Kansas City continued the trend of drafting physically imposing players by taking perhaps the most physical in the entire draft.
Football can be a complicated game, and football can be a simple game. The analysis, scheme, and timing that goes into a perfectly executed play can take years to master, with hours of preparation in practice or in the film room. That’s the complicated side of the game. A team can practice a play or a situation for hours on end, but then just like that one very simple thing can happen that ruins everything.
Football is a physical and violent game and no other player in the draft quite encapsulates that mindset and playstyle quite like Leo Chenal. The 6’2″ 260-pound linebacker from Wisconsin was a menace in 2021 for the Badgers, racking up 96 tackles, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles. He is the exact prototype of a sam backer in the NFL, but he provides so much more and will be a swiss army knife for Steve Spagnuolo.
Chenal excels when blitzing, or walking up to the line of scrimmage and has a nose for the ball. He has freakish strength and athletic ability, and can often stand up offensive linemen in the hole, or use his quickness to get around them. His ability to penetrate and blow up blocks is impressive, but it’s his finishing and tackling that makes him special.
Chenal is built like a tank, but it’s his ability to move that could make him a special prospect. Not many guys in the sam linebacker mold are supposed to move as he does in space. In the clip above you can see the full range he has as an athlete, but also the instinct that he has to locate the ball and close in on the play.
While Chenal has not had many reps lined up along the edge, it does not seem that far-fetched to think that he might line up as a walk-up linebacker on the line of scrimmage, or even as an edge setter on run downs. He dominated against top offensive linemen, taking Tyler Linderbaum from Iowa to the woodshed. He is still raw in coverage, but Wisconsin did very little other than have him run with a head to steam after the ball carrier. What little tape there is does show promise that he can in time develop into a more complete player.
Chenal will bring plenty of attitude and toughness to a Chiefs defense that has at times been pushed around, or not held up their end of the deal to help the team. This reloading of the defense is being built around physicality. The Chiefs’ young linebacking core is stacked with talent, with both Nick Bolton and Willie Gay looking to continue to grow as a larger presence on the defensive side of the ball. With Bolton as the mike, Gay at the will, and Chenal at the Sam, the Chiefs very well might have put together one of the best and most diverse linebacker groups in football.