Juan Thornhill became an instant building block for the Chiefs in 2019.
During the 2019 offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs set out to overhaul the defensive side of the ball with new personnel and coaching staff. After hiring Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator, the team signed veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu right away in free agency. Finding leadership for the defensive side of the ball was crucial early in the offseason, and Mathieu took the job and earned respect at the position early on.
Kansas City elected to continue building at safety by selecting Virginia defensive back Juan Thornhill in the second round. With Eric Berry missing all but a handful of games the past two seasons, and Ron Parker proving well past his prime, replacing the two with Mathieu and Thornhill would soon become two of the biggest pieces in turning around the defense in 2019.
Spagnuolo’s defense relied heavily on his safeties. It took away responsibilities from the cornerbacks and linebackers in coverage, allowing them to play more aggressively near the line of scrimmage. With Thornhill over the top, the cornerbacks didn’t have to worry about getting beat on vertical routes.
While many of us were thrilled by the selection of Thornhill on draft weekend, it’s hard to believe anyone saw this kind of impact in year one coming. He might not have had the most flashy plays on the defensive side of the ball that warrants recognition, but his presence and skill set allowed Spagnuolo and the rest of the defense to have success. His versatility to play various roles brought even more impact.