Kansas City Chiefs rookie LB Willie Gay Jr. has been over-hyped heading into 2020.
The Kansas City Chiefs are riding high after their victory in the Super Bowl this past season, and rightfully so.
This is a team that returns the majority of its starters from a Super Bowl team including the 2018 league MVP and 2019 Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Along with the returning starters are some upgrades on the depth chart like first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who could be the dynamic presence at running back the Chiefs have been missing since they were forced to part ways with Kareem Hunt.
One of the players that was somewhat over-hyped in the pre-draft process, however, was Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay Jr.
Gay was the Chiefs’ second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and will be counted on to have a huge impact early on as a result, but are expectations too high?
Gay is still extremely raw as a linebacker
There is no doubt about why Gay was a second-round pick by the Chiefs. His athletic traits at the linebacker position are rare.
To test in the elite range of all the speed and explosiveness metrics with above-average size will have any NFL scout salivating, but Gay is about as raw of a canvas as you will find.
Although he is very solid in coverage, Gay gets washed out in the running game far too often, taking poor angles, attempting to make arm tackles, and having delayed reaction to the direction of the play.
Most rookie linebackers or college linebackers struggle taking on and disengaging from blocks, and this is something Gay will have to work on as well.
While he has a tremendous ability to blitz and cover, the Chiefs are going to have to bring Gay up to speed as far as being a complete three-down linebacker, not just a great third-down linebacker.
In Kansas City’s defense, Gay should be the WILL linebacker where he will be able to excel at the things he’s good at right away, but the Chiefs will either have to just take their lumps with him on the first two downs or bring him along slowly and use him in rotation early on.
There is nothing wrong with taking a prospect high that has athletic and physical upside, but the expectation that Gay can come in and be Fred Warner or something like that as a rookie has to be slowed down just a bit.
He can become a good all-around player in time, but Gay needs his football skills to catch up with his athletic ability.