Keanu Neal, SS, Florida
Despite losing All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles to an ACL tear for the second time in five seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs surprisingly managed to piece together their third straight winning season. Their 11-5 record was tops in the NFL among non-division winners and would have been good enough to win the AFC South or NFC East outright. Even as a wild card team, they managed to shutout the Houston Texans on the road, before succumbing to the New England Patriots at Foxboro, in a hard fought 20-27 defeat.
Since season's end, the Chiefs have lost offensive linemen Donald Stephenson and Jeff Allen to the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, respectively. 2013 first overall pick Eric Fisher has proven steady, yet unspectacular. Though Mitchell Schwartz, an up-and-coming right tackle formerly of the Cleveland Browns, has joined the squad, offensive line depth remains a concern and will undoubtedly be addressed at some point in the draft. Top remaining options here include tackles Jason Spriggs (Indiana), Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M) and guard Cody Whitehair (Kansas State).
Also gone is 13 game starter Sean Smith, who opted to sign with the AFC West division rival Oakland Raiders. While this would be considered a major blow to many NFL teams, the Chiefs have a young stable of former third round picks in Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma), Phillip Gaines (Rice) and Steven Nelson (Oregon State). One of these three is expected to step up and fill the void opposite Marcus Peters at cornerback. Top remaining options here include Mackenzie Alexander (Clemson), Artie Burns (Miami) and Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech).
As is seemingly the case every off-season, there has been some talk of pursuing another quarterback to groom behind current starter Alex Smith. With Smith approaching 32 years old, coupled with the departure of backup quarterback Chase Daniel to the Philadelphia Eagles, this does make some sense. However, head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Brad Childress are reportedly high on both of their remaining signal callers in house; Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray. With Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch already off the board, it seems unlikely that the Chiefs would reach for a fourth quarterback at the 28th slot. That said, Michigan State's Connor Cook has been called the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft by several scouts, so it wouldn't outright surprise me. I guess it all depends on how the Chiefs' scouts have Cook graded out.
A key addition to the Chiefs offense this upcoming season could be former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Rod Streater. He'll join 2015 additions Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley in the team's slowly-improving corps of playmakers. Laquon Treadwell (Mississippi) is suprisingly still available and, although I'm not particularly high on him as a game changer due to his lack of separation speed, he represents good value at the 28 slot. It should be noted that the Chiefs are a run-oriented team that doesn't go deep a lot anyway. They've also enjoyed a good deal of success with former LSU Tiger Dwayne Bowe, a bigger SEC alumnus who wasn't exactly a burner himself. All said, I can most certainly see a Treadwell pick going down here, but I do think that it amounts to a luxury pick in this conservative style offense and the Chiefs do have at least a couple of bigger fish to fry.
At inside linebacker, the Chiefs elected to retain defensive team captain Derrick Johnson, extending the four-time Pro Bowler another three seasons. That said, he will be 34 prior to the end of the 2016. One slot over, former New York Jet Josh Mauga quietly managed to put together another halfway decent campaign and last season's promising 4th rounder, Ramik Wilson (Georgia) waits in the wings. Still, this is an area that could use and influx of youth and athleticism going forward. Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith, who is expected to miss the entire 2016 season due to torn ACL and LCL tears in his left knee, is at least worthy of consideration here, considering the stop gap measures already in place. It's would be a big time gamble, however, as there's no guarantee that Smith is going to fully recover from his injuries in time for the 2017 season, if ever. Kentrell Brothers (Missouri) and Joshua Perry (Ohio State) represent the next two best inside linebacker prospects and both would be a big time reach at 28 overall.
That brings us to safety, a position that saw the awe-inspiring return of Eric Berry from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015. The Associated Press named Berry the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, after he put together his second 1st team All-Pro season. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in six years. Despite Berry's rock solid play as a ballhawk in the secondary, production from the strong safety position left much to be desired. Undrafted journeyman defensive back Ron Parker started all 16 regular season games at the position and was easily the weakest link on an otherwise stellar defense. Tyvon Branch, a one-year plug as a backup, has since signed with the Arizona Cardinals. In giving credit where credit is due, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey has at least attempted to alleviate the situation, signing two former 7th rounders this offseason; Stevie Brown (Giants) and Jimmy Wilson (Chargers), as well as former undrafted free agent Jordan Kovacs (Dolphins). Whether the "throwing sh** at the wall and seeing if it sticks" approach pays dividends over time is anyone's guess. In my mind, I see little more than a hodgepodge of JAGs with little to no chance of making a true impact in the middle of the team's second line of defense. Again, a somewhat suspect middle, when you take the lack of quality depth at inside linebacker into account. That's why I've decided to address this position with one of the hottest risers on many a mock draft board.
At 6'1" 215 lbs, Florida's Keanu Neal is a big time hitter. He has a quick-twitch and comes up the field in a flash, reading and reacting quickly to both the run and shorter passes to the flat. He also has long arms and 38 inch vertical leap to help knock down those quick-developing flares. A super physical player who actually played free safety for the Gators. This gives him a versatility advantage over some of the other top rated strong safety prospects in this year's draft, like Vonn Bell (Ohio State) and Jeremy Cash (Duke). Though he's unlikely to be used in that capacity with Berry roaming deep center, it's always good to have interchangeable parts in your secondary.
Neal is better in zone coverage than in a man-to-man scheme, which bodes well for his chances of succeeding in Kansas City's 3-4, as defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has been moving more and more in that direction. Not unlike former New Orlean Saint and current Carolina Panther strong safety Roman Harper, Neal has excelled in safety blitz packages. To carry that comparison a step further, Neal will occasionally fail to wrap up, in going for the highlight reel kill shot. This is a knock on countless safety prospects however, and he has shown textbook form on tackles at other times, as exhibited in the video clip above. Further, with the Chiefs, he'll be part of defensive unit known for their dogged pursuit of the ball carrier, so even if it was Chuck Cecil-ing it every time out, it wouldn't be as big a deal, as he'd have adequate support in most situations.
As you might expect from his skills set, Neal is also a dynamic special teams player, particularly in punt and kickoff coverage. The living embodiment of a heat-seeking missile, he's great at sniffing out the proper angles and truly lays the wood. His explosiveness and penchant for the big hit has led to several key turnovers during his two years as a starter in Gainesville.
Paired with Berry, Keanu has all the intangibles to help form one of the most prolific safety tandems in recent NFL history, and enough wallop in his sudden greetings to make 76K people in Arrowhead Stadium say ...
Thanks to all the CSC members who participated in this year's community mock draft. Without your help, none of this would be possible.
Below are the complete results from our community mock draft.
Catch up with all of the mock draft selections in our 2016 CSC Community Mock Draft Hub.
||Selection||Team Representative||Approval Rating|
|1||Tennessee||Leremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss||Chris Dunnells||74%|
|2||Cleveland||Jared Goff, QB, California||quickdrawdoc||44%|
|3||San Diego||Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
|4||Dallas||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon||Tee Word||52%|
|5||Jacksonville||Myles Jack, LB, UCLA||SxSnts9||73%|
|6||Baltimore||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida||Lostastic||64%|
|7||San Francisco||Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St.||BlackandGold4ever||58%|
|8||Philadelphia||Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State||ukesilence||64%|
|9||Tampa Bay||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State||RyanAb9||85%|
|10||New York Giants||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan St.||Johnny BeGood||38%|
|11||Chicago||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson||NOLASaintsBeast||63%|
|12||New Orleans||Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville||Dave Cariello||69%|
|13||Miami||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame||saintmanumit||45%|
|14||Oakland||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama||Chris Dunnells||60%|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis||quickdrawdoc||32%|
|16||Detroit||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State||Khannar||67%|
|17||Atlanta||Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State||Dave Choate||66%|
|18||Indianapolis||Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia||NOLASaintsBeast||69%|
|19||Buffalo||Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky||Jaimichaelugp||33%|
|20||New York Jets||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE/OLB, Oklahoma St||RyanAb9||54%|
|21||Washington||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio St.||saintmanumit||69%|
|22||Houston||Will Fuller, WR, NotreDame||Tee Word||35%|
|23||Minnesota||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU||SxSnts9|
|24||Cincinnati||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor||coldpizza|
|25||Pittsburgh||William Jackson III, CB, Houston||WhoDat365|
|26||Seattle||Cody Whitehair, OG, Kansas St.||Matt Mosley|
|27||Green Bay||Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi St.||Johnny BeGood|
|28||Kansas City||Keanu Neal,SS, Florida||coldpizza|
|29||New England (Forfeited)||Forfeited pick||---------||--------|