University of Kansas

Chiefs sign draft picks Eric Murray and Tyreek Hill, leaving only KeiVarae Russell unsigned

Murray
Murray AP

The Kansas City Chiefs have taken another step toward inking all nine of their 2016 draft picks, announcing deals with fourth-round cornerback Eric Murray and fifth-round receiver/return man Tyreek Hill on Monday.

That means all but one of their draft picks — cornerback KeiVarae Russell, a third-round pick — are currently under contract.

Hill, Murray and Russell were among the nine draft picks who participated in the club’s rookie minicamp, which was held May 7-9 at the team’s practice facility, even though none of them were under contract at the time.

There has been plenty of attention surrounding Hill, who pleaded guilty last August to domestic abuse by strangulation of his pregnant girlfriend, since the Chiefs selected him with the 165th overall pick. He expressed remorse about the situation while addressing the media at the rookie minicamp, and said he looks forward to playing football for the Chiefs and continuing his court-ordered counseling, which is required by the plea deal he received, which includes a deferred three-year sentence.

But even though Hill is now under contract, he still has to make the 53-man roster. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey told Pro Football Talk Live over the weekend that Hill has been guaranteed nothing.

“What he has to do is he has to continue to receive counseling,” Dorsey told Pro Football Talk. “He has to continue to be in our program, and that’s what it would do. By no chance is he guaranteed a spot on this roster.”

Hill will have an opportunity to carve out a role as a slot receiver and return man during organized team activities, which begin on May 24 and continue through June, and training camp, which starts in July.

It’s certainly worth noting that the Chiefs’ return roles are a bit unsettled, as the status of primary kick returner Knile Davis and primary punt returner De’Anthony Thomas is somewhat unclear. The Chiefs shopped Davis in trade talks a few months ago, and the club has never explained Thomas’ absence the last month of the 2015 season, other than to say he was out for “personal reasons.”

The Chiefs are obviously high on Hill’s return ability. He blazed a 4.25-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in March, and Ryne Nutt — the Chiefs’ southeast scout — said Hill is the most dynamic returner he’s seen in his seven years of scouting. Nutt added that Chiefs special-teams coach Dave Toub compared Hill’s skills to ace returner Devin Hester’s.

Hill, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, posted modest offensive stats in 2015, when he caught 27 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 25 times for 254 yards and a touchdown against Division II competition. But he made his mark as a returner, bringing back two kicks and two punts for touchdowns, and his coach at West Alabama, Brett Gilliland, attributed Hill’s modest offensive numbers to the way he was schemed.

“He’s obviously a game-changer as a running back, so that made us a little leery on using him too much,” Gilliland said. “We wanted to keep him healthy and make sure he could make his place on special teams that could help us. He won us a couple of games.”

Gilliland said Hill’s vision and ability to set up blockers complements his 4.25 speed and ability to get to full speed quickly.

“He can go from zero to full speed faster than anybody I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Hill showcased his burst at the rookie camp as he practiced hauling in kicks and punts, and figures to have an opportunity to continue doing so as he hopes to solidify a spot on the 53-man roster over the next several months.

Terez A. Paylor: @TerezPaylor

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