With the 103rd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Leo Chenal. Chenal is a linebacker out of the University of Wisconsin.
The linebacker position was not a huge need for Kansas City, which has two great starters with Willie Gay Jr and Nick Bolton. But Chenal was a talent that the Chiefs could not pass up at pick 103. He won the Butkus-Fitzgerald Award in 2021 as the Big Ten’s best linebacker. He’s a great value pick at 103; here are my initial reactions to explain why:
Leo Chenal = Run Defense Solution
Leo Chenal is a throwback to the middle linebacker style we all grew up on. When you think about what he brings to the table, think about Brian Urlacher and Zach Thomas. He will be a run-stuffing monster in the middle of the Chiefs’ defense. While not as athletic, his burst through the line reminds me of Derrick Johnson. He has no hesitation in his game; he turns into a missile toward the ball when he sees the play.
He has no problem taking on a lead blocker in the hole. Whether it is clogging the hole with the blocker or shedding him to make the tackle, Chenal is an automatic upgrade in the Chiefs’ run defense. As I said, he is not as athletic as Johnson, he isn’t a sideline to sideline guy, and he can get his ankles broken in the open field. But when it comes to downhill between the tackles, he will stop a running play in its tracks.
Gay And Bolton Are Still Starters
Chenal is a great addition to the linebacker room, but Gay and Bolton will still be the Chiefs’ top two guys. That is not a knock on Chenal; that is a nod to how good those other two are. But I don’t think Chenal is just some backup depth piece like Ben Nieman was. Chenal turns the Chiefs linebacker core into one of the best in the NFL.
He is a great blitzing linebacker that Spags will love to play with. I could also see some schemes that would have him with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end due to his size. Can you imagine a front four of Frankl Clark, Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, and Leo Chenal? The speed and power of that random lineup would blow the minds of an offensive coordinator a few plays a game.
The point is Chenal could be a starting middle linebacker for many NFL teams. For the Chiefs, he will be a high motor run stuffer who has pass-rushing abilities when used correctly. He won’t be doing any coverage, but we got Gay and Bolton for that. For fans screaming for the team to stop the run better, this is a dream selection with the 103rd overall pick. He will be a fan favorite very quickly!
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