After losing the 2021 season due to injury, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Malik Herring is pushing for the 53-man roster. How did experts evaluate him in the pre-draft process?
The Kansas City Chiefs have lacked a potent pass rush for the past few seasons. The unit’s performance in 2021 was amont the league’s worst, despite an extensive financial investment. The Chiefs tried to add young depth players before the season, via the draft and undrafted free agent acquisitions. One such acquisition was defensive end Malik Herring.
A product of Georgia, Herring spent the 2021 season on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list which forced him to miss his first professional season. The ACL seems fully healed, especially after several positive reports have emerged regarding Herring’s performance from this offseason.
As the preseason begins, Herring should be evaluated as a 24-year-old rookie. Some draft experts and evaluators had strong opinions about Herring during the pre-draft process, before his ACL injury. Herring was viewed as a project, as he lacked the desired collegiate production, but his positional skills and flashes of dominance still warranted NFL scouts’ attention.
Sports Illustrated’s The NFL Draft Bible ranked Herring as the fifth-best 3-4 defensive end prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. They were blunt about that Herring’s value came from his potential, not his college stats.
"“Loaded with immense potential to be a star, he can bull-rush or beat offensive linemen around the edge with his initial quickness off the ball. His first-step explosion is eye opening and he combines that with natural anticipation skills to beat his opponent.”"
NFL analyst Lance Zierlein was more bearish on Herring’s tools and NFL future. Even after the ACL injury, Zierlein still graded Herring as a priority undrafted free agent.
"“He can beat blocks with skill and flashes occasional slipperiness in playing off of or around blocks to make tackles. He possesses decent instincts and skill as a rusher but is missing the juice to get to quarterbacks from off the edge, meaning a rebrand into a sub-package interior rusher could be in the cards.”"
NFLDraftBuzz.com, a familiar source for NFL Draft enthusiasts, felt similar to Zierlein. They touched on Herring’s learned abilities giving him the edge, rather than any imposing physical traits.
"“More of a hustling pass rusher than an accomplished or natural one, he’ll make his mark as a fifth or sixth defensive lineman…Won’t consistently threaten the edge. Few explosive qualities and lacks great initial burst or overall range for the position.”"
Pro Football Network’s Oliver Hodgkinson noted Herring’s position change during the 2021 Senior Bowl. Herring found success in the defensive interior, rather than his edge position in college.
"“Herring possesses the size, play speed, and skill to be used as a three-technique tackle or defensive end in a one-gap system. He comes with an upside, but must quickly produce and elevate his game this summer.”"
Overall, Herring was a project prospect even before the ACL injury. The injury complicated his draft stock and is making his 2022 preseason very important. Ultimately, the Chiefs saw enough to sign Herring despite the injury in 2021. Herring saw limited action in Saturday’s game against the Chicago Bears, recording no stats.
Does Herring pass your eye test? Comment your opinions about Herring’s performance this preseason below!