2024 NFL Draft: Joe Cullen gets an up-close look at some of LSU's defensive linemen

The Chiefs sent their positional coach to work out some key prospects from LSU.
NFL Combine
NFL Combine / Kara Durrette/GettyImages

Earlier in this pre-draft season, the Kansas City Chiefs sent a key emissary to check out the college prospects hoping to enter the NFL from Lousiana State University.

It's common practice for teams to send various executives and scouts to check out a school's pro day, so having K.C. on hand to watch LSU players is not that big of a deal. What made this important was the fact that the Chiefs sent positional coach Joe Cullen to not only check out the Tigers' defensive linemen but he also ran them through drills.

That's an important figure at a key post which signals, we think, more significant interest on the part of the Chiefs.

The Chiefs sent their positional coach to work out some key d-line prospects from LSU.

Getting a coveted assistant to weigh in on a set of players likely signals that the Chiefs are trying to decide where to slot specific linemen who have already attracted their interest. Perhaps Cullen could tell them one way or the other who is worth going after or not.

Given the Chiefs' lack of hits along the defensive interior, including last year's loss of Keondre Coburn, it makes sense to do all the work they can on the front end at the same position.

Who are some of the interior linemen from LSU that could be drawing the Chiefs interest? It's likely down to a trio of players.

Mekhi Wingo

If the Chiefs are enamored with a potential project known for being a leader in the locker room and a disruptive presence inside, then Mekhi Wingo could be the man Cullen was most meant to sniff around.

Wingo is a coach's favorite from LSU who was a team captain up front. Scouts love his motor, acceleration, and pass-rushing moves. That said, he takes knocks for his arm length and overall size, which keeps him from being much higher on draft boards. For a team like the Chiefs, it feels like Spags could slide him around after watching him develop–a potential Day 3 flyer who could yield much bigger benefits.

Maason Smith

Consider this the Joshua Kaindoh of defensive tackles. Scouts love the measurables here, but significant injuries have robbed Smith of the playing time needed to grow as a player, including an ACL tear that cost him his entire '22 campaign.

That said, Smith's size, length, strength, and quickness will get him drafted higher than his production as it is, and all it takes is one team with the bullish belief they can help him turn the corner at the professional level. That sort of lottery ticket is usually snatched up quicker than expected in draft classes and Smith is that enigma at LSU.

Jordan Jefferson

Jordan Jefferson is the biggest player of the bunch and it explains the difference he offers in terms of his play up front along the defensive line.

As the only real nose tackle of the group, Jefferson could be the man Cullen was wanting to examine closer if the Chiefs are tired of bringing in low-ceiling draftees and journeyman vets at the position. Mike Pennel has been a gem of a find as a street free agent, but Neil Farrell showed nothing after a trade, Matt Dickerson was uninspired in a short stint in the lineup, and Keondre Coburn walked for nothing as a rookie—twice.

Jefferson's a big man at 6'3, 313 lbs. with notable quickness for someone so thick. Last season, Jefferson had 36 tackles, including 7 for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. While he was a bit disruptive for the Tigers, he profiles as a two-down lineman in the NFL with a floor as a rotational run-stuffer. Everything else is a project, but that's where Cullen's vision could come in.