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Don’t discount the undrafted

Posted Apr 30, 2012

Of the Chiefs 15 undrafted signees, Nebraska WR Brandon Kinnie, Louisville LB Dexter Heyman and Auburn DB Neiko Thorpe received the highest pre-draft grades from NFL.com

At least one of the 15 undrafted rookies signed by the Chiefs on Monday will make the team’s 53-man roster. History says so anyway.

Three original members of last year’s undrafted class are still on Kansas City’s roster and two spent time on the 53-man list last season.

DE Brandon Bair was the lone rookie free agent to make the Chiefs roster out of training camp last season while OL Lucas Patterson and T David Mims both joined the practice squad. Mims was later promoted to the 53-man roster.

RB Shaun Draughn and WR Jamar Newsome are also still on the team after joining the Chiefs practice squad mid-season last year. Draughn was called up and active for the season finale in Denver.

 “I’ve been with a number of organizations that have had success developing rookie free agents into quality contributors on successful teams,” Pioli said last year in a KCChiefs.com story highlighting the team’s philosophy for finding undrafted talent. “It takes contributions from a number of people within the organization in order for it to work.

“It starts with scouts identifying players with talent and the makeup that can meet the demands of our organization. It also takes a talented coaching staff that is willing to invest the time that it takes to help a player mature physically and mentally. However, it ultimately comes down to the player doing what it takes to be a pro.”

Bair’s inclusion on last year’s Opening Day roster continued the streak of an undrafted rookie making the team out of training camp each season since Scott Pioli arrived as general manager in 2009.

Prior to signing this year’s cast of rookie free agents, Kansas City’s roster included 17 veterans who once entered the NFL undrafted. The list includes a number contributors developed from within the organization, like starting middle linebacker Jovan Belcher and special teams ace Cory Greenwood.

Belcher was part of Pioli’s first undrafted and has risen from small-school find to regular starter. He finished second on the team with a career-high 120 tackles last season and owns 250 stops in his three years with the Chiefs.

“Developing players within your own system has become a very important part of success in today’s NFL,” Pioli said. “Having a plan to acquire, train and educate your own players, within your culture is paramount.”

Of the 15 undrafted rookies who signed with the Chiefs on Monday, Nebraska WR Brandon Kinnie (48.7), Louisville LB Dexter Heyman (48.5) and Auburn DB Neiko Thorpe (47.7) received the highest pre-draft grades from NFL.com.

Kinnie was one of 17 players who participated in the Chiefs local pro day on April 10th. He is a former prep standout at Grandview High School, located just 13 miles south of Arrowhead Stadium, and rolled up ridiculous receiving totals for the Bulldogs hauling in passes from future first-round pick Josh Freeman.

The local product joins third-round pick Donald Stephenson (Blue Springs High School) as the second player in this year’s rookie class to join the Chiefs after working out at the local pro day.

At 6’3” and 238 pounds, Heyman’s build is comparable to Belcher and he’ll be joining a position group with plenty of opportunity to make the roster behind its first-team performers.

Heyman, like any undrafted rookie playing off the line, will need to find his way on special teams in order to make Kansas City’s roster. It’s an equation that worked for Belcher, who made his way onto the Chiefs 2009 roster because of an excellent preseason as a “run and hit” player on special teams.

Thorpe played safety at Auburn and will look to compete in position group that saw three veterans who made starts last season hit free agency (Jon McGraw, Reshard Langford and Sabby
Piscitelli).

One or more of these undrafted rookies will end up making the Chiefs roster next season. It happens every year.

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