Why Louis Rees-Zammit is the most intriguing player on the Chiefs roster

Is the Welsh Rugby star a lock to make the roster?
Kansas City Chiefs OTA Offseason Workouts
Kansas City Chiefs OTA Offseason Workouts / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

He's handsome, he's European and he's super fast. What more could you want out of a potential St. Joseph super star?

All jokes aside, Welsh Rugby player Louis Rees-Zammit has been one of the most interesting stories of the Kansas City Chiefs' offseason. He's never played a snap of American football and now he gets to share the practice field with the back-to-back Super Bowl Champions.

What we know about "Rees Lightning"

Still just 23 years old, Rees-Zammit is younger than many players drafted in April. At 6'3", 195 lbs., he's listed as a running back on the Chiefs roster, but that's still fluid. He ran a reported 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL's international pro day, and he's also been training at the esteemed IMG Academy in Florida in preparation for the NFL.

Once clocked at 24 mph (sorry no km/h here), speed was his primary tool as a rugby player. Because tackling is much different in rugby, he won't seem shifty to the average NFL fan but he was shifty by rugby standards.

Zammit was the youngest player ever to make "premiership" for the Gloucester Rugby Club. He signed a professional contract with the club the following year. He became one the games best "wingers" and has played both at the club level and the International team of Wales.

On March 29th, Louis Rees-Zammit signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs via the International Pathways Program. This allows the Chiefs to retain him on their practice squad with a special exemption that does not count toward their total practice squad numbers. Essentially, a free practice squad slot if he does not make the roster.

How can he make the team?

As the Chiefs' OTA program continues, it's clear they have a plan for him with the league's new kickoff rule. It's no coincidence that he was signed the same week as the league announced the changes to the play. What might be surprising is the role could involve him kicking the ball.

"I like to have somebody that can go and make a tackle. Butker is able to make a tackle, but I really don’t want him making tackles all year long. If you watch the XFL, we watched every play and I’d bet kickers were involved in at least 25 to 40 percent of the tackles—either trying to make a guy bounce back or making the tackle himself or just missing a tackle."

Dave Toub spoke about the role of the kicker in the new kickoff role and how important it is to have them be strong tacklers. Which might be why they are looking at both Rees-Zammit and Justin Reid as kickers for the new play.

Special teams is going to be crucial to Rees-Zammit's path to making the roster. Not just kickoff return but kick and punt coverage, one thing about rugby players is they are great form tacklers. With his speed and tackling abilities, he could be a great "gunner" for the punt team—a role that somehow got Marcus Kemp a Super Bowl ring. There's a chance he could develop into a four-phase special teams ace, something that has been valuable to many teams (think Matthew Slater).

Offensively, it's going to be an uphill climb in year one for Rees-Zammit. Everything about the game is different, even the shape of the ball. Yes, his speed and vision as exhibited as a rugby star are a great starting point but there is so much more he has to learn to be a regular offensive contributor.

As a running back he'll need to learn to run routes, pass protect and understand blocking schemes and how it relates to rushing lanes. He's even had to work on the proper way to carry the football. If he's able to make the team as a special teams ace, maybe there are a few touches for him on a designed jet sweep or two just to get him out in space. The Jaguars have done similar things with Jamal Agnew.

The Bottom Line

Signing a player like Louis Rees-Zammit should be a move every NFL team makes annually. The International Pathways Program is a great way to develop players at a low cost with roster flexibility. This was a low-risk move by the Chiefs and, of course, they signed another player with game-changing speed.

If the new kickoff rule and special teams are the path for him to make the roster then it's already a great signing—even if he spends a year or two on the practice squad. With the flexibility of the roster exemption there's a very real chance he spends some time on the practice squad. It's not likely but if he turns into a productive offensive weapon, it will be yet another feather in the hat of Brett Veach.