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It was a bit of a surprise when Tennessee guard Trey Smith was available for the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft. Many had him figured for a Top 100 player in this draft class, but he’s now considered to be a steal at his draft slot.
Most have speculated that his fall in the draft was due to the lack of pre-draft medical information and concerns over previously diagnosed blood clotting issues. He was first diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs early in 2018. That diagnosis ultimately caused him to miss the final five games of the season for the Volunteers. He’s spent consecutive seasons since his initial diagnosis playing football for the University of Tennessee with no problems.
“I’ve been in absolute perfect health,” Smith told Kansas City media members after his selection. “Having a great time, no issues recently at all. Obviously, things are uncontrollable, but once again, thankful to the Hunt family and the Chiefs organization for believing in me. I’m ready to roll.”
The Chiefs took a chance on Smith, but how did that come to be when he was in virtual freefall and medical information was so limited? The Chiefs credit their training and medical staff for their diligence in regards to Smith’s condition and health. They did a lot of background work and vetting to ensure that he was someone they could keep on their draft board.
“Well as far as him being on the board, I’ll leave that to the other teams, but we had the most confidence in Rick Burkholder and Dr. Mike Monaco,” Chiefs Director of Pro Personnel Tim Terry said. “They did a lot of research, a lot of work, did all the due diligence and searching out everything from his medical history standpoint and we feel really comfortable and confident that we’re getting a good young man. Not only as Pat (Sperduto) said, a good young football player that’s going to come in our building and help us to elevate the level of competition. As far as the rating, we rated him really high. As Pat spoke, he’s a highly accomplished young man, has done everything you could possibly do in the SEC which is a highly competitive division, so we’re excited.”
Brett Veach explained that there was a lot of communication with Monaco during the pre-draft process specifically about Smith. It sounds like Smith is someone that the Chiefs were specifically targeting late in the draft, knowing that his medical condition might leave teams concerned.
“Yeah obviously we feel like we got tremendous value, extremely talented player, great person too, smart. There’s been a lot of talk about Trey and his fall and I’m not a doctor, so I don’t want to really speak on in regards to his condition. . . . We did a lot of work with him in particular with Mike Monaco — I’ll probably defer to Rick (Burkholder) on this because I don’t want to screw up the language but he had a situation he was going through, he tried some different medications and some of them worked, some of them didn’t, but really put a lot of faith and trust in Rick and his training staff. I would say of all the players in this draft process, I don’t think I spoke to Mike Monaco more about (anyone) than Trey Smith.”
Veach also explained that the team tends to take players off the draft board if there’s any speck of gray area that they’re unable to account for. That tells you just how comfortable and confident they are that he won’t have any issues staying healthy in Kansas City.
“I would say that in general, we’re probably one of the more conservative staff in regards to any gray, we’re probably taking people off our board,” Veach said. “So I knew early on that when Mike thought he had an idea of how to fix this, I thought that we were really onto something because again, any area of gray we’re usually taking a player off the board because we don’t want to put players in that position here in Kansas City, so I feel good about the work we did on him. Again, if everything works out, you’re getting a guy that obviously would have been drafted a lot higher, got tremendous upside with him and looking forward to getting him here and Mike and our trainers work with him and getting him up to speed and seeing if we can tap into all that potential.”
Only time will tell if things will work out with Smith in regards to his health, but there’s a lot of trust and research that went into the team’s decision to draft him. There’s also a lot of excitement about his potential upside with the team.
“I can’t speak to any other teams and why they didn’t take him,” Terry said. “But we’re glad we got him in our building and we’re looking forward to growing with him.”