Boy, has the Cornell Powell rollercoaster been a wild one.
Merely a few months ago, there was legitimate buzz that the Clemson University product would assume a starting role within a year or so. The Kansas City Chiefs — and their fans — seemed legitimately excited for Powell to not only make the team, but make a difference on the field.
Then, here at the beginning of September, that optimistic outlook has come crashing down to earth.
In correspondence with the NFL's 53-man roster cut deadline, the Chiefs issued their final list of transactions on Tuesday afternoon. Powell, a fifth-round pick, was among those listed as "waived." Sam Hays of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to talk about why although Powell was cut, a lot of this situation may not have even reflected directly upon him in a negative light.
First and foremost, the initial expectations for Powell may have been out of hand. Maybe it was the fifth-year senior breakout season at Clemson. Perhaps it was the No. 14 jersey and movements that reminded fans of former Chief Sammy Watkins. Either way, Powell was put on a pedestal by many as soon as he got to Kansas City. For a fifth-round pick, that's a lot of hype to live up to.
A lot of this revolves around what other Chiefs wide receivers did do, not what Powell didn't do. Throughout training camp and the preseason, names like Marcus Kemp and Daurice Fountain routinely heard their names called. When on the field, they performed like veterans. Fountain made the roster as the team's fifth wideout and although it remains to be seen if the release of Kemp is truly a procedural move that will see him return to the Chiefs soon, it makes sense for him to be the sixth.
Powell, a rookie, had his work cut out for him. He didn't receive a huge amount of snaps in the preseason. He flashed some good traits but overall, he struggled to gain consistent separation. That may be the most relevant ask of a Chiefs wide receiver, and the others made the most of their limited opportunities. Did Powell disappoint? Sure, but his peers also exceeded expectations.
While the world waits to see if Powell can clear waivers and find his way back to the Chiefs on a practice squad basis, this serves as a cautionary tale. The Andy Reid offense is remarkably difficult to break through and fully understand as a rookie. Most fifth-round picks need to develop, and some teams see their veterans as better immediate options. Playing time does matter, even in the preseason. All of those things can be true, and all may have led to Powell not making the 53-man roster.
I'm convinced that Powell still has a future in the NFL. He received a fourth-round grade from me heading into the draft. He's a work-in-progress, sure, but some team will take a chance on him. If it's the Chiefs, maybe their plan all along was to redshirt him as a rookie until the depth chart clears up in 2022. No matter how you slice it, though, they went with players who stepped up in 2021.
Subscribe to Roughing the Kicker on YouTube for exclusive content and previews of each episode before they drop.
Want to get involved in the RTK community? Tweet using #RTKPod with questions and comments.