Wasted steps and tackling angles:
Willie Gay has enormous value in the second round. That being said, the mechanical issues that Gay can occasionally show that he needs some work with coaches at the NFL levels and that he is still learning to play the game of football. One thing that is almost as noticeable as Gay’s explosive speed is that he has unorthodox footwork and can take too many steps.
In this video, one can see that Gay overthinks his job. This is a simple power play in which Gay is in a position to make the stop at or behind the line of scrimmage. Instead of immediately going after the running back, he hesitates and trips over his own feet allowing an easy touchdown. This is not the only instance that Gay’s mechanics in the gap have gotten him in trouble.
Gay flies around the field and seems to find the ball. His playing style is somewhat reckless but with more raw potential than that of the other linebackers on the team. If the Chiefs wanted a player that plays similarly to Tyrann Mathieu, they have found him.
Like a few other players on the Chiefs roster, Gay has a checkered past. In his academic career, he got caught cheating on a chemistry test. In the locker room, he punched his teammate—Mississippi State quarterback Garrett Shrader—and broke an orbital bone causing him to miss out on their bowl game. This shows immaturity and the Chiefs are hopeful that Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu can work with him on his growth as a player and as a person. Andy Reid told reporters that the team had done their research on him and that his coaches loved him, signaling that he did not expect further issues off the field.
It is not clear how Gay’s career will turn out, but it looks like he loves the game of football and that he is still learning how to play linebacker. Currently, he is more athlete than linebacker, but with Matt House and Steve Spagnuolo’s guidance, I would expect that to change quickly. Much of the fan base was hoping for a cornerback in the second round, but it is clear to see why Veach couldn’t let Gay find his way onto another roster.
Gay will be an immediate impact player on passing downs at the very least. With a long speed that is faster than some wide receivers, he brings much-needed athleticism to the middle of the field. Gay shows up all over the place and is really fun to watch play, but has had limited opportunity to actually showcase his skills, which inherently makes him more of a risk. The Chiefs are confident in their decision to draft him and there is a lot to like about his potential.
In a couple of seasons, Gay could be compared to that of Deion Jones or, better yet, Derrick Johnson in his prime. It all comes down to smoothing the rough edges and capitalizing on the insane athletic ability that he has. In his rookie season, however, expect a few flash plays and some growing pains. Overall, Kansas City got an interesting chess piece to an already versatile defense.