Chiefs seem to have a type at running back. This undrafted rookie is the latest example

In hindsight, many NFL teams probably regret not taking the Chiefs’ Isiah Pacheco in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Pacheco, a 5-foot-10, 216-pound running back from Rutgers, was selected by KC in the seventh round last year before reaching 1,027 rushing yards when combining the regular and postseasons.

Was there a way to know he might break out? Or something the Chiefs saw in Pacheco that others didn’t?

That answer might just be “yes” … and considering one of the Chiefs’ latest signings, they could be looking to replicate the same formula with Tulsa’s Deneric Prince.

The Chiefs — in the last two drafts at least — have appeared to be targeting a specific type of running back: speedy but also with good size.

One way to best single out those running backs is using an advanced measure called “Speed Score.” First established by Bill Barnwell in 2008, Speed Score looks to give proper credit to bigger backs who run fast 40-yard dash times.

And interestingly, over time, that metric has been a decent predictor of future success.

The average running back in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ research, has a Speed Score of 100. Meanwhile, only 81 of 620 running backs at the Combine have hit a 110 Speed Score since 1999.

And reaching that milestone has been significant.

If your Speed Score has been 110 or above, you’ve had a 35% chance of reaching 2,500 rushing yards in your first five NFL seasons. An average running back who attends the Combine, meanwhile, has just a 14% chance of hitting that same 2,500-yard marker through five years played.

So who led all 2022 draft-eligible players in Speed Score? That would be the Chiefs’ Pacheco, whose 118.5 mark edged out second-place Breece Hall, who was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets.

And this year? First-round running backs Jahmyr Gibbs (110.1) and Bijan Robinson (108.7) ranked second and third among pre-draft players in Speed Score.

But both remained behind one person: Prince (114.2), whom the Chiefs picked up as an undrafted free agent after he ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash.

2023 RB

Speed Score

Deneric Prince, Tulsa


Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama


Bijan Robinson, Texas


Chase Brown, Illinois


Devon Achane, Texas A&M


Source: Football Outsiders

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, when asked about Prince on May 1, expressed that he was “a guy that we’re excited about.”

“He’s a big kid that can really run. I mean, he ran one of the fastest 40 times at the Combine, has done a good job over the years of working on the pass game,” Veach said. “And so he’s another talented kid that we’re excited to bring in here.”

Kansas City Chiefs rookie Deneric Prince (34) runs a drill during a Chiefs rookie minicamp on Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Kansas City.

Kansas City Chiefs rookie Deneric Prince (34) runs a drill during a Chiefs rookie minicamp on Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Kansas City.

Prince, who participated in the Chiefs rookie minicamp last week, said the Chiefs were one of two teams to contact him after the draft along with the Miami Dolphins. He said he watched the entire draft and was surprised he wasn’t selected.

“Obviously I was getting a little discouraged, going late in the seventh round,” Prince said, “but I knew I put the work in, so I knew something good was gonna come.”

Prince said he felt a good connection with new Chiefs running backs coach Todd Pinkston and some other staff members, which was part of the reason he chose KC.

Following rookie minicamp last week, Chiefs coach Andy Reid called Prince a “good-looking kid” before saying he had “picked things up well.”

“His size, I mean, that’s the thing that jumps out at you: size, strength, and he caught the ball well,” Reid said. “We knew he could run it. We’ll see how he does once we get to that point (in practices with pads), but we’ve seen that on tape.”

Prince has some natural ties to the Chiefs too. Before the draft, he worked out with former Chiefs running back Derrick Blaylock, and he also cites former Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles as one of his favorite players growing up.

“Just watching Jamaal Charles and how he breaks long runs is really exciting to me,” Prince said. “And I feel like I could do the same thing.”

Veach said earlier this month that the expectation for Prince was to come in and compete for playing time and also a roster spot. KC has Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon returning, while Ronald Jones signed an offseason deal with the Cowboys.

KC actually has a history with Speed Score that goes beyond the current regime.

Another former No. 1 in his class — Knile Davis — posted the then-second-best Speed Score mark ever in 2013 before the Chiefs took him in the third round of the draft. Davis was mainly a kick return specialist for KC in four seasons, taking back two kickoffs for touchdowns while combining for 800 rushing yards in four seasons.

The Chiefs also noticeably did not prioritize Speed Score in the 2020 Draft. With the last pick in the first round, KC selected Edwards-Helaire, whose 92.5 Speed Score ranked 21st among running backs. Jonathan Taylor from Wisconsin, who went to the Indianapolis Colts with the 41st pick, led all players in Speed Score that year with a 121.7.

Recently, “Relative Athletic Score” has been developed as a measurement with additional data points to give a seemingly more advanced version of Speed Score. Prince’s 9.58 mark put him fourth among this year’s draft-eligible running backs (behind Robinson, Illinois’ Chase Brown and Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda) while also 74th out of the 1,745 running backs ranked since 1987.

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