Kansas City Chiefs think they’ve mined late-round gold with this hulking D-lineman

·3 min read

Chiefs rookie minicamp marks the realization of dreams for the hopefuls spending three days at the team’s training facility. They’re wearing an NFL uniform and receiving NFL coaching.

Roster sports are all but assured for the players selected at the recent NFL Draft in Kansas City, and they’re basically VIPs at this minicamp.

That’s why it’s refreshing to hear a player like Keondre Coburn admit to some nervous energy.

“It’s the NFL. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid,” said Coburn, a defensive tackle from Texas who was selected in the sixth round on April 29.

That’s meant being hyper-aware of the process. When Coburn received his travel arrangements, he took a moment to remind himself where he was going and why.

Same when he walked into the Chiefs’ facility for the first time and saw the nameplate above his locker. Then a sense of awe to see the No. 99 jersey with his name stitched on the back.

“I was really nervous about the whole thing,” Coburn said. “This is crazy. ... It’s a beautiful sight for me. I’m blessed to be here.”

The Chiefs are looking for more late-round magic from Coburn, who was taken No. 194 overall.

Last year, general manager Brett Veach landed running back Isiah Pacheco and cornerback Jaylen Watson in the seventh round and they became impact players. Same with sixth-round guard Trey Smith from the 2021 draft.

In Coburn, the Chiefs selected a massive 6-2, 332-pound defensive tackle who will have the opportunity to fill role formerly occupied by Khalen Saunders — he’s now a member of the New Orleans Saints after parlaying his best season into a three-year, $14.5 million deal.

Coburn played five years with the Longhorns, passing up opportunities to enter the draft the previous two seasons to better prepare for the NFL.

“I learned the game better, actually a lot better, reading offenses and understand what’s happening,” Coburn said.

In an All-Big 12 second-team effort last season, Coburn recorded 2 1/2 sacks, bringing his career total in college to 6 1/2. He was credited with 15 tackles for loss, strong numbers for an interior lineman.

Coburn’s NFL Draft profiles noted his quick feet and first step and lower-body power. The Chiefs agree with that assessment.

“The dude can move,” Chiefs scout Jason Lamb said after the team drafted Coburn. “He’ll chase quarterbacks, make the quarterback scramble outside of the pocket. He’s going to be a big presence up front.”

Coburn said he has always possessed a quickness that belies his size.

“Some people look at you and are like, ‘He’s not going to be able to get there,’” Coburn said. “Then I get there and they are surprised. I’m not surprised, but they are.”

Coburn has been on a track toward the NFL since his days at Westfield High in Houston. An older teammate there helped him on and off the field.

Ed Oliver, two years ahead of Coburn, was among the nation’s top-ranked prospects, and after a college career at Houston, he became a first-round pick. He was selected No. 9 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2019 draft.

Coburn said he couldn’t have had a better mentor.

“We played right next to each other,” Coburn said. “We had fun. They double-teamed Ed for a time and I was getting one-on-ones. Then they double-teamed both of us.”

From Oliver, Coburn learned to separate practice and games from the recruiting process. And now Coburn is making another transition in football: one to the highest level, and one that makes him a little nervous.