The consensus around the K.C. Chiefs 2021 draft class is that it was pretty good. There’s not many picks, if any, that you look at and say, “That’s a bad pick”. The Chiefs picked up a good mix of players that can contribute pretty much immediately in Nick Bolton and Creed Humphrey as well as a couple other prospects that may need a little time but have intriguing upside such as Joshua Kaindoh and Noah Gray. However, one of the most exciting Chiefs picks from the 2021 NFL Draft was Clemson wide receiver Cornell Powell in the 5th round.
Now, a lot of times the term “steal” can become a bit overused and it seems as if fans of every team want to call each of their late-round picks a steal which is understandable because you should be excited about your team’s draft picks, but in reality a majority of late-round picks never become more than a traditional depth piece for an NFL squad. All of that being said, though, Cornell Powell appears to be a steal in the 5th round for the Kansas City Chiefs and he may even be able to win the No. 2 wide receiver role early on.
At first that might seem a little crazy to some, but Powell is an interesting case that doesn’t posses the resume of your typical day three draft pick. Powell was once a four-star recruit coming out of high school for the class of 2016 according to 247sports.com and although Powell was ranked highly, he was lost in Clemson’s wide receiver room given the talent they’re used to bringing in year after year. He was passed over by others including prospects Justyn Ross, Amari Rodgers, and Tee Higgins. In fact, Powell only had 40 receptions for 329 yards and 3 TD’s in four seasons with the Tigers.
Despite all of that, Powell stayed at Clemson for a fifth year to try and prove his worth. Things would end up working out for Powell as he broke out in 2020 for the Clemson Tigers, catching 53 passes for 882 yards and 7 TD’s. It really had seemed like Powell was never given the opportunity to shine on his own after all. Now Powell will be competing in Kansas City for a prominent receiver role as a rookie and if he can transition his skillset over to the NFL he has a good chance to win the No. 2 wide receiver spot for the Chiefs.
Could Cornell Powell become No. 2 wide receiver for KC Chiefs?
Why such high expectations for Powell? Let’s start with the fact that he replicates a lot of what Sammy Watkins, the Chiefs WR2 from last season, can do on the field. Powell is a bigger body at 6’0″, 210 lbs, and is a very disciplined route runner. Powell also has speed to go with his size as he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at his college pro day and displayed great hands while at Clemson, recording just a 3.6% drop rate. Those are all things the Chiefs want in a No. 2 receiver so that alone bodes well for Powell’s chances to make an impact early.
Unfortunately, part of Powell’s chances to win the job at WR2 aren’t just because of his abilities, but because of what else the Chiefs have. Mecole Hardman doesn’t really have the traits of an “X” wide receiver like Powell does. Hardman was last on the Chiefs in drop rate in 2020 and has struggled to stay committed to finishing out his routes and beating the press. There’s always a chance he could progress in those areas but as of right now Powell is further along than he is in those areas. How about Byron Pringle? Sure he’s stepped up when asked to and he has quickly become a fan-favorite in Kansas City. However, Pringle is already about to turn 28 years old and has just over 300 receiving yards in two seasons. I get Pringle has shown flashes, but asking Powell to beat out Pringle for the No. 2 wide receiver role wouldn’t be that big of an ask.
That’s not to knock on Pringle or Hardman either, but when you consider how much the Chiefs trusted Sammy Watkins in the WR2 role and then look at how similar Powell and Watkins are as players, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Powell wins the job. Besides, Watkins who constantly missed games and only had 421 yards and 2 TD’s in 2020. Would it be all that outlandish to think a player with Powell’s potential could easily put up those numbers in 17 games even as a rookie?
Regardless, the battle for WR2 in training camp this offseason should be an interesting one. Even if Powell doesn’t win the job right away, there’s always a chance he could grow into the role as time goes on. Powell would also have the luxury of playing with Patrick Mahomes and seeing single coverage all the time with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce also on the field. Everything is in place for him to shine early on.