Certain players transcend their role and impact. Through their dynamic personality, commitment to their limited role, or some other factor, some guys become Bucs fan favorites even if they aren’t elite or great all-around players.
You will often hear attributes like “gritty” and “grinder” associated with them. They aren’t the fastest or most athletic. But they wind up with some of your favorite highlight reel plays because they do one thing well and usually are willing to sacrifice more than the guy they are facing to succeed. Well Bucs fans, allow me to introduce you to “exhibit A” for your 2022 Tampa Bay Bucs: Ko Kieft.
Kieft was a surprise selection for most and was not on anyone’s “Big Board” when the Bucs traded up to select him in the sixth round. But at that point in the draft team draft boards will differ greatly from public one’s as they tend to hone-in on very specific skill sets that their particular teams needed. Enter Kieft who is known for one thing and one thing only. The man is committed solely to the craft of blocking. And it was for this reason the Bucs drafted him.
So, let’s dive in and see what specifically the Bucs saw in Kieft.
I kind of gave it away in the intro, didn’t I? No matter. A simple Google search would have given it away. But you come to Pewter Report for more detail than that. And detail you shall have! Let’s go to clip one.
Kieft is lined up at the bottom of the offensive line as a wing back. As soon as the ball is snapped, he knows exactly where he wants to get to as he fires off the line towards his assignments inside shoulder. He gets to his mark and explodes from a leveraged position up and out to create a seal and blocking his guy out from the line. This creates an ideal seam for Minnesota’s running back to run through and get to the second level.
While this is a play that will end up on a highlight reel at the end of the game, this block would not be the featured part of the play. But it is important to remember 95% of blocking isn’t and shouldn’t be a highlight in and of itself. It’s the technical aspect of football that allows highlights to occur. Get to your mark before your opponent does, gain leverage, control your man. Kieft executes his assignment in masterclass fashion. The Bucs have to love seeing plays like this.
Becoming A Bully
Did the last clip leave you wanting? Technically sound, pancake-less blocks not your thing? Was it boring? Well, I am working towards a crescendo that will be worth the wait so bear with me. Clip two will show Kieft can go beyond the simple, technically sound block.
Are you starting to get more excited? Here you see Kieft build off of his technical prowess and add some real oomph. In this play Kieft is lined up outside the left tackle (on the right of your screen). Again, he fires off to attack his man going forward. However, there is a big difference in what Kieft is being asked to do this time that allows him to have more fun.
This time instead of walling off to isolate his man away from the play, he gets to engage his lower half and drive through 6-foot-6, 270-pound Zach Harrison (No. 9). By the time Harrison was able to get off the ride the return period had elapsed, and he was not allowed to get his money back. Plays like these show Bucs coaches that Kieft is dedicated to this craft and consistently successful.
Sometimes people are called to a higher walk of life. They are destined to help others become the best versions of themselves. Some people are gifted at helping those around them find their true callings. Kieft may be one of those lucky few.
When you watch this clip, you will see many and assume many things. You will see Kieft lined up at the bottom of your screen in a wing back position just outside the right tackle. Then you will see him lock up linebacker Dallas Gant. Following this, you will see him then win the leverage battle, push through Gant’s reach and get a strong grip at his chest. Finally, you will then see him manhandle Gant forwards, backwards, and side-to-side for a total of 10 to 12 yards before depositing Gant on his back – in the backfield!
And you will assume things like “he stole Gant’s soul!” or “he broke his spirit.” But I will offer up a different narrative for what happened on this play. Kieft knew that football was not the path Gant needed to devote his life to. And so, he set out to have a heart-to-heart with Gant. He wanted to talk with Gant about his hopes, his dreams, and what he wanted to get out of this life. Kieft helped Gant realize that his true path in life was that of an accountant. Immediately following this play Gant gave up football forever, changed majors, and dedicated himself to helping others understand the difference between deductible and non-deductible expenditures.
(*For the record, I have no actual knowledge this took place, but it seems entirely plausible based on the length of time from start to finish of this delicious pancake.)
Understanding The Why
The Bucs drafted Ko Kieft to do one thing and do it well. He is an elite blocker at the tight end position. These players aren’t sexy. But they are useful. They have an important place on a team’s roster.
And rather than try a dart throw for a player at a different position with a tool or two that you hope develops, the Bucs decided to use their newly acquired sixth -round pick on a guy who will have a specific, defined role that they are very confident he can execute from day one. There is value in that. Kieft is going to pave the way to becoming a fan favorite.