When Kahlil McKenzie enrolled at Tennessee, the sky was the limit. McKenzie had the Big Orange pedigree because both his father and uncle had played for the Vols, and he had the hype as a five-star defensive tackle coming over from California.
But unfortunately for McKenzie, his time at Tennessee ended up being more about potential than production.
The former five-star ended up getting drafted in the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft, but there’s a twist to his entry into the NFL: McKenzie won’t be playing the position he became known at while playing at Tennessee. He’s moving over to the offensive line to play at guard.
McKenzie’s father, Reggie McKenzie, told him that his key to success in the NFL would likely be on the offensive line. According to an Associated Press report, Reggie, who is the GM of the Oakland Raiders and also played for Tennessee in college, told his son that if the Raiders picked him in the draft, they would move him to offensive guard.
But the Kansas City Chiefs beat Reggie and the Raiders to the punch, drafting Kahlil in the sixth round with the 198th overall pick. And they have the same plan for Kahlil that his father did.
“I told him, ‘It’s your conspiracy. You did this,'” Kahlil McKenzie said to his father. “He always wanted me to play offensive line. He said I could play the position a lot different, somebody that knows what defensive linemen are going to do and somebody who can move a lot better than a lot of offensive linemen.”
McKenzie only played at defensive tackle while with the Vols. There was a contingent of Vol fans who thought McKenzie might work out better as an offensive lineman for Tennessee, but former head coach Butch Jones and his staff never made the move. McKenzie dealt with injuries during his college career, but even last year when he was fully healthy was far from a banner year for the former five-star.
But the Chiefs have extremely high expectations for McKenzie, and their GM believes their sixth-round pick could prove to be a diamond in the rough.
“This kid is going to look like a first-round pick,” Chiefs GM Brett Veach said. “He’s an impressive-looking player. He’s a draftable talent just as a defensive lineman, and he would certainly be on an NFL roster this coming fall if he just played defensive line.
“But when you watched him at his pro day, he just had such a good workout at guard. It looked natural to him.”
Kansas City showed up to Tennessee’s Pro Day and were impressed with what they saw with McKenzie as he went through defensive drills. But then they worked him out at offensive guard, and he ended up performing better than three players who had played at offensive line full-time.
McKenzie, who did play both sides of the ball in high school, will try to use his physical tools he learned at defensive tackle to make him a better offensive lineman. And it’s clear his new team thinks the sky is the limit once again for McKenzie.