Let's start with the obvious: Wide receiver and free safety are the two glaring voids in Kansas City's roster, and cornerback, depending on Marcus Cooper's development, could potentially serve as a third. I'd be somewhat shocked if the Chiefs didn't address one of the above needs at pick No. 23.
Let's take a glimpse at a few talents who could answer the call.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
When Marqise Lee clutches the ball, eyes widen and decibels rise. However, on the heels of leading the nation with 118 catches as a sophomore, his receptions dwindled to 57 this past season. Lee's touchdown total plunged from 14 to four as well.
A nagging knee injury plagued the playmaker throughout 2013, and he was never able to fully recuperate until bowl season. With a few weeks of rest under his belt, though, Lee returned to vintage form in the Las Vegas Bowl and torched Fresno State's secondary for 118 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.
The hands of USC's open-field illusionist have never been mistaken for Cris Carter's, and his injury-riddled 2013 campaign could drag him into the latter stages of the first round.
At No. 23, there's no question that the potential reward would trump the risk, and if there's one prospect whose game mirrors that of Andy Reid's former wideouts, Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, it's USC's game-changer.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
When someone tells me that they're "big on Kelvin Benjamin," I just assume they're going off of hearsay or clicked a YouTube link ending with "2013 Highlights!"
The first time that I saw Benjamin's name linked to Jon Baldwin, I understood where the comparison stemmed from and nodded along. The first time I saw his name linked to Calvin Johnson, I wanted to cover my eyes with Beats headphones and mute the Internet.
Yes, coming out of college, Johnson had a frame similar to Benjamin's. Anderson Silva has the physique of a Geek Squad consultant; that doesn't mean Milton's an axe-kicking assassin.
The lion’s share of Benjamin’s highlights emanate from go routes and deep posts—variations of vertical bombs—on plays with little to no safety help. Conversely, he’s stiff and sluggish when coming out of any remotely sharp breaks, and he rarely attacks the ball with his hands.
Textbook passes regularly slice between or ricochet off of his gloves. Also, despite his gargantuan frame, Benjamin tends to play less physical than his size would suggest.
Critics have also questioned his maturity and dedication.
Ring a bell?
5. Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
If you haven't watched Calvin Pryor play football, you're doing yourself a disservice.
Time and again, he torpedoes across the screen and bruises people's souls. Pryor hits like someone who uses wrecking balls for kettlebells; a brand of downhill physicality that tends to be unique to strong safeties, not their deeper cohorts.
Pryor is anything but a one-dimensional player, though. When roaming between the hash marks, his feet react to the quarterback's eyes like the two are synchronized, and he flashes the necessary closing speed to seal vertical windows. In terms of safeties, his ball skills were second to none last year.
The cons? He'll probably be bankrupt by Week 8 due to weekly fines for helmet-to-helmet contact. His fearlessness is an asset, but at times he would be better served letting off the gas pedal. His eagerness can also result in him overpursuing the run.
Regardless, with Pryor and Eric Berry patrolling the middle, cutting on crossing routes would be like running through a minefield.
4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham is a precise route-runner who boasts trustworthy hands and unique lateral agility. His projected 40 time(s) tend to sway between 4.4 and 4.5. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that his base combine 40 will split the difference at 4.45 (give or take, leaning toward the former).
Beckham is surprisingly physical for his size, and he rarely hits the ground without a fight. His anticipation might be the most distinctive facet of his game, as he creates open-field opportunities for himself out of seemingly thin air.
3. Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might be the odds-on favorite for pick No. 23. He's not the human missile that Calvin Pryor is, which can actually be a pro, considering how prone to flags Pryor's mentality makes him.
Make no mistake, though, Clinton-Dix is definitely physical, and he'll add to a receiver's list of regrets if said wideout doesn't brace for the impact. He's just more disciplined in general, rarely overpursuing ball-carriers and keeping back-side responsibility.
Whereas Pyror could seamlessly switch to strong safety, Alabama's star was born to play deep. He mimics quarterbacks' eyes and flashes a rare brand of speed for the position, consistently closing out on sideline verticals in the nick of time.
Clinton-Dix is the perfect fit for Bob Sutton's Cover 1 love affair.
2. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The needs at free safety and wide receiver are more urgent than cornerback, but a team normally can't land a lockdown artist of Justin Gilbert's quality at No. 23. This year, that might not be the case. Darqueze Dennard could go off the board as the first corner taken—although, I think that Gilbert is a slightly better all-around prospect—which could open the door for the Big 12 standout to fall.
Gilbert has the kind of size, length and athleticism that Sutton wants. He didn't play as much press-man as Dennard, but on the occasions that he did, there were no bumps in the road. Gilbert breaks on the ball in a heartbeat and has the hip flexibility to change directions without lagging behind targets.
Oklahoma State's playmaker takes pride in both his craft and shutting down the receiver opposite of him—Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham can attest.
1. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
For the most part, Brandin Cooks' skill set mirrors Odell Beckham's. His selling points are just slightly stronger (and I emphasize "slightly"), but he's also an inch or two shorter.
Could Beckham be plucked before Oregon State's human highlight? Sure. Beckham is nearly as gifted, and he has spent the past three seasons dissecting and finding zones in SEC coverage.
However, there's a reason why Cooks is the 2013 recipient of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver (coincidentally, another target on the Chiefs' radar, Marqise Lee, was the 2012 winner). Judging from tape, Cooks looks a hair faster and more agile. Plus, he seems to have better balance and sideline awareness.
At 5'10", 187 pounds, he's roughly the same size as Donnie Avery and, like Beckham, is a crisp route-runner who can line up outside or in the slot. Cooks is a nightmare to guard on slants and screens, and he's a sure-handed speedster capable of coming down with the acrobatic grab that rewinds DVRs.
If, during offseason workouts, Cooks proves that he can gain a clean release against press-man—something he did against Utah's Keith McGill relatively easily—Sutton will have his hands full when trying to sell Andy Reid and John Dorsey on a defender.
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