Chiefs' Selection of Kahlil McKenzie May Be Most Intriguing from 2018 Draft Class

The former Tennessee Volunteer will be making the transition from defensive line to offensive line

After watching Kahlil McKenzie's Pro Day workout at Tennessee, it's easy to see what the Kansas City Chiefs saw in him as a player who could make the transition from the defensive line, where he played at Tennessee, to the offensive line, where he's going to play for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs ultimately believed in their evaluation enough to use both of their seventh-round picks (No. 233 and No. 243) to move up to the sixth round (No. 198 overall) to select McKenzie, who said he's ready to make the transition.

"I just prefer to play football," McKenzie said of the move to guard. "They're going to get the absolute best out of me. I think I can come in and dominate that position."

Outside of the positional change for McKenzie, who initially went to Tennessee out of high school as one of the most highly-touted defensive line prospects in the country, there's also the family ties and dynamic that should make for a fun career with the Chiefs.

McKenzie is the son of current Oakland Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie, and nephew of Raleigh McKenzie, who is a college scout for the Raiders.

"My dad's happy for me," McKenzie said after being drafted. "The rest of the family, they're happy as well. It's just going to make for a lot more family rivalries. We're a competitive family in nature, so we compete at everything we do. This just adds one more ripple into that. 

"I'm excited to get to Kansas City and just help these Chiefs, one, whoop up on the Raiders, and also whoop up on the rest of the NFL."

Upon deciding to draft the son of the general manager of one of the Chiefs' biggest rivals, Brett Veach admitted that he did reach out to his counterpart in Oakland. 

"I did call him after and was kind of poking fun at him saying I hope you guys know that your son is going to be lining up against you guys and taking it to you for four quarters," Veach laughed. "[Reggie McKenzie] was just extremely happy that he was in Kansas City. I think as a father you want to know that your son's in good hands and certainly with Coach Reid and Coach (Andy) Heck, he'll be in good hands here. We're going to take care of him." 

Veach, who couldn't have been more excited while watching and talking through McKenzie's Pro Day workout—how he moved, his feet and natural feel for moving around in space, explained their thought-process of giving him a chance to make this transition.

"I think he graded out at the fifth or sixth tester in regards to just numbers and raw strength," Veach noted. "We are willing to be patient with him and we know that the upside is really good here. From a physical standpoint, he lacks nothing."

McKenzie did play guard in high school but strictly played along the defensive line at Tennessee. Veach said he thought McKenzie was a draftable talent as a defensive lineman as well.

"My dad and uncle both thought it would be cool to see me play offensive line, and they always thought that if I wanted to make that switch, I could," McKenzie added "When I got to the Pro Day, some teams asked me – Chiefs being one of them – to work out as an offensive lineman. I did those drills, and they felt really good."

Chiefs' area scout Pat Sperduto, who was the first to evaluate McKenzie and was at his Pro Day that day, shared what caught his eye about the possibility of McKenzie switching sides of the ball.

"He has such a strong base," Sperduto explained. "His hands are always tight and inside, his head is always up. All the things and traits that you look at with him, you could see that this kid might have a shot as a guard."

That shot begins in a couple of days.

The Chiefs will hold their rookie minicamp this weekend, and McKenzie, along with the Chiefs' other five draft picks, plus a number of undrafted free agents the team recently signed, and dozens of other tryout guys, will practice on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Veach is excited to see McKenzie begin the transition this weekend. 

"This kid is going to look like a first-round pick," Veach explained. "He's an impressive looking player. He had such a good workout at the Pro Day at guard. It just looked natural to him. I don't know exactly how long this transition will take because he hasn't played offensive line a long time, but as far as his size—his athletic ability—he has all of the traits. 

"If you just kind of popped into all of the Pro Days and looked at him compared to the other guys that went in the first three rounds, the size of this guy and how he moves and how he adjusts you would probably put him right at the top of your list. So, that's kind of what we're dealing with here."

One of the reasons the Chiefs could feel comfortable to make a move up for McKenzie and trying to develop him as a guard is that they've got a track record of developing guys up front. 

A few years ago, the team drafted a couple of offensive lineman in the sixth round, and those two players—Zach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif—went on to start 86 games for the Chiefs over the last four years.

Fulton, who stepped in during that time and started 15 games at center—a position he hadn't ever played in college—says something, as does the fact that Duvernay-Tardif was a pretty raw prospect coming out of Canada's McGill University in 2014.

But Fulton, who signed a multi-year deal with the Houston Texans this offseason, and Duvernay-Tardif, who signed a lucrative multi-year contract extension with the Chiefs two years ago, became better players under the guidance of head coach Andy Reid—a noted offensive line aficionado, and also Chiefs' offensive line coach Andy Heck.

"It wasn't pretty," Veach said of Duvernay-Tardif's first few months with the team. "But these coaches kind of showed two years ago what they did with Duvernay-Tardif that it takes some time, but if you have the desire and you have the ability, with the right coaching, it can be done."

The Chiefs are hoping it can be done with McKenzie, and if his Pro Day workout is any indication of what the ceiling is for this kid, plus his football family's pedigree, there's every reason to see the Chiefs' last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft as their most intriguing moving forward. 

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