Bengals claim defensive back KeiVarae Russell from Chiefs

The Cincinnati Bengals added to their secondary. They claimed rookie corner KeiVarae Russell from Kansas City, a third-round pick from the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Cincinnati Bengals have added to their secondary. Marvin Lewis and Co. claimed rookie defensive back KeiVarae Russell from Kansas City.

The move comes as a surprise to many Arrowhead faithful. Russell was the 74th overall selection in the draft, just five months ago, and is now the earliest player from that draft to get cut.

In the Chiefs’ season opener, an overtime thriller vs. San Diego, Russell was a healthy inactive. In a young secondary in Kansas City (the Chiefs drafted three corners in 2016), it’s hard to fathom why Russell was let go. But, the Bengals will gladly scoop up Andy Reid‘s leftovers.

Adding depth in the secondary is vital for the Bengals. Darqueeze Dennard missed the season-opener against the Jets but was a full participant in practice Thursday. First-round selection William Jackson III suffered a torn pectoral in the preseason, and veteran Adam Jones has been plagued by injuries in the past.

The Bengals released guard Trey Hopkins to make room for the 5′ 11,” 190-pound corner.

The Skinny

Coming out of high school in Everett, Washington, Russell was actually one of the top running back recruits in the country. When he went to Notre Dame to play football at the collegiate level, he switched to defensive back.

After an academic suspension, Russell returned to the Fighting Irish for his senior year. In 11 games, he tallied 60 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups.

KeiVarae Russell intercepts a pass against USC-Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

A fractured tibia forced him to miss the final two games; a three-point loss at Stanford and a Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State.

Russell announced he would enter the NFL Draft in early January, and despite the leg injury, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.

NFL.com projected Russell to go in the second or third round, so they were correct. Here’s what their original scouting report on the DB said via NFL.com

Strengths: “Angular athletic build. Plays fast. Smooth hips and light feet opening from press. Plus route recognition. Anticipates and mirrors routes in space sitting in receiver’s pocket along the route. Quick responder to play­action and sprints back into his responsibility.”

Weaknesses:  “Flat­footed pedal slows plant-­and­-close ability. Displays some balance inconsistency in change of direction. Ball skills can use work. Hyper­-focuses on his man rather than finding the ball and making a play.”

(Read the entire scouting report here)

Coming from Notre Dame, Russell has gone head-to-head against elite receivers across the country, so the Bengals have to feel good about this waiver wire theft.

With Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Shaw, and Chris Lewis-Harris making up the regular rotation for the Bengals’ corners, an instant contribution from Russell isn’t needed. But it’s likely the Bengals may have just found a diamond in the rough.

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