Thornhill Selected By Chiefs In Round 2 Of NFL Draft

By Scott Ratcliffe

Juan Thornhill hoists the 2018 Belk Bowl championship trophy (Photo credit: South Boston News & Record).

Virginia safety Juan Thornhill was taken with the 63rd pick in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday by the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs. He is the first UVA safety in 20 years to be selected in the draft (Anthony Poindexter, Baltimore 1999).

The 6-foot, 205-pounder from Altavista started all but one game for the Cavaliers over his final two seasons and made a name for himself nationally as a versatile defensive back with tremendous leaping ability and shutdown coverage. He led UVA with 98 tackles as a senior (62 solo).

His previous experience at the cornerback position as well as the safety — and even, at times, linebacker — was an attractive attribute for Thornhill going into the draft.

Thornhill picked off 13 career passes as a Wahoo, including six of them in 2018, which was good for third amongst all FBS players. He registered a pair of interceptions in Virginia’s 16-13 win over 16th-ranked Miami on Oct. 13. He also recorded seven pass break-ups as a senior.

Thornhill recently made news with an NFL Combine-best 44-inch vertical jump to go with an 11-foot, 9-inch broad jump, 21 bench-press reps and 4.42 40-yard dash time.

“I like him in the deep middle because of the range he has,”’s Daniel Jeremiah said of Thornhill. “He’s a ball hawk. He’ll miss some tackles but you’ll take that for his ball skills.”

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN draft analyst, had Thornhill at the top of his “best available” list for several picks prior to the Chiefs scooping him up with the next-to-last pick in the second round in Nashville. Kiper likes what he sees in Thornhill’s pro potential.

“This is a guy who can sky,” said Kiper. “He is a tremendous athlete and someone who I know that they love in Kansas City. Why? Because of his versatility.”

Thornhill was a first-team All-ACC selection and registered a season-high nine solo stops against Ohio on Sept. 15. He finished 2018 strong, posting 13 tackles and an interception against Liberty, nine tackles at Georgia Tech, and a career-high 14 stops (eight solo) in his final regular-season contest against Virginia Tech.

In the 28-0 shutout of South Carolina in the Belk Bowl, Thornhill capped off his Cavalier career in style, picking off a Jake Bentley pass in the fourth quarter and returning it 54 yards.

The Chiefs finished 12-4 in 2018, clinching the top seed in the AFC before falling to eventual champion New England in the conference championship game. Thornhill is expected to challenge for early playing time in the secondary under KC Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

Thornhill finished his UVA career acquiring 208 total tackles (140 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 13 picks, a forced fumble and 39 passes defended.


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