Chiefs rookie linebacker, Leo Chenal, is one of the most physical players on the roster, but fans should keep expectations realistic heading into the season
With the 103rd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Leo Chenal, a linebacker from the University of Wisconsin. One of the beefiest second-level players in the ‘22 class, Chenal had the most tackles (96) and the most tackles for loss (18.5) on the Badgers in 2021 and was second on his team in sacks (8).
Given that the Chiefs’ first four picks ahead of him addressed the team’s most pressing needs—CB (Trent McDuffie), DE (George Karlaftis), WR (Skyy Moore), and S (Bryan Cook)—Chenal was brought to Kansas City as a bit of a luxury. With a linebacker room highlighted by premier talents in Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr., Chenal was a cherry on top of the second day of the draft positionally as well.
Immediate expectations of Chenal with the Chiefs were driven by infatuation with his personality. When he got to Kansas City, the first question he was asked, “What will you bring to this defense?” was answered with “violence and physicality.” Hearing that, after a year where the Chiefs defense was ranked near the bottom of the league throughout the regular season, left Chiefs Kingdom with their ears perked. However, as training camp has gained momentum, and Chenal’s anticipated role has gotten further refined, it seems as if that physicality and violence may be deployed in a more restrained manner.
Elijah Lee has been taking more snaps than Chenal with the starters, and has, so far, shown a wider range of versatility as a coverage backer. Chenal has still had his moments, but all of the buzz across the Chiefs beat is pointing towards his role being heavily geared toward running downs, rather than being hidden as a blitz specialist.
Of course, as the year goes on, Chenal will have a chance to improve upon his craft and earn a greater opportunity, but for now, it seems as if fans should limit their expectations for Leo Chenal’s overall involvement in 2022.