The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the best teams in the NFL at finding talent late in the draft. Could Isaih Pacheco be the next in line?
Running back was not a position of consistency for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021. Second-year back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a solid post-season performance, but injury and inconsistent play left much to be desired early on. Darrel Williams was solid but not special, recording over 1,000 all-purpose yards, but late-season injuries caused him to miss most of the playoffs. He is currently a free agent. Journeymen Jerrick McKinnon gave the Chiefs a late-season spark becoming a factor in both the running and passing games, but like Williams, he is also a free agent. Derrick Gore showed some spark at times and is still on the roster, but his status for the 2022 season is still up in the air.
In free agency, the Chiefs added Ronald Jones who spent the first four years of his career in Tampa Bay. In 2019 and 2020 Jones recorded two 1,000-yard seasons in the passing and running game but saw noticeably less playing time in 2021 as Leonard Fournette became the feature back for the Buccaneers.
A room of CEH, RoJo, and Gore would shape up for an interesting competition, but all three of those backs possess a similar skillset, and all play in a similar way. Helaire with better contact balance, Jones with more speed, and Gore showed the ability to make sharp cuts at the second level. This is fine, and with Patrick Mahomes, at QB with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL this could certainly be a fine unit, but Brett Veach had his eyes on diversifying the talent pool, and yet again went with a low-risk high reward prospect.
Isaih Pacheco ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of any running back in the 2022 draft class, at a 4.37, and gives the Chiefs the ability to run outside zone, pin + pull, and maybe even some toss plays to the perimeter. When the hits the hole he hits it hard, and he makes good cuts in the open field combined with good acceleration to be a big-play threat. This combined with solid hands makes him an exciting threat and a great fit for the Chiefs.
A bigger back, Pacheco is stand 5’11” and weighs 216 pounds and this size allows him to break tackles at the second level. His stiff arm still needs some development, but the general idea of how to create separation between him and a would-be tackler is there. This size will also make him a valuable candidate to learn how to be good pass protection back. Pacheco was not asked to protect much at Rutgers and has very raw blocking ability, but he seems to have the fire and size to be sufficient at picking up blitzes and helping the OL in the NFL.
The most important thing that Pacheco can bring the Chiefs is his breakaway speed. Right now only Ronald Jones has the second-level speed for the RB room and with some injuries, he has had in the last year that even seems limited. It should also be taken into consideration that Pacheco had one of the worst offensive lines in all of college football his entire time at Rutgers. He never had great production and never put up huge numbers, but it is hard for any back to make plays when his OL is consistently beaten at the line of scrimmage.
The Rutgers offensive line was one of the worst in the Big Ten and college football this last year, but a knock on Pacheco from scouts as he was not able to “create” out of the backfield. Now this may be due to Pacheco being a bigger back who does not use hesitation much, and he can certainly work on his patience, but it is hard for any back playing with a poor OL. He will not have to worry about this in Kansas City, as the Chiefs’ offensive line will be one of the most dominant in the NFL this upcoming season, and as mentioned in a previous article, new right tackle prospect Darian Kinnard looks to be a high-level starter and run blocker in the NFL.
The Chiefs’ offense will be good in 2022, and I refuse to believe any team coached by Andy Reid will struggle offensively. It may be a more methodical approach, but we will see if Pacheco makes an impact around mid-season. Early on I expect the Chiefs to use their new WRs to run a multitude of short or quick passing routes, as well as run the ball effectively up the middle. When teams start to change looks, packing the middle of the field with defenders will open up runs to the outside and this is where we can see Pacheco thrive in this offense.
A seventh-round pick making a huge impact on a team may seem like a stretch, but this is what Brett Veach does best. He also mentioned in a pre-draft press conference that there could be a high-level back drafted late.
“I told the guys that there is going to be a 1,000-yard rusher that is a seventh-round pick, just by the sheer volume of numbers.”- Brett Veach
This should make all Chiefs fans optimistic. With the offensive line the Chiefs have assembled, and with the combination of speed and power Pacheco brings to the table, we could be looking at an impact player who very few would have considered heading into the draft. This is not a boom or bust situation. The bar for seventh-round draft picks is very low, but if given proper coaching and used in the correct way Isaih Pacheco has a great shot at being a key player moving forward for Kansas City.