Second-Year Jump: Will Rashad Fenton See An Increased Role in 2020?
Mark Van Sickle
The Kansas City Chiefs haven't used one of their first selections on a cornerback since drafting Marcus Peters in 2015. Most folks outside of the Chiefs' “circle of trust,” question the thought process behind pushing this position of need down the draft board, but it hasn’t backfired to this point. Enter the 201st selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, cornerback Rashad Fenton.
The University of South Carolina product had a solid-but-not-stellar collegiate career. He appeared in 48 games, starting 30, and racked up 122 tackles, five interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery along with 24 passes defended. He was also a key player on special teams, returning kicks for the Gamecocks. During his senior campaign in 2018, Fenton was widely considered South Carolina’s top coverage corner, but he also spent some time playing nickel corner and safety throughout the season. He received the “Unselfish Teammate Award” that season as well. It’s easy to see why General Manager Brett Veach, Head Coach Andy Reid, and Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would love him.
Fenton’s career got off to a slow start in Kansas City. He played in 15 games during his rookie season, but he got his most playing time down the stretch and in the playoffs. It was in Week 11 versus the Chargers in Mexico City when Fenton recorded his first career interception. In a Week 13 home game against the then-Oakland Raiders, he forced a fumble on special teams. Another highlight included a sack on Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills when the Texans tried to run a trick play in the AFC Divisional round. Overall, he was targeted 17 times, allowing eight completions and one touchdown. He had 22 combined tackles and five pass deflections to go along with the aforementioned interception and forced fumble.
Fenton showed signs of progress throughout his rookie season as he got more playing time. Fenton could see even more playing time in his second season. With former starter Kendall Fuller leaving via free agency, it seems like Fenton is the most likely candidate to fill Fuller's role. However, he may be asked to do more. There is some concern about recently re-signed cornerback Bashaud Breeland and the possibility of a looming suspension. Fenton’s versatility will be key to his potentially increased role. He can play inside or outside at the corner position and can even slide into a safety role if the formation calls for it.
Cornerback Charvarious Ward seems to be the leader in the clubhouse at the position after starting every game and having a breakout sophomore season in 2019. The offseason was filled with additions to the secondary so Fenton will need to step up his game to stay ahead of the pack. The Chiefs drafted two cornerbacks (L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth round and BoPete Keyes in the seventh round) and signed several undrafted free agents (Hakeem Bailey, Javaris Davis, and Lavert Hill) to build depth. Fenton should remain the front runner for playing time even with the multitude of players added to the cornerback room for competition.
Fenton’s playing time and production should see a significant increase in 2020. If he can take a second-year jump as Ward did in 2019, the Chiefs will be in a great spot at the cornerback position for this season. Having another reliable player the team can count on under a rookie contract will be key to the success in building a dynasty and winning multiple Super Bowls with the current group of core players.