Success developing raw prospects leads Chiefs to try again with two more

In 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs took a chance on a young tight end who played only basketball in college. Now Demetrius Harris is their backup to Travis Kelce.

In 2014, the Chiefs took a chance on a young offensive lineman who played college football, but in Canada. Now Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is their starting right guard.

Perhaps emboldened by these successes, the Chiefs in recent weeks have signed two other players with decidedly non-traditional football backgrounds. Neither linebacker Efe Obada nor defensive lineman Tautvydas Kieras played football in college, but they will be joining the Chiefs in two weeks for the start of the offseason program to see whether they can overcome the odds and become productive players.

“I’d say statistically, it’s about 87 percent of the players that play in the National Football League are from Division I schools," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “I don’t think you can line your roster with a lot of these different projects.

“I think (Harris and Duvernay-Tardif), I think that’s a reflection of the coaches and how they’ve helped develop these players moving in the process, and also having a degree of patience. I think when you have patience, if you have an athletic trait, you can develop on that and you just have to have a little bit of patience here.”

Expectations for Obada, who played his first American-style football game two years ago while living in London, and Kieras, a Lithuanian native who was a discus thrower in college at Mississippi State, are minimal.

But so, too, are the risks.

“I think what they have is they have a degree of athleticism that you look for in that particular position," Dorsey said. “And those were very unique traits. We have coaches that can develop these. And I think what you’re doing is you’re going into (offseason practice) and training camp now, and you’re trying to see if there’s a steady degree of improvement as we move along here.

“It’s a chance. You may be able to hit one. We’ll just see what happens as they develop. I said, ‘Why not take a shot and see where these guys stand?’ I’m kind of curious to see, once they get into (offseason practice), how they progress.”

The best Obada and Kieras can probably hope for this season is to make the practice squad. But Harris was on the practice squad as a rookie. Duvernay-Tardif spent his rookie season on the active roster but didn’t play in a regular-season game.

“The first thing you have to do is see how they react in (offseason practice) and how they grasp the system," Dorsey said. “And then you have to see them and get your hands around them when they go into training camp and see if they have the wherewithal to work through the tough part of the training camp, and then get a chance to watch them play in preseason games. Then, I think, you can make your assessment as you move along here, probably in a four-stage thing.

“But I think you have to go in stages here, a little bit, just to see if they develop and they begin to have a learning curve that we’d like to see.”