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This Chiefs Rookie Is Set To Contribute Most In 2022

With so many high-caliber rookies joining the Chiefs in the NFL draft, it’s difficult to pinpoint which rookie stands to make the biggest impact in their first season. George Karlaftis seems to have an inside edge on the starting defensive end job. Fellow first-rounder, Trent McDuffie, stands to start his career among the top three corners on the defense. And Leo Chenal, an underrated prospect from the third round, will certainly enter the defense with a chance to be the starting strong-side linebacker.

Which of these talented rookies has the inside shot to contribute the most? Perhaps Karlaftis, who the Chiefs drafted to help repair one of the worst pass rush units in the league last season. Let’s take a deeper look at the path each rookie has towards a starting role in 2022.

Each Chiefs Rookie Faces Veteran Competition In Training Camp

Each rookie faces a somewhat similar path toward becoming a starter for the Chiefs. Sure, Karlaftis was a first-round pick and will certainly get his reps. He might even start but there are some questions remaining about his ability against the run. This weakness in his game could open the door for Mike Danna.

Danna, a 24-year-old defensive end, enters his third season in 2022. He started six games last season and tallied three sacks. Danna was a fifth-round pick by the team in 2020. Last year’s additions, Joshua Kaindoh and Malik Herring, also stand to contribute. It’s easy to see that Karlaftis will contribute in some way, but a large number of unknowns along the defensive line could limit his snaps.

The situation is similar for McDuffie, the Chiefs’ first selection in the draft. The team drafted him at pick 21, but PFF ranked him as their number 11 overall draft prospect. With such a high draft stock, it’s no uncertainty that he will play a key part in the defensive game plan next season. However, returning cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton have an inside track to more reps. Both have flashed brilliance early in their careers. The team also traded for Lonnie Johnson Jr. in the offseason. With Charvarius Ward now gone, McDuffie, Johnson, and Deandre Baker stand to compete for the third cornerback position next season.

One Chiefs Rookie Faces An Easier Path To Snaps On Defense

Each of these three rookies stands to garner a solid number of defensive snaps. However, Leo Chenal faces perhaps the easiest path to snaps. The linebacker hopes to fill a gaping void left after three major contributors departed this offseason.

Ben Niemann, Daniel Sorensen, and Anthony Hitchens all played a hefty amount of snaps on defense last season. Next season, none returns. Nick Bolton figures to assume Hitchens’s role as the Mike Linebacker, holding down the middle of the field and directing the defense. Thanks to his blazing speed, Willie Gay Jr. stands to again take his role as the weakside (Will) linebacker.

Chenal, with his outstanding pursuit ability and prowess as a tackler, stands to fill the strong-side linebacker role immediately. As a SAM linebacker, Chenal will be able to excel in the run game.

Leo Chenal is a playmaker, and his versatility will help him earn playing time with Spags scheme. As the A gap walk up here, he gets off the line quick, beats the RG's reach block, and makes the TFL. Quickness and strength at the LOS are the name of his game. @ArrowheadLive — Caleb James (@CJScoobs) May 2, 2022

The Chiefs also signed former Panther’s linebacker, Jermaine Carter Jr., this offseason. Much like Chenal, Carter can excel in a SAM linebacker role. Although he’s done it already in the NFL, Carter has averaged just 44 tackles per season over his first four seasons in the NFL. He enjoyed his best season yet last year, compiling 88 total tackles but just three tackles for loss and zero sacks.

Chenal can bring a more complete game to the field. In his final season at Wisconsin, Chenal had 115 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. Chenal figures to step immediately into the starting strong-side linebacker role. Bolton and Gay are secure in their roles and Carter figures to provide outstanding depth behind one of the best young linebacker trios in the entire NFL.

Due to this easier path to snaps, Chenal has the best chance to become the strongest contributor as a rookie for the Chiefs in 2022. He fills a clear need on the defense and fills his role the best out of the three top rookies (on defense).

Which Chiefs rookie do you expect to contribute the most in their first season? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.

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