KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs finished out an all-defensive night during the second and third rounds of the NFL draft, adding Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel.
General manager Brett Veach said the draft continues his initiative to add more toughness to the defense.
“How these guys are going to approach the process and what they’re going to bring on Sunday,” Veach said. “These guys are physically players. They play that style that we want to emulate it.”
O’Daniel often played strong-side linebacker for the Tigers, often filling a hybrid nickel role. Defending against primarily slot receivers, he allowed a 70.0 passer rating in coverage according to Pro Football Focus. He also recorded 20 quarterback pressures on just 58 pass rushes.
“He’s going to be a chess piece for us,” Veach said. “We play in so much dime and sub packages, this guy will be on the field and be able to cover tight ends, do a lot of different things in regards to matching in our sub personnel.”
Veach slots O’Daniel as a moneybacker or dime linebacker in the short term. He projects as a Will linebacker down the road that can provide depth behind Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland.
“He’ll be in the linebacker room but he’ll be on the field in passing downs,” Veach said.
O’Daniel measures in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. That makes him a bit light for an inside linebacker but a bit bigger than a safety. Veach didn’t rule out bulking him up into a traditional linebacker frame, but he see’s no rush to do so.
“The reality of it is we kind of like him where he is we kind of like him where he is,” Veach said. “Let him run around and make plays.”
The Chiefs also had O’Daniel ranked as their top special teams player in the draft.
“A guy like that at pick 100 is extremely valuable to us,” Veach said.
As a starter the last two seasons, O’Daniel racked up 163 tackles including 7 1/2 sacks and 21 1/2 tackles for loss. He also picked up seven passes defended and three interceptions in pass coverage.
Analyst Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout said the two-year starter may struggle against blocks but has good defensive instincts.
“Overall, O’Daniel lacks ideal size and strength measurements, but he is always hunting and quick to key, diagnose and attack, projecting best as a box safety or hybrid outside linebacker role,” Brugler wrote in his draft guide.
O’Daniel already shares a Chiefs connection. He went to high school with cornerback Kendall Fuller at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md. Fuller attended O’Daniel’s draft party and joined in the celebration when the Chiefs made their pick.
“Let’s go!” Fuller screamed in the background as O’Daniel talked with reporters via conference call.
“It’s great because I know what kind of worker Kendall is,” O’Daniel said. “For us to link back up at the top that we talked about so much as high school students and college, to have that opportunity to do that with a teammate that you grinded with before, you’ve been through adversity with before, it’s definitely encouraging and something I’m looking forward to.”
O’Daniel was shutting down his draft party when the Chiefs made him the final selection of the third round.
“I was literally heading to the exit of the clubhouse when my phone started ringing,” O’Daniel said. “I was like this can’t be happening, and then it was Kansas City.”