Need For Sneed: Kansas City Chiefs Rookie DB L'Jarius Sneed Has Serious Potential
On the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft, we at Arrowhead Report thought the Kansas City Chiefs’ selection of Louisiana Tech defensive back L’Jarius Sneed was solid. Our roundtable reaction may not have given the cornerback/safety enough credit. The more I watch his film and review his background, the higher my confidence in him as a player gets.
Sneed was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, spending his final collegiate season at safety. Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was impressed by the versatility Sneed displayed in college, which was a critical factor in the team drafting him with pick No. 138. His pre-draft athletic testing was tremendous, headlined by a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. The speed Sneed displayed on tape and at the combine will translate well to the NFL immediately.
Some thought that initially, Sneed would see minimal snaps in the secondary, instead thriving on special teams and working his way up from there. Not only does the organization believe in his abilities as a defensive back, but it also plans on moving him back to his original cornerback position. With that said, what should the Chiefs expect?
Athleticism and physicality are Sneed’s calling cards. Standing 6 feet tall with long arms and having a sturdy 192-pound frame, he’s at his best when he can get his hands on opposing receivers. This makes press-man and soft-man coverage the two most ideal assignments for him. Although these techniques aren’t used a ton in Spagnuolo-led defenses, the Chiefs often utilize hybrid-like zone coverage shells that allow for one-on-one opportunities on the outside.
4.37 speed, length and leaping ability simply cannot be taught. Sneed was one of the best pure athletes in this year’s draft class, and he’s willing to get his hands dirty. He remains balanced at the line of scrimmage and is patient, understanding when he should and shouldn’t jam wide receivers and throw them off. He has solid ball skills that should only improve as he settles in at the next level.
Sneed’s floor is high due to his size, athleticism and willingness as a tackler. How high his ceiling is depends on one thing: technique. His hips are a bit stiff, which can lead to him opening them early out of his backpedal. Sneed can also get grabby at times downfield, which could lead to penalties in man coverage. He’s not a liability in zone coverage, but his skills play much better in man alignments. When the play is in front of him, Sneed can play adequate zone coverage.
There are many areas in which Sneed thrives, but he also has several facets of his game that need improvement. Despite those weaknesses, he has plenty of traits that make him a potential contributor from day one. As a boundary corner, he disrupts receivers and makes them uncomfortable. In the slot, he has the speed to keep up with just about any burner the league has to offer. He can even play some safety, which may remind Chiefs fans of Kendall Fuller last season. Day-three picks are normally viewed as players who have their work cut out for them in terms of finding significant playing time in their rookie seasons. Sneed is an exception — and his presence should be felt early and often.