Kansas City Chiefs: What role will Alex Okafor play in 2019?


With a need for defensive end help, Kansas City signed Alex Okafor. What role does he in play in 2019? Will he start for the Chiefs?

After trading Dee Ford and releasing Justin Houston, Kansas City had a major need at defensive end. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo craves length and depth on his defensive line, so Brett Veach signed Alex Okafor from the Saints. Okafor signed a three year, 18 million dollar deal. Okafor, an eight year veteran, has had 22 career sacks, with 48 quarterback hits. His stats weren’t great, but what role would he play for Kansas City? Will he be a depth piece, or could he be a potential future starter?

Scouting Report

Okafor, a 6-foot-4, 263 pound defensive end, is a physical specimen. Okafor presents great length, long arms, and presents great strength every snap. On the field, Okafor uses these traits to his advantage. Okafor is primarily a power rusher, who uses his strength to bull rush. He has a decent first step, but isn’t overly explosive. His balance is excellent, which allows him to bend sometimes, while also setting an edge against the run.

Okafor did have an Achilles injury recently, and it showed in the tape. It took a long time for his speed to come back, and he wasn’t as productive rushing the passer. Okafor also doesn’t have great hands, which hurts. He lacks secondary pass rush moves, which limits his ceiling overall.


Against the run, Okafor is very solid. Okafor sets a good edge, using his strength and balance to not be pushed around. Okafor has good lateral agility, and flows to the ball well. Even though his speed and burst aren’t great, he moves well laterally, which Steve Spagnuolo will crave.

The Numbers

As I do for every pass rusher, I watch five games, and chart run and pass snaps individually. The numbers for Okafor were very interesting.

Okafor Run Snaps
Game Snaps Charted Run D Win Run D Loss Run D Neutral Stuff Double Team Run Win % Run Loss %
Browns 19 2 4 13 2 1 10.5% 21.1%
Redskins 12 1 2 9 0 1 8.3% 16.7%
Bengals 13 3 3 7 3 0 23.1% 23.1%
Cowboys 21 5 1 15 1 0 23.8% 4.8%
Steelers 10 3 0 7 3 0 30.0% 0.0%
TOTAL 75 14 10 51 9 2 18.7% 13.3%

Okafor’s numbers against the run were interesting. 75 snaps aren’t a lot to chart, but Okafor did have to share a lot of snaps with Marcus Davenport, who was their first round selection the year before. Not to mention the Saints always were winning by a lot of points, and teams just didn’t run the ball much.

Even so, Okafor’s numbers were interesting. His run win rate is pretty good. To compare, Breeland Speaks had a 14% win rate vs the run. It makes sense why Okafor was a lot better than Speaks. Okafor was better at setting an edge, but also flowing to the ball. Okafor’s lateral agility was impressive, which allowed his versatility against the run to be a lot better.

Overall, Okafor is a good run defender. His strength, lateral agility, play recognition and balance all make him a good run defender, someone who Steve Spagnuolo can count on in 2019 against the run.

Okafor Pass Snaps
Game Snaps Charted Pass Rush Win Pass Rush Loss Pass Rush Neutral Double Team Pass Deflection Drops into Coverage Pressures Pass Rush Win % Pass Rush Loss % Pressure Rate
Browns 20 6 3 11 4 0 0 4 30.0% 15.0% 20.0%
Redskins 30 3 6 20 2 0 1 1 10.3% 20.7% 3.4%
Bengals 24 6 5 10 3 0 3 2 28.6% 23.8% 9.5%
Cowboys 23 3 3 14 2 0 3 1 15.0% 15.0% 5.0%
Steelers 38 6 7 23 3 0 2 1 16.7% 19.4% 2.8%
TOTAL 135 24 24 78 14 0 9 9 19.0% 19.0% 7.1%

Okafor was a weird study. Because his games were so inconsistent. Sometimes, he would have a great game, with a lot of wins, but the next would need a terrible game. None of the other players I charted were as inconsistent as Okafor. He was consistent against the run, but pass rushing was different.


Okafor has a ceiling while rushing. While his bull rush and balance is good, that is pretty much all he has. He can bend a bit, but he really doesn’t have many other moves. He isn’t terrible with his hands, but they aren’t great. The key difference between him and Breeland Speaks is that he has a rush plan. Okafor has some change up moves, which helps him pull something off once in a while. He doesn’t have one move, but multiple moves.

The problem is that during his rush, if his first rush fails, he doesn’t really have a second rush. He doesn’t have the athleticism or the ability to try a second move in his rush, since he isn’t fast enough to win with multiple moves. Overall, Okafor is an okay pass rusher. He isn’t as good of a pass rusher as he is against the run, but he still presents some good traits for Steve Spagnuolo, and it makes sense why Kansas City signed him early in free agency.

The Film

Okafor is mainly a power rusher. And he is effective with it. Yes, this is a screen, but it is still the tackle’s responsibility to block Okafor on this play. Okafor gets on the left shoulder of the tackle, but overpowers the tackle. He gets wide, and the tackle had nothing to do but just let Okafor do what he wants. Overall, Okafor does have decent burst, but in the end, his bread and butter is power, but it works a lot for him.

I talked a lot about Okafor’s balance, but here is an example of it. Right here, the run is set to go left, and Okafor is to get sealed on the block, so Hyde has a cutback lane wide. Okafor recognizes the seal block coming his way, and matches his contact. Okafor keeps his balance to match the block, and doesn’t allow the cutback lane to go wide. As the running back runs through the hole, Okafor dives and collects a stuff for that run. Okafor’s balance and strength are very valuable, and will help Kansas City’s horrendous run defense get a lot better.

The lack of speed in Okafor’s game is evident. On this snap, he tries to get wide off the snap, but isn’t fast enough to be a threat around the edge. The tackle gets good width, and Okafor is too late to establish any type of rush. He tries to overpower the left tackle, but it doesn’t work. The problem with Okafor is that he just isn’t explosive enough to have multiple moves, and that gets him in trouble quite a bit.

Another Okafor run snap, but this one is impressive. This pitch was going left, and the slot receiver’s job is to seal Okafor from coming up and blowing up the play. Okafor recognizes this well, and fights off the seal well. He takes a good angle to the ball, and forces the fourth down to end the drive. Okafor moves well laterally, which helps him finish off plays as a run defender.

Last clip for this review, but Okafor definitely got better bending as the year went on. Okafor had an Achilles injury the year before, so as time went on, he grew more comfortable with his body. On this play, he has a good first step, then gets wide on the tackle. He uses his hands to swipe the tackle’s hands off of him, and gets low to bend to the quarterback. Okafor can bend occasionally, and he times it well. He isn’t trying to bend every snap, but uses it once in a while to get to the quarterback.

What will Okafor bring for this team?

When Okafor was signed, I was excited. I always was a fan of Okafor, and thought his ability to stop the run would be very valuable to this team. After watching film, I am still pretty excited for him. Okafor isn’t a flashy player necessarily, but does the dirty things well. He flows to the ball, he sets a good edge, and brings intensity.

Clearly, Steve Spagnuolo and general manager are looking for a certain type of player on their defensive line; a long, powerful player, who can play in multiple spots on the defensive line, while also also bringing a ton of energy. Okafor fits all those requirements. In this new base 4-3 under scheme, Okafor will have a lot of responsibilities as a five and seven technique, and I fully expect him to start and be a good player in this scheme.

Nate Christensen covers the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs for Fan Source. Follow him on Twitter @natech479.


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