normally is the toughest place to work, but he did extremely well there. He had a good finish.”
As James Palmer of NFL Network reported, Hardman is expected to play day one. Hardman was not Hill insurance but someone that they had been eyeing for a while. And by the looks of how much he was on the field during camp, it would be safe to assume the same.
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) May 6, 2019
Additional camp notes
Overall the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs rookie minicamp was a good one. All the players drafted showed flashes of why the team liked them. However, it’s a non-contact camp so you can only see so much.
Running back Darwin Thompson, who the team drafted in the sixth round, looked comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield. He showed his ability to make cuts in the open field.
I would say the most impressive group at the rookie minicamp was the wide receivers, with undrafted free agent WR Cody Thompson shinning. It seemed like he had super glue on his hands, catching everything thrown in his direction.
Coach Reid had this to say about the WR group:
“I like that group,” Reid said after Monday’s practice. “There were a lot of different types of bodies, but I thought it was a good group. Again, you want that so you can give the secondary some work. I thought that was a pretty good group. I think overall this was probably the best overall group at all positions we had where you go out and really compete and make it real.”
Rookie minicamp signings
Kansas City signed receiver Rashard Davis and running back Marcus Marshall out of James Madison as well as safety Andrew Soroh and cornerback Herb Miller out of Florida Atlantic. The four players will come back on May 13th for another week of workouts. Organized team activities will begin on May 20th, where teams can go to 7-on-7, 9-on-9, and 11-on-11 practices.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @PFN365.