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Could Chiefs’ second-year CB BoPete Keyes be poised for a breakout year in 2021?

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The Kansas City Chiefs’ 2020 NFL draft class had a lot of early contributors, but there was one player who was on the 53-man roster for the bulk of the season who didn’t see much action during the course of the year.

The Chiefs traded back into the draft to select Tulane CB BoPete Keyes in the seventh round at pick No. 237 overall. He recorded 95 total tackles, two interceptions and 15 passes defended in his four seasons with the Green Wave, but his rookie campaign in Kansas City got off to a slow start.

Keyes was placed on the NFI list with an orbital fracture and wasn’t removed from the list until about the halfway point through training camp. He was behind in the on-field work and even with early injuries and absences at the cornerback position, Keyes couldn’t find his way onto the field. When it was all said and done, Keyes would appear in eight games on the year, starting in Week 17 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Take out his lone start and the majority of his snaps came on special teams.

With his rookie season in the rearview, Keyes seems to be putting in the extra work to make sure he’s ready to take a step forward in 2021. Chiefs defensive leader Tyrann Mathieu sent out a tweet last Tuesday about a young teammate asking to run extra gassers after the team’s first OTA practice.

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Mathieu later revealed that player to be Keyes.

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Later that week, when Mathieu spoke to the media, he set some expectations for the young defensive backs in the room. It’d appear that he’s already seeing from Keyes what he wants to see out of the rest of the young players on the defense.

“I think for any young guy, you just want to see those guys take the next step in the system,” Mathieu told reporters. “I think for a lot of them things move fast. We’ve got a pretty complex defensive scheme that we run, so any guy that’s going into his second or third year in the system, you would just hope that they take the necessary steps to get better. Whether that be communicating, whether that be showing up to work early, showing up to meetings early, you just want to see the young guys continue to grow and put themselves in a position to be successful.”

The Chiefs traded up back into the seventh round to grab Keyes for a reason. While that reason wasn’t realized during his rookie campaign, he’ll have a chance to prove himself a contributor throughout this offseason. It’s clear that he’s motivated to do his part during offseason training to become the best possible player that he can be. He just needs to put that plan into action once he hits the field during training camp and the 2021 NFL preseason.

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