The Chiefs have traded for Darron Lee to add to their linebacker corps. Here we look to see how it affects the depth chart.
The main issue with the Chiefs last season was the defense, or lack thereof. The team lacks a true number one linebacker and has too many of the same type. Reggie Ragland is a two down linebacker that lacks any real cover skills. Anthony Hitchens is more of the same. Dorian O’Daniel flashed in spurts at the end of last season but is still unproven. Why not add another linebacker to the mix with inconsistent results. Darron Lee may look like the best linebacker on the squad but has had his inconsistencies as well. Lets take a look at the Chiefs inside linebackers.
Who Is On The Depth Chart
Experience: Two Seasons, 28 games, 25 starts
Career Stats: 130 Tackles (77 solo), six tackles for a loss, one pass defended, 0.5 sack, one interception, one forced fumble.
Reggie Ragland nearly doubled his tackle total from 2017 but still only combined for 86 tackles. Of those 86 tackles barely half, 46 of them, were solo tackles. Ragland, to me, is a two down linebacker as he is a better than average run defender. He shoots gaps well and has enough speed to get into team’s backfields.
— 🅱️🅰️Ⓜ️ (@big__bam) October 15, 2018
Though he plays well in the run game he is not good in coverage. If Ragland is tasked with covering tight ends or running backs be sure that player is being targeted.
Experience: Five Seasons, 75 games, 63 starts
Career Stats: 447 Tackles (280 solo), 28 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, eight passes defended, one interception, three forced fumbles.
Hitchens is another one trick pony for the Chiefs, but he is actually fairly good at his trick. In 2018 Hitchens had a career year with 138 combined tackles. The problem was with his coverage, though, as he did not produce a single pass defended or interception. He is another downhill tackler and should still provide solid run defense as you see here:
My hope for having Spagnuolo in at DC is that Anthony Hitchens can stop thinking so much and get back to just moving downhill towards the ball. pic.twitter.com/5IwSOcXd78
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) February 9, 2019
What the Chiefs need is a linebacker who can drop in coverage more. Hitchens is not that guy but his play last year should solidify his role as the teams run stopper.
Experience: One Season, 16 games, one start
Career Stats: 34 Tackles (21 solo), two tackles for a loss, one pass defended and one fumble recovery.
While Dorian O’Daniel was at Clemson he showcased the ability to be a complete linebacker during his Senior season. During his Senior season he posted 88 tackles (51 solo), 11 tackles for a loss, five sacks, five passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two touchdowns. O’Daniel is the closest thing the Chiefs have to a linebacker who can cover. I really hope they give him the opportunity to win the job. Watch here as he shows great ability to read screen plays and cover the running back out of the backfield:
"Opponent attempts short throw to RB while Dorian O'Daniel is in the game" is rapidly becoming my favorite play. pic.twitter.com/byzneVNDIr
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 29, 2018
Darron Lee is the big name here but if O’Daniel can make a leap in training camp he could see himself wind up the starter.
Experience: Three seasons, 40 games, 36 starts
Career Stats: 238 Tackles (152 solo), 17 tackles for a loss, four sacks, three interceptions, 11 passes defended, two forced fumbles, one touchdown.
Darron Lee is the flashiest name on this list but he has been wildly inconsistent. He has never broken 100 tackles in a season and has never really been a great coverage linebacker. He came out on fire in 2018 with seven tackles, three passes defended, two interceptions and a touchdown. Everybody thought he was finally reaching his potential. Throughout the rest of the season he only had two passes defended and one interception. Then he was suspended for a PED violation.
Darron Lee has averaged just under 80 tackles per season but only about 64% of those tackles were solo tackles. That percentage dropped to 58% in 2018. Plus two of Lee’s three interceptions came in one game and three of his career passes defended came in that same game. Needless to say he never put up great coverage numbers. His inconsistencies pop up and are real noticeable. Watch here where he is completely fooled by misdirection which leads to giving up the touchdown:
Jets LB’s including Darron Lee getting fooled by misdirection pic.twitter.com/wuWWZdlHo8
— Quarterback Film Room (@QBFilmRoom) May 17, 2019
Then you see plays like these where he reads the plays perfectly:
Darron Lee is exactly the kind of LB the Chiefs need. He Reads the play well, and he has Speed. Two magical components when combined.#ChiefsKingdom #ArrowheadOne@SportsRadio810 @NFLFanBlitz @ChiefsReporter @RealMNchiefsfan #NFLDraftNews @Jacobs71 @KCChiefs_Matt @ByNateTaylor pic.twitter.com/501jM5kuHd
— Ladner Morse (@Laddiemorse) May 16, 2019
After this trade was made, most people instantly slotted Darron Lee as the starter next to Anthony Hitchens. I think this assumption needs to be reeled in a little. The Chiefs only gave up a 6th round pick next season for Darron Lee and Lee is also on the last year of his rookie contract so if it does not pan out, no real huge loss. His potential though makes this a nice buy-low move that could provide great return.
Lee is the most talented but the Chiefs do not need another linebacker who only tackles well in the run game. They have Hitchens and Ragland for that. I expect Ragland to drop to the second unit to back up Anthony Hitchens as Hitchens is locked as a starter. As for the other spot I expect a heated camp battle. Lee will be given all the opportunity in the world based off his perceived value.
O’Daniel needs to make a leap to win the job and will probably start the season backing up Darron Lee. Lee needs to live up to his potential, though, to retain the starting job. O’Daniel will be nipping at his heels all season as I think he is far better than people give him credit for and I think Lee gets too much credit. Lee could be on a short leash, especially if he keeps up the bonehead plays, knowing they did not give up much for him. It is Lee’s job to lose and O’Daniel’s job to win.