Why Chiefs fans should be patient with Felix Anudike-Uzomah

Don't even think of using the "b" word

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs
Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Coming into this season, if I'd told you in July that the Kansas City Chiefs would be tied for third in the NFL in sacks, you'd probably think defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah was on the way to an impressive rookie year.

This season has not been that for FAU. There's already been some consternation in the Chiefs Kingdom over the pick. Is FAU trending towards a bad draft pick?

The truth about late-first round edge rushers

Edge rushers are often among the NFL’s most highly-coveted players. Top EDGEs (like Will Anderson Jr or Aidan Hutchinson.) tend to be selected in the first 10 picks. First-round picks taken after that are usually in the next tier; they have some flaws in their games. It’s common sense, right? The best players go first.

Still, first-round picks are valuable; if a team spends one on a prospect, it’s reasonable to expect an immediate contribution. Unfortunately, there’s not a track record of big contributions from players taken after the first 10 picks. While there are outliers (such as third-rounder Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders), they are the exception — not the rule.

While there are certainly some good players on this list (T.J. Watt a defensive player of the year) most of these pass rushers are average to good players. There's not a lot of precedent for selecting edge rushers late in round 1 who go on to be stars. In fact, the Chiefs might have already beaten the odds a little bit with George Karlaftis who already has 15 career sacks in 30 games played.

Even if you go beyond draft classes of the past, what are edge rushers doing that went before and after FAU? Myles Murphy taken by the Cincinnati Bengals at pick 28, has logged 2 sacks but only played 198 defensive snaps. Nolan Smith taken right before the Chiefs pick has a single sack (it was so wide open you probably could've done it) and has played 104 snaps. Then we get to Derick Hall taken at pick 37 who's played 241 snaps and not logged a sack. All of these should make FAU's 114 snaps and 0.5 sacks seem more reasonable.

Setting Expectations for FAU

While there are some reasons for optimism for the Chiefs' rookie edge rusher, it would also be nice to see him playing more. Unless there is a dramatic shift in his usage before the end of the season, he's going to be a total "unknown" going into 2024. He certainly will be further along than he was his rookie year but there's still not a huge track record of production for him.

The question is why is FAU not playing? The optimistic answer is he's the least experienced player on a deep defensive line full of good players who are all playing well. Or is he not playing cause they can't trust him to make an impact? Or set the edge correctly? Time will tell.

It's important to remember that not all draft picks develop the same way. Last year, there was speculation about Khalen Saunders not making the team out of camp, and he became an impact player for the defense. You can go through any draft and find players who develop over time.

Does FAU not playing his first year have to be accounted for? Yes, you can't judge that pick without that information. No doubt the Chiefs would be a better football team this year with Sam LaPorta, Michael Mayer, Brian Branch, or Keeanu Benton at pick 31. However, hindsight is 20/20 and the Chiefs still believe in Anudike-Uzomah's skill set. Because he is a first-round pick, the Chiefs are in year 1 of a potential 5-year deal for FAU. There's still lots to be written about his time in Kansas City.

Next year, potentially without Mike Danna, Chris Jones, and Derrick Nnadi, there's going to be a massive gap in snaps from 2023 to 2024 if FAU isn't ready for more. At that point, there is reason to start to panic. The good news is the Chiefs have 4 picks in their 2023 draft (FAU, B.J. Thompson, Keondre Coburn, and Nic Jones) who all stand to make an impact next year.

Similar to the Philadelphia Eagles the Chiefs roster is strong enough right now to be able to play the long game with their 2023 draft class. Given that both teams made the Super Bowl and are both virtual locks to make the playoffs this year, it's a sign of good team building.