The Kansas City Chiefs bolstered their defense on Friday night with the addition of Mississippi St. linebacker Willie Gay Jr. in the second round (No. 63 overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Here are five things to know about the newest member of the squad.
1. Gay Jr. racked up 76 tackles and nine tackles-for-loss in his last 18 games
Gay Jr. amassed 48 tackles, five sacks and two interceptions as a sophomore in 2018, setting career-highs in each category. He ranked fifth among all SEC linebackers in pressures (17) and missed just five tackles across 455 snaps while allowing an opponent passer-rating of just 25.8 when targeted.
He missed eight games in 2019 due to a violation of team rules, but he still managed to record 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, an interception and a forced fumble in five games of action.
2. He was consistently around the ball during his career
Gay Jr. contributed to a takeaway in seven of his final nine games at Mississippi St. between the 2018-19 seasons, tallying three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. He found the end zone on defense, too, returning an interception 52 yards for a touchdown last season against Kentucky.
3. His coverage abilities earned the attention of the advanced analytics
According to the folks at Pro Football Focus, Gay Jr. was ranked as the top "sleeper" at linebacker in the draft. He also earned the highest-career coverage grade of any player regardless of position in the draft class, based on PFF's metrics.
It appears he passed Chiefs' safety Tyrann Mathieu's eye-test, as well.
Gay Jr. was the No. 39 overall player in PFF's pre-draft rankings.
4. He's a big man who can fly
The six-foot-one, 243-pound Gay Jr. ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which ranked as the second-fastest time of any linebacker behind only Isaiah Simmons. He also tallied the best broad jump (136.0 inches) and the second-highest vertical jump (39.5 inches) of any linebacker at the Combine.
Here's a note from the PFF Draft Guide regarding his incredible Combine performance:
5. Gay Jr. was an elite recruit out of high school
Ranked as the top overall defensive prospect in the state of Mississippi out of high school, Gay Jr. led Starkville High School to a state title as a junior in 2015. He even played a little quarterback during his senior season - demonstrating his rare athleticism - before committing to the Bulldogs.
Gay Jr. went on to earn the attention of Chiefs' General Manager Brett Veach, Head Coach Andy Reid and the rest of the organization during his time in Starkville, and now he's headed to Kansas City to help the Chiefs defend their Super Bowl title.