What should KC Chiefs expect from Trent McDuffie in 2022?

Trent McDuffie of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Trent McDuffie of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs selected former Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie with one of their two  first-round selections—trading up from No. 29 to 21. In doing so, the expectation for McDuffie is that he could compete from day one and be a solid replacement for cornerback Chavarius Ward, who left in free agency for the San Francisco 49ers.

However, as we all know, putting expectations like that on a rookie isn’t always fair as the leap can prove to be too much for some players. Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed was able to do well in his first season in 2020, but how many cornerbacks can come on day one and start? Even if they start, how many do well? The answer is not many.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected cornerback Trent McDuffie with the 21st overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. What are expectations for him this season?

I think back to when Greedy Williams was drafted in 2019 by the Cleveland Browns, and how he was my top-ranked cornerback due to his great technique and coverage ability. Now, he is just another name on a roster.

The same can be said of current Chiefs defensive back DeAndre Baker, a former first-round pick for the New York Giants. Baker was the best press cornerback in his draft class, yet since getting taken, hasn’t displayed that same ability.

Going back to the 2018 NFL draft, there were many cornerbacks who couldn’t quite catch their footing in the league. Mike Hughes, who the Chiefs traded for last season, was one of them. After getting drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the first-round, they were expecting Hughes and Xavier Rhodes to be their next cornerback duo. However, as he is no longer on the Vikings, I’m sure it’s pretty easy to figure out that he never lived up to expectations.

Then you have Jeffrey Okudah who is probably, even to this day, one of my highest-graded cornerbacks. Everything about his game was terrific. He had the speed, the strength, the skill, the IQ—all of it. And yet, since getting drafted in 2020, he has done nothing but underperform and get hurt. Now, in his defense, he is on the Lions. However, for a guy who is as skilled as Okudah, it’s difficult to not see this start to his career a disappointment.

The number of cornerbacks that have been able to come in on day one and play well in recent years… well, it’s a short list. It’s just uncommon that a player can compete from day one like Jalen Ramsey, Jaire Alexander, and Denzel Ward. And let’s not get too far away from this topic because I feel it’s also important to note that they were both top 10 picks. McDuffie wasn’t. He was drafted 21st.

What are the Realistic Expectations for Trent McDuffie?

When it comes to rookie cornerbacks, I feel that I’m one of the few who expects the worse so that way I don’t get disappointed if they play bad. Lowering my expectations for a player keeps me level. However, if they play well, then I’m grateful. Yet when it comes to McDuffie, it’s hard not to get excited off the bat.

This year the Chiefs are going to be taking on the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, and Denver Broncos twice. Between the three teams, he will have to cover a combination of Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Courtland Sutton, and Jerry Jeudy. That is not going to be easy for him at all. Those are some very talented receivers, and they all have very good quarterbacks throwing them the ball.

McDuffie this season will have to find a way to neutralize the route running of Adams, Renfrow, Allen, and Jeudy. And if he does that, or even if he doesn’t, he’ll have to find a way to keep Williams and Sutton from going over the top and stop them in contested catch situations which isn’t going to be easy. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the other players he will have to face off against this include Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Michael Pittman Jr., Stefon Diggs, Deebo Samuel, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and many more. That’s going to be incredibly difficult for a rookie cornerback.

The way that I currently see it, he’s going to get tasked with a workload that will push him to his limits. I’m sure you’re saying, “He won’t have to cover all of those receivers, though.” And you’re right. He’s not. But do you really think L’Jarius Sneed is going to follow WR1 to both sides of the field? And to further that, do you really think that’s the smart move?

Sneed is coming off a average season, in my opinion. He had his good games and his bad games, but in the end, it leveled out. But the point still stands that he won’t be consistent enough to line up against opposing team’s best receivers for the entire game or the entire season. McDuffie will get his fair share of key matchups, and he will inevitably get burned here and there. By season’s end, however, he should be positioned with Sneed as the team’s CB1/CB2 with a full year of experience against some of the best the NFL has to offer.

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