The Kansas City Chiefs have a “great fit” with their new starting safeties if you ask Juan Thornhill about playing alongside Tyrann Mathieu.
Juan Thornhill recently took some time to speak to reporters from rookie minicamp for the Kansas City Chiefs. For Thornhill, it was his first real taste of professional football drills, team meetings and everything else the full weekend entails. For the Chiefs, it was their first time to see their second-round safety investment on the field.
Thornhill was taken at No. 63 overall, the team’s second of two second round picks in which they also selected Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman. The University of Virginia product was a ballhawk at the collegiate level, and he’s likely got a clear path to start at free safety in the pros—all in the hopes he can offer the same sort of instincts for K.C.
The Chiefs have been missing a true ballhawk in the secondary since Marcus Peters was traded last spring. Fortunately Thornhill already showed his skills getting after the ball in his first day of minicamp.
After practice, Thornhill took questions from reporters and was asked about potentially working alongside Tyrann Mathieu, the team’s biggest offseason addition in the secondary. It’s possible that Thornhill and Mathieu are lined up as the starting safety duo to begin the regular season.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to him … before every college game, I used to watch his college film, because I just loved how he played. He always keeps that energy going and I pride myself, just like that, I keep my energy up and try to play well. I think we’ll be a great fit.”
Thornhill said the NFL Combine was a real turning point for his draft stock and he said, “I was just thinking I had to make a statement.” He let his natural athleticism do the talking from there.
“I know a bunch of coaches didn’t think I was really athletic and everything, so when I got there, like I said, I just went to make a statement and put on a show for the most part, especially with the 40 (yard dash). A bunch of guys were like, ‘I think he’s gonna be a high 4.5.’ I wanted to run that low 4.4 and I got it. Then I knew about my vertical jump. I knew I was going to get a good vertical jump because I’ve been jumping my whole life so that’s just something I’m really good at.
“I know jumping that 44″ vertical impressed a lot of coaches, obviously, and I had to impress this staff to get here. The way I think that helps me on the field is being able to go out there and compete. When the quarterback throws a jump ball to the receiver, I’m planning on going up and getting that football because I know I can jump. I’m very athletic and that’s going to keep me in position to make plays.”
The Chiefs certainly hope that’s the case. Thornhill could be an excellent upgrade over Ron Parker, Eric Murray or others who tried to lock down the position over the lsat year. If so, the Chiefs could already be well ahead of last year’s miserable rankings by year’s end on the defensive side.