The Kansas City Chiefs have done a phenomenal job over the past few years adding talent to the roster via undrafted free agents.
Every year, after the last pick of the NFL Draft is made, more than 500 college free agents who went undrafted will sign contracts with NFL teams, and all of it happens within just a few hours.
It’s a crazy time and these players oftentimes have their pick of where they want to go with multiple teams vying for their services, and Chiefs’ general manager Brett Veach said as much recently with a few of the players they were competing for this year.
“There’s a lot of chaos as you guys know after the draft with these undrafted rookies,” Veach explained. “It’s kind of chaotic in there, but our guys in our scouting staff did a great job and certainly excited to talk about some of these guys (we brought in).”
Over the years, the Chiefs have signed guys during this time like tight end Demetrius Harris (2013), safety Daniel Sorensen (2014), running back Charcandrick West (2014), kicker Cairo Santos (2014), receiver Albert Wilson (2014), linebacker Terrance Smith (2016), as well as receivers Marcus Kemp (2017) and Gehrig Dieter (2017) a couple of years ago, and linebacker Ben Niemann last year.
Many of these guys have stepped up and made impacts at some point during their time with the Chiefs.
Several other players currently with the Chiefs were signed as undrafted free agents with other teams in their respective years, including key contributors in defensive lineman Xavier Williams (Arizona Cardinals, 2015), and running back Damien Williams (Miami Dolphins, 2014).
This year, the Chiefs signed 17 undrafted free agents at the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Here’s a little bit about each of them:
Dino Boyd – Offensive Lineman – Cincinnati
Boyd (6’3”, 302 lbs) joined the University of Cincinnati late last summer as a grad transfer from Rhode Island, where he had previously started 22 games and left tackle and was named an All-Conference player in each of the three years he played there.
At Cincinnati last season, Boyd started all 13 games for them at left tackle, earning First-Team All-American Athletic Conference honors. He helped block for an offensive unit which ranked 15th in the FBS—averaging 239.5 yards per game on the ground and helped the team's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2012.
Overall, Boyd was an All-Conference left tackle in each of his four years in college.
Jalin Burrell – Cornerback – New Mexico
Burrell (5’11”, 200 lbs) had 16 passes defensed with one interception over the past two seasons at the University of New Mexico. He spent two seasons at Moorpark Junior College before transferring to UNM in 2017.
Jamal Custis – Wide Receiver – Syracuse
Custis (6’4”, 214 lbs) is the kind of mismatch receiver who should get plenty of looks throughout offseason workouts with his outstanding size and length (33 7/8 arms). He finished with 51 receptions for 906 yards with six touchdowns last season. Custis played a lot of special teams throughout his career and made a name for himself both on the football field and the basketball court growing up in the Philadelphia area.
Over the years, there are always a few rookie receivers who stand out during these offseason workouts in shorts and they are generally guys with the kind of size and athleticism that Custis brings to the table.
Felton Davis – Wide Receiver – Michigan State
Davis (6’3”, 211 lbs) is another receiver with good size but had his senior season cut short due to a torn Achilles—playing in just seven games and finishing with 31 receptions for 474 yards and four touchdowns.
But in 2017, Davis was named the Team’s Most Improved Player on Offense and finished with 55 receptions for 776 yards with nine touchdowns—earning Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors in the process.
According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, who spoke with an AFC National Scout prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, they had this to say about Davis:
“He's a big backup you can stick in there as a zone beater or to try and mismatch weak nickels. I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up catching 40 or 50 a year for a few years." - AFC National Scout.
Zierlein had projected Davis as a sixth-round pick this year.
Mark Fields – Cornerback - Clemson
Fields (5’10”, 192 lbs) was a Top 100 recruit out of high school when he chose to attend Clemson—ultimately appearing in 48 games for one of the country’s top defenses during that time.
“[Fields] was a guy that played a bunch of football down there and I think he’ll be in the mix for the tail end roster spot,” Veach said last week on a conference call with local media.
NFL.com had projected Fields as a fifth or sixth-round pick this year following a career at Clemson in which he finished with 45 tackles, 13 pass breakups and one interception.
“With time, his athletic traits and natural man cover talent could give him a chance to be a starting nickel,” they wrote.
He’s the son of former Washington State and Carolina Panther linebacker Mark Fields, who was a first-round pick (No. 13 overall) of the 1995 draft by the New Orleans Saints. He played in two Pro Bowls.
Jack Fox – Punter - Rice
Fox (6’2”, 213 lbs) is originally from St. Louis and was the Conference USA Special Team’s Player of the Year last season, and was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award (nation’s best punter).
He finished his career by averaging 43.4 yards per punt, which included 56 punts of 50+ yards, including 26 just last season. He also handled kickoff duties—earning touchbacks on 56 percent of his kicks (111 of 200).
Darius Harris – Linebacker – Middle Tennessee State
Harris (6’2”, 232 lbs) was listed as one of Gil Brandt’s top undrafted linebackers available following the NFL Draft this year, and Veach was excited about bringing Harris to the Chiefs, although his availability will depend on his rehab from a shoulder injury.
“I don’t know when he’ll be ready because he had a little bit of a setback after the season,” Veach explained. “He played at the NFLPA game and after the game was over, he went through his pro day, went through all those visits and then got surgery a little late in this process because he wanted to show teams what he could do.
“So, that is going to set him back. I’m not sure when we are going to get him, but he’s a guy that you might want to watch and maybe it’s not this year, but we think he has a lot of talent moving forward. He can be a guy that doesn’t just makes the roster but starts one day.”
Veach went on to explain that he and his staff were excited to get Harris under contract.
“This was a kid that if he didn’t have the shoulder issue, he gets drafted,” he added. “We knew that and there was a lot of competition for him.”
Harris finished last season with 97 tackles (12 for loss) with five sacks and two forced fumbles.
Gary Johnson – Linebacker - Texas
Johnson (6’0”, 226 lbs) was also on Brandt’s list of top undrafted players available, and was another guy that Veach mentioned by name as to who he’s excited about getting in the building and watching him at rookie minicamp and beyond.
Johnson is a smaller linebacker that’s game is built upon speed and athleticism, most-likely looking at working in at the WILL position in the Chiefs’ new 4-3 defensive scheme.
Last season at Texas, Johnson put up some monster numbers with 90 total tackles, but 16.5 coming at a loss for the offense with 6.5 sacks as well.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said Johnson is an “active, high-energy player and vocal leader,” and has an “aggressive demeanor that is always on display.”
Jamire Jordan – Wide Receiver – Fresno State
Jordan (5’10”, 167 lbs) racked up 145 receptions for 2,249 yards with 13 touchdowns during his four-year career at Fresno State. He averaged a team-best 16.1 yards per catch last year.
Andre Lindsey – Wide Receiver – Cal St-Sacramento
Lindsey (6’2”, 192 lbs) finished his three-year career at Cal-State Sacramento with 46 receptions for 1,204 yards and eight touchdowns. He spent one year at Delta Junior College out of high school.
His impressive 26.2 yards-per-catch average is something to remember as he finds himself as another one of those tall, long receivers who can tend to stand out during these workouts.
TJ Linta – Quarterback - Wagner
Linta (6’3”, 233 lbs) spent just one season at Wagner as a Graduate transfer from Brown, where he played for two years (21 games) while earning his undergraduate degree.
Linta completed 51.2 percent of his passes last season with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
John Lovett – Tight End - Princeton
Lovett (6’2”, 234 lbs) is one of the more interesting players to follow this offseason as he’s making a position change.
It’s something Veach mentioned last week.
“I’ll tell you the guy that I think is going to be really interesting is [Lovett],” he said. “He was a Princeton quarterback, All-Ivy League quarterback, tough as nails. He actually broke his hand, played with a broken hand. At his Pro Day, I think he ran a 4.58 at 230-some pounds and we’re kind of looking to see if we can make him a hybrid H-back / tight end, kind of how the Eagles used Trey Burton when he came out of college. Trey was a quarterback and played some wildcat stuff there.
“At his Pro Day, they worked [Lovett] out at linebacker and they worked him out at fullback and tight end. During the tight end drills, he had a cast on, and I think he caught almost every single ball with one hand. I think he’s interesting because he’s a former quarterback at Princeton, but I think he can take some snaps at fullback and kind of that H-back / tight end position, play some (special) teams. He was another guy, the Lovett kid along with that linebacker from Middle Tennessee State (Darius) Harris, both of those guys it was competitive to get those guys.”
Dakari Monroe – Cornerback – San Jose State
Monroe (5’10”, 190 lbs) played in 46 games (22 starts) over the past four years at San Jose State. He spent time at outside corner, while also sliding down to play nickel and was a key special team’s player –making his name as a gunner on the punt coverage team.
Monroe was named a First Team All-Mountain West selection last season—tying for ninth in the nation with 15 pass breakups, while grabbing four interceptions as well.
Kyle Shurmur – Quarterback – Vanderbilt
Shurmur (6’4”, 230 lbs) set nearly every passing record at Vanderbilt during his four-year career—finishing with 8,865 total yards passing and 64 touchdowns.
In last four regular-season games in college, all against SEC teams, Shurmur was 90-of-123 (73 percent) with 11 touchdowns and one interception
He’s also the son of current New York Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur, who spent 10 years with Andy Reid in Philadelphia with the Eagles as an offensive assistant.
Cody Thompson – Wide Receiver - Toledo
Thompson (6’1”, 205 lbs) finished his impressive career at Toledo with 181 receptions for 3,312 yards receiving and 30 touchdowns, which is a school record.
“[Thompson] is a guy that we had as a draftable prospect and we were lucky to get him,” Veach noted last week.
Here’s what NFL.com Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein had to say about Thompson:
“Natural-born pass catcher with soft hands, quality routes and advanced feel for body positioning and control. Thompson is praised by teammates and coaches for his level of preparation that has resulted in solid college production. He has good size, but his lack of functional speed may push him inside, where he'll need to prove he can uncover in tight spaces. He's not fast, but he's athletic and his special teams’ value should give him an above-average chance of making a roster as a late Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) selection.”
Thompson was a two-time First Team All-Mac selection and a team captain. In 2017, He was also named to Allstate Good Works Team for community service, and was a candidate for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year and the NCAA Senior Class awards.
Tim Ward – Defensive End – Old Dominion
Ward (6’5”, 265 lbs) played in 43 games over the past four years at ODU—finishing his college career with 127 tackles (31 for loss) and 14.5 sacks.
Veach spoke about Ward last week.
“[Ward] was a guy that tore his knee, I don’t know that he’ll be ready this year, but he’s going to be a prototypical Steve Spagnuolo defensive end,” Veach explained. “He’s long, athletic, started playing football late, and everyone kind of went in there to evaluate the (Oshane) Ximines—the kid who got drafted out of Old Dominion, but this [Ward] kid was one that one of our scouts, Mike Davis, had mentioned, ‘Hey, they’ve got this other defensive end and he’s raw as all get-out, started playing football late.’ The late tape at Old Dominion he really started coming on, we had him in here for one of the workouts here. The NFL conducted another combine here that we had, and he had come to that.
“We spent a lot of time with him. You may not see him this year, but we’re going to take our time with his rehab, we’re not going to rush him, and he could be a guy that could really develop and be a player in the future.”
Before the NFL Draft, Ward did a Q&A on Reddit and was asked about his pre-draft visit to Kansas City.
“It was great. I got to see their facilities, meet some coaches and eat some good KC BBQ.”
He’ll have to divulge which restaurant he went to so that half of the fans can tell him he made the right choice, while the other half will shame him do to their preference being a different establishment. It’s just the way it works.
James Williams – Running back – Washington State
Williams (5’9”, 197 lbs) was the team's leading receiver in 2017—despite playing running back, nearly catching more passes (71 catches, 482 yards, three touchdowns) than he had rushing attempts (92 carries, 395 yards, 5.5 ypc, one touchdown) in 13 games (three starts).
In 2018, Williams earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors after topping his squad in rushing (122 carries, 560 yards, 4.6 ypc, 12 touchdowns) and receiving (83 catches, 613 yards, 7.4 average, four touchdowns).
“He’s a guy that put up a ton of production in the pass game,” Veach noted. “As you guys know with our offense and the amount that we throw the football, I think that he’s a guy that’s going to be in the mix. I think that running back competition is like it was last year with Damien (Williams) in the mix, Carlos Hyde coming over, Darrel Williams who had a chance to get elevated late and did some good things. Now you throw in (Darwin) Thompson from (Utah State) and now this James Williams, I think it’s going be a very competitive battle for tail end of the roster, there.”