The Kansas City Chiefs entered training camp this summer with a loaded backfield.
The return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, and Derrick Gore was paired with the additions of Ronald Jones II and undrafted rookies Jerrion Ealy and Tayon Fleet-Davis. But there’s also another undrafted rookie that’s been turning heads at training camp, so much so that he’s drawing comparisons to a former Chiefs running back with a strong reputation on the field.
“Isiah Pacheco, a seventh-round pick out of Rutgers, looks like a real player—216 pounds, 4.3 speed, and traits that remind the staff here of former Chief Kareem Hunt (only he may have an extra gear that Hunt didn’t),” Sports Illustrated’s NFL insider Albert Breer wrote on Aug 3.
“He’s a product of what the personnel department saw as a surplus of Day 3 running backs in this year’s draft class, which was a result of the COVID season of 2020 taking work away from guys who may have entered the ’21 class. And Pacheco’s more than just a traits guy—he’s shown real vision, too. It’ll be interesting, then, to see how he fits into a crowded backfield with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones and Jerick McKinnon.”
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Breer is doing a training camp tour around the NFL, so what he saw from Pacheco was only from a single day. However, reporters on-scene for every day of camp are even making comparisons as Breer did.
“On Pacheco… He’s reminding a lot of us of Kareem Hunt… except he runs faster, a 4.37 40-yard dash,” Pete Sweeney of Arrowhead Pride wrote on Aug. 3.
Pacheco to Start as KC’s Primary Kick Returner
While it might be very difficult to get the ball in Pacheco’s hands on offense at the beginning of the season, there’s another way he will be touching the ball for the Chiefs: special teams.
Speaking to the media at training camp, special teams coordinator David Toub revealed that Pacheco will get the first crack at being the team’s primary kick returner, a job that was previously held by former Chiefs receiver Byron Pringle.
“We’re going to start him off as the guy and see if he can handle it,” Toub said of Pacheco on Aug. 2. “See how he does in the preseason. In a few games, we’ll be able to know right away. He’s promising. He’s a big guy — 215 plus. Ran [a] 4:37 [40-yard dash]. That’s kind of scary back there if we can get that thing going. We used Pringle that way. We think we can do that with Pacheco.”
McKinnon Speaks Highly of Pacheco
Kansas City’s veteran running back Jerick McKinnon, the oldest running back on the roster, had a lot of good things to say about Pacheco when asked about him.
“He’s a humble guy and his work ethic is top tier,” McKinnon said of Pacheco on July 30. “He’s real explosive and has nice size. Him and Fleet [Tayon Fleet-Davis] both, big backs but they move really well. They have good footwork in the individual drills. I know the coaches think highly of them and so does everybody else on the team.”
McKinnon also shared some of the advice he gave to Pacheco and some of the other younger players.
“These last couple of days he has shown what he can do with the ball,” McKinnon continued. “Like I told him and the other guys, when you come in as a rookie, it’s going to be that big learning curve. Especially now, everything is flying. In OTA’s, it’s a little slower and you get to learn with the coach, and they break it down. Once you get to camp, it’s all cylinders. Just watching those guys each day just learn and come out and make progress has been amazing.”