Chiefs add cornerback, projected offensive lineman closing 2018 draft

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs closed out a nearly all-defense draft in Saturday’s sixth round, selecting Central Arkansas cornerback Tremon Smith and Tennessee lineman Kahlil McKenzie.

The Chiefs traded both of their remaining seventh-round picks in exchange for the right to select McKenzie, who is the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. The younger McKenzie played defensive tackle for the Volunteers, but Chiefs area scout Pat Sperduto said the team envisions him as an offensive guard.

Tennessee defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie (99) takes on a blocker against South Carolina at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Oct. 14, 2017. (Photo By Matthew R. Osborne/Tennessee Athletics)

“He plays with such a strong base, his hands are always tight inside, his heads always up,” Sperduto said. “All the things and all the traits that you look at with him, you could see that this kid might have a shot as a really good offensive guard.”

McKenzie measured in at 6-foot-3, 314 pounds at the combine. He arrived on campus in Knoxville in 2015 out of football shape after missing his senior season in high school due to transfer rules. Tennessee plugged him into a need at defensive tackle his freshman season. But both his father and his uncle Raleigh McKenzie, who spent 16 seasons in the NFL as an offensive line, thought young Kahlil might make be a natural on offense.

The Chiefs were among a handful of teams who asked him to work out offensive line at the combine. McKenzie found that he liked it.

“I did those drills and they felt really good,” McKenzie said. “Just being able to go through them and one, just feeling like they just came naturally and then knowing that how I play the game, a lot of those things could translate into being a very good offensive lineman.

“It made a no-brainer decision for me that this would be a really good step moving forward,” he said.

As for the new family rivalry, McKenzie quickly threw down the gauntlet, saying he wants to help the Chiefs “whoop up on the Raiders” and the rest of the NFL.

“We’re a competitive family at nature,” McKenzie said. “We compete in everything we do, so this just adds one more ripple into that.”

Smith, a 5-foot-11, 192-pound cornerback, showed off elite ballhawking skills at Central Arkansas. He picked off five passes with 16 passes broken up during his senior season. He tallied 15 interceptions and 53 passes defended during his four seasons with the Bears.

Those ballhawking skills are what caught the attention of Chiefs area scout Willie Davis, the former Chiefs wide receiver who also played football at Central Arkansas.

“He really gets his hands on a lot of balls,” Davis said. “You saw the speed but you couldn’t help but notice how this kid’s always around the ball. Whether it’s playing his man or coming off his man seeing the ball come out the quarterback’s hand, he’s always around the ball.”

Smith met with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and cornerbacks coach Al Harris in Kansas City ahead of the draft. Those conversations convinced him Kansas City would be a perfect fit for him.

“(They) were telling me straight up I was already running the technique to a tee,” Smith said. “Press-man, we do a lot of press-man, that’s what I did in college.”

The presence of Eric Berry in the defensive secondary doesn’t hurt either.

“That was my guy growing up, that’s who I looked up to,” said Smith, who wore No. 14 when Berry wore that number in college at Tennessee. He ran into Berry at the team’s training facility on his visit. Smith introduced himself and told Berry he was a big fan.

“I’ve been watching him all my life,” Smith said. “I know he does the little things right. Me learning from that guy is going to help me be the best player I can possibly be for sure.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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