Rakeem Nunez-Roches: A steal for the Kansas City Chiefs


Whenever the NFL Draft is approaching, the only pick most people talk about is the first-rounder. Who are the Kansas City Chiefs going to take at 18th overall? What position will they address on Thursday night? You know the drill. However, it often is the pick later on who makes the largest impact.

In recent years, we have ample third-round examples in Justin Houston, Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce. Then there are men such as Brandon Carr, sixth-round picks who make a terrific career for themselves. This year, a selection that has me giddy is Rakeem Nunez-Roches, a sixth-round defensive lineman out of Southern Miss.

Nunez-Roches is raw. At 6-foot-2 and 307 pounds, Nunez-Roches projects to play defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, while moonlighting at nose tackle to spell Dontari Poe. The youngster is a project, so don’t expect a ton in 2015. After watching a little tape on him (there isn’t a ton available) you see a kid who needs to improve in play-recognition along with understanding technique. He plays high at times and can get moved out in those situations.

Yet, Nunez-Roches could become a monster. He has all the heart in the world and is insanely strong. Don’t take my word for it. Watch this game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on the road. Despite his team trailing most of the way and being completely outclassed, Nunez-Roches makes his presence known. He never stops hustling.

Did you catch how many times he was chasing a running back down from the backside more than 10 yards downfield? That is the type of hustle and heart that makes a developmental player into a starter and potentially a star. So often in life, succeeding or failing simply comes down to effort. Nunez-Roches won’t be outworked.

Here’s another example. Look for the play when Nunez-Roches chases the running back down approximately 25 yards from the line of scrimmage. It comes around the 35-second mark. Not only is it incredible effort, it is freakish athletic ability and stamina for someone so big.

Nunez-Roches reminds me of Allen Bailey coming out of school. Bailey has the same body type and skill set. Bailey was a bit more polished and was a third-round pick, but was nothing more than a role player until 2014. Bailey took four years to develop, not making a major impact until his age-25 season. We could be looking at a similar timeline for Nunez-Roches, although he will have a competent coaching staff from day one. Bailey did not have that luxury.

Finally, it is impossible not to like the character of this kid. Look, being a good person doesn’t win football games between the white lines, but it builds bonds and therefore a team. This is a guy who came to the United States from Belize with his mother as an 8-year-old. Check out this interview.

I would bet that Nunez-Roches sticks on the roster in 2015, because the Chiefs won’t risk him having to go through waivers to land on the practice squad. Considering he has Poe, Bailey, Jaye Howard and Mike DeVito ahead of him, Nunez-Roches will be competing for one of the final two spots on the line. His competition is third-year man Mike Catapano and free-agent signing Vaughn Martin, a veteran who spent time in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers.

Could Nunez-Roches turn into another name that we forget about in a year? Sure, but I would be surprised. With ample ability, a non-stop motor and a perfect body for the position, expect Nunez-Roches to become a real difference-maker for the Chiefs in the future.