Can the Lee’s Summit native break the record?
The draft came, saw, and conquered our timelines and now it’s up to the Kingdom to sit back and watch their favorite selections; will they develop? How’s their situation? What can we expect? Just a few days ago, I was trying to decide on what to write about, so I figured I would throw my two cents in by going further into depth about the Chiefs 2023 first-round selection, EDGE rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Anudike-Uzomah is now back home in the Greater Kansas City after prepping at Lee’s Summit HS and Kansas State, where he became a household name, including winning the 2022 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. So here are my reasons why I believe the Lee’s Summit native can possibly break Derrick Thomas’ rookie sack record from 1989 and the situations that befell Anudike-Uzomah.
Who is Felix Anudike-Uzomah?
Originally from Lee’s Summit, MO, Anudike-Uzomah was a 3-star recruit and the number 220th overall edge rusher in the country according to ESPN. Committed to Kansas State, Anudike-Uzomah showcased a bit of his potential as a freshman at Kansas State when he logged a sack in his only appearance. He then broke out in a major way as a sophomore, tallying 50 total tackles (11.0 for loss) to go along with 11.0 sacks and a whopping 6 forced fumbles (No. 1 in FBS).
The Lee’s Summit native earned first-team All-Big 12 honors for his performance and followed up with another great season in 2022. Anudike-Uzomah was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as he racked up 46 total tackles (11.0 for loss), 8.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles across 14 games played.
Highlighted strengths of Anudike-Uzomah’s game revolve around his fundamentals. He possesses an explosive first step and stellar lateral agility, which makes him a dangerous pass rusher. The Kansas State standout also has a deep arsenal of moves (jab-swipe, rip move, etc.) to get to the quarterback. The one thing that Anudike-Uzomah has over the top EDGE rushers in this draft class is his “Bend.” Bend or flexibility which in space, put him on the line of scrimmage in a three point stance, or line him up wide and send him flying up the arc. Something we haven’t seen since Derrick Thomas.
How Will The Chiefs Use Him?
I pity the opposing offensive linemen in the AFC West; not only do they have to account for the talent of Chris Jones, but now they have to worry about George Karlaftis, newly signed Charles Omenihu, and now Anudike-Uzomah. Talk about an ideal situation for defensive line coach Joe Cullen. Anudike-Uzomah is a two-way, interchangeable piece who can scream around the edge from a two-point stance as well while showing the ability to move in space and put his hand in the dirt. Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, Charles Omenihu, Mike Danna, and now Anudike-Uzomah means good luck to the AFC West tackles. The infusion of new pass-rushing blood comes at the right time for the Chiefs, as they are indecisive on bringing back Frank Clark.
Anudike-Uzomah possesses fluid hips and has good ankle flexibility while showing the ability to convert speed to power. He utilizes very good rips, clubs, and swims while flattening the edge and putting stress on tackles at the top of the arc. Joe Cullen is going to let Anudike-Uzomah come off the edge and wreck havoc while utilizing his excellent athletic ability and burst. His explosiveness allows him to consistently win with speed rushes off the edge, forcing offensive tackles to attempt to match his quickness up the arc.
I love that Anudike-Uzomah is violent with his hands, and he does a great job attacking half the man when he does engage physically with an opponent, but he’s much more adept at going around you than through you. Thanks to his elite set of tools, there likely won’t be anything wrong with that moving forward, except when he gets into the rare matchup where an offensive tackle can match his maneuverability. Linemen like that are few and far between, but at this point, it is one of the key areas of pass-rushing where Anudike-Uzomah can become a top-tier players like Von Miller and Nick Bosa.
Anudike-Uzomah’s senior sack production took a big dip from the 15.5 he tallied as a sophomore, but he figures to factor in right away as a rotational rush end. His run defense will hold him back some from early-down work, but he figures to play a significant role on passing downs at least. He is will playing defensive end, where his speed and quickness make him best suited to be a 7-technique pass rusher. In the Chiefs’ opener against the Lions, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him most at home in that role, although he usually line up as a 5-tech depending on front and alignment. While Anudike-Uzomah is mainly a speed rusher, he occasionally relies on his strength to bull rush. He will usually try to release from opposing tackles with a rip or spin move, but he is not afraid to reach out and engage them when the situation merits.
We know that Anudike-Uzomah is not fully developed yet. He could stand to develop more pass rush moves/counters, improve his play strength when he takes on blocks, and work on his leg drive/hand usage while rushing the passer. Despite these shortcomings, which can be overstated, he provides a unique skill set that is versatile and perfect for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. He’ll develop his craft and be a quality addition to this defense; and when it comes to pass rushers, this defense needs quality. The expectations of breaking the record of one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL History and Chiefs history, Derrick Thomas are high, but I feel Anudike-Uzomah has what it takes to get the job done. Thomas had 10 sacks in 1989 and no other Chiefs rookie pass rusher since then have broken that record. But the real question is still here, does the Lee’s Summit native have the ability on defense to break the old 34 year old record? We’ll find out soon enough.
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