The Kansas City Chiefs2023 NFL draft added seven new players to the team as well as several undrafted rookies. The team’s first three draft picks, Kansas State defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice, and Oklahoma offensive tackle Wanya Morris, all have a chance to help the Chiefs right out of the gate as rookies. Who will the Chiefs’ rookie sleeper be, though? The player with the best chance to earn that title in 2023 is an unheralded prospect from Stephen F. Austin State and the team’s fifth-round pick, BJ Thompson.

EDGE BJ Thompson is the Chiefs' rookie sleeper to watch in 2023

What makes a rookie sleeper?

Well, a player has to go a little later in the NFL draft (third round or later), and you need to make an impact right away with splash plays that catch the attention of media and fans.

Kansas State defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah can’t be the Chiefs' rookie sleeper because he went in Round 1 of the Chiefs draft, and there’s a good chance he won’t fit the second criteria this season either.

Sure, Anudike-Uzomah will likely get some sacks, but if he does a great job holding down a starting DE spot for the Chiefs, it will be because he stands up against the run with sound gap discipline and runs twists and stunts with Chris Jones to help get him free. That is what is required of Anudike-Uzomah, and while it is crucial, it’s not flashy.

Fifth-round Chiefs draft pick BJ Thompson has the chance to be flashy this season.

The edge rusher out of little Stephen F. Austin State is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound pass-rush specialist. The Arkansas native initially went to Baylor where he played for two years, picking up 5.0 sacks as a sophomore, before transferring to SFA where he had 20.5 sacks in three seasons.

Thompson is incredibly athletic and has a solid variety of pass-rush moves at his disposal. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that at 240 pounds on a 6-foot-6 frame, Thompson isn’t going to hold up against the run in the NFL unless he puts on a significant amount of weight and muscle, and even under the best conditions that will take at least a year of working out like an NFL player.

The scouting report on the Chiefs draft pick after the team made its selection, per , was that he is an A+ as a rusher and a question mark as a run defender.

That said, even that not-so-good news isn’t that bad for the Chiefs rookie or the team because the team doesn’t need him to be a three-down, run-defending DE. BJ Thompson will be a pass-rush specialist this season, and no one gets more out of pass-rush specialists than Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator on the 2007 New York Giants Super Bowl teams that featured Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan, and Mathias Kiwanuka as pass rushers who could be on the field simultaneously to create havoc in the pocket for opposing quarterbacks.

In 2023, the Chiefs will now have George Karlaftis, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Charles Omenihu, and now BJ Thompson, who can all get after the QB on obvious passing downs, just as Spagnuolo likes it.

And don’t be shocked if it is the long, rangy, speedy Thompson who gets home in those situations more than the others on his way to becoming the Chiefs' rookie sleeper of the season. He is the fastest of this group and the player with the least name recognition, so he should see single blocking most of the time.

Thompson could also make other splash plays for Kansas City this season as well like he did at Baylor. During his time with the Bears, he was a dominant force on special teams, blocking three kicks in his final season in Waco.

Longtime Andy Reid associate Dave Toub is the KC special teams coach and one of the best in the game. Even if it takes Thompson some time to become an excellent pass rusher, Toub should be able to utilize him as a major disruptor of the kicking game.

Sacks and blocked kicks are a great recipe for a player like BJ Thompson to go from middle-round afterthought in the Chiefs draft to the Chiefs' rookie sleeper in 2023. Look for Thompson to get more opportunity than most later-round raw prospects because of what he can do well and how the Chiefs coaches like Spagnuolo and Toub like to use players.

The Chiefs are as good as they are for many reasons, and making picks like Thompson and putting them in the best situation to succeed is one of them.