The Kansas City Chiefs Shouldn't Waste Limited Resources on Top Wide Receiver

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The Kansas City Chiefs Shouldn't Waste Limited Resources on Top Wide Receiver
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Chiefs need to lean on the strength of Dwayne Bowe in 2014.

There has been a lot of talk about which wide receiver the Kansas City Chiefs should target in free agency or the draft. The talk so far has centered on high-profile free agents and first-round draft picks.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both mocked a different wide receiver to the Chiefs in the first round. The Kansas City Star has done three draft profiles, and two have been on wide receivers.

After giving wide receiver Dwayne Bowe a five-year, $56 million contract with $20 million guaranteed last year, the Chiefs shouldn’t waste valuable resources on another wide receiver. Burning a valuable draft pick on a position that usually takes a year to develop, or using limited cap space on a top free agent is a poor appropriation of the Chiefs' limited resources. 

It’s not that the Chiefs couldn’t use a good receiver opposite Bowe. They could because every team would love to have two good receivers, but the resources needed to get one is usually exorbitant. There are other needs on the roster greater than a second great receiver that the Chiefs can address more easily and for a longer period.

If the Chiefs go after a wide receiver in free agency or in the draft, here are some things the team should consider before committing either money or a draft pick to acquire one:

 

Free Agency

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Chiefs could reach out to Jeremy Maclin, but will his price be right?

Teams have to pay No. 2 receivers like No. 1 receivers in free agency, so the Chiefs wouldn’t even get a lot of bang for their buck if they decided to go that route. The Chiefs already have a ton of money invested at the position, and bringing in a good receiver in free agency would be an early indictment on the decision to pay Bowe top dollar. 

Spending too much at one position is counterproductive to building a great team, especially at a position that is so dependent on the quarterback. If Bowe's lack of production were no fault of his own, it wouldn't make any sense to double-down. 

The Chiefs are $333,457 under the salary cap according to Spotrac.com, so they don’t have a ton of money to be throwing around even after making a few moves to create cap flexibility. It’s the regime’s second year in control, so there are still plenty of changes coming, but it would be surprising if they made another big splash on a wide receiver.

General manager John Dorsey cut his teeth in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, so it’s likely that he’ll follow their model. The Green Bay model is to avoid the first wave of free agency when teams overspend on flawed players, draft well and then develop them.

Notable Receivers Acquired by the Packers & Eagles
Player Year Acquired Seasons with team Receptions with team Yards with team Receiving touchdowns with team
Randall Cobb 2011 2nd round 3 136 1762 13
Jeremy Maclin 2009 1st round 4 258 3453 26
Jordy Nelson 2008 2nd round 6 302 4590 36
DeSean Jackson 2008 2nd round 6 356 6117 32
James Jones 2007 3rd round 7 310 4305 37
Kevin Curtis 2007 Free Agency 3 116 1577 8
Greg Jennings 2006 2nd round 7 425 6537 53
Terrell Owens 2004 Free Agency 2 124 1963 20
Javon Walker 2002 1st round 4 157 2444 22

pro-football-reference.com

Green Bay drafted virtually all of their wide receivers, so Dorsey knows a thing or two about finding good ones. For the most part, head coach Andy Reid followed a similar script when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles with only a few notable exceptions.

The Eagles signed wide receivers Kevin Curtis and, more famously, Terrell Owens.  Both signings were busts, and they drafted both Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson in the first round and second round thereafter.  

The only wide receiver the Packers drafted in the first round when Dorsey was their director of college scouting was Javon Walker in 2002. The Packers selected Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb between the second and third rounds during Dorsey’s tenure.

The history seems to suggest that wide receiver is a position both Reid and Dorsey value, but also one they are likely to avoid in free agency—at least at the top of the market. Free agents that seem to make sense if they come cheap enough are James Jones, Golden Tate and Riley Cooper.

The Packers drafted Jones while Dorsey was there, but Jones is also 30 years old now. Another former Packers personnel man and friend of Dorsey, John Schneider of the Seattle Seahawks, drafted Tate. Reid drafted Cooper while he was with the Eagles. Jones’ age, Cooper’s racist comment last offseason and Tate’s numbers could suppress their value on the open market.  

Potential Free Agent Targets
Player Height Weight PFF Grade Stats
Jeremy Maclin 6'0" 200 -9.1 (2012) 15 games, 69 receptions, 857 yards, 7 touchdowns (2012)
James Jones 6'1" 208 +2.9 14 games, 59 receptions, 817 yards, 3 touchdowns
Golden Tate 5'11" 195 +11.0 16 games, 64 receptions, 898 yards, 5 touchdowns
Riley Cooper 6'3" 214 +5.3 16 games, 47 receptions, 835 yards, 8 touchdowns

Pro-Football-Reference.com, ProFootballFocus.com

Another wide receiver the Chiefs could look at is Maclin, who Reid personally selected and was the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver while he was there. The problem with Maclin is that he's coming off an ACL injury. If he's healthy, either the Eagles will re-sign him, or he’ll get more money from one of the many teams that have more cap space.

If Maclin weren’t healthy, why would the Chiefs want him? Even if he ends up being worth the risk on a one-year deal, the Chiefs will then have to figure out how to pay him next year. It’s not a sound plan for sustainable long-term success. 

ACL tears typically take a year to heal, but the recovery time continues to shrink. Given it’s already been six months since Maclin’s ACL tear and there are seven more months before the start of the NFL season, it’s likely some other team is going to open up its wallet for him in a way that should price the Chiefs out of the market.

 

The Draft

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Will Odell Beckham Jr. prove to be significantly better than a receiver the Chiefs could draft in the third round?

Given the plethora of good receivers Dorsey and Reid have drafted, it’s harder to rule out them selecting one in the 2014 NFL draft. Without their second-round pick due to the trade for quarterback Alex Smith last year, the Chiefs will either have to select one in the first round or the third round or later.

The Chiefs have the 23rd pick in the first, third and fifth round and the 24th pick in the fourth and sixth rounds. Unless a certified stud wide receiver falls to them in the first round, it doesn’t benefit them to select one.

With the influx of juniors this season, the draft is one of the deepest in years at many positions—including wide receiver. CBSSports.com currently has 13 wide receivers projected to go between the first and second rounds.

With so much depth, it’s likely some of the wide receivers will fall down the board. Just last season, Terrance Williams and Keenan Allen fell to the third round, as well as developmental receivers like Marquise Goodwin, Markus Wheaton and Stedman Bailey. Ace Sanders—a Dexter McCluster clone—fell to the fourth round, and Kenny Stills fell to the fifth round.

2014 NFL Draft WR Class Projected Rounds 1-2
Player Height Weight Projected Round
Sammy Watkins 6-1 205 1
Mike Evans 6-5 225 1
Marqise Lee 6-0 195 1
Kelvin Benjamin 6-5 235 1
Odell Beckham Jr. 5-11 193 1-2
Allen Robinson 6-3 210 1-2
Brandin Cooks 5-10 186 1-2
Jordan Matthews 6-3 209 2
Jarvis Landry 6-0 195 2
Davante Adams 6-2 216 2
Paul Richardson 6-1 172 2-3
Martavis Bryant 6-4 200 2-3
Robert Herron 5-9 193 2-3

CBSSports.com

With an overall deeper draft, the Chiefs should be able to get a good receiver in the third round to complement Bowe.  The depth of the draft should push quality options down the board enough to give the Chiefs a shot at one, at least.

It’s also notoriously difficult to transition from college to the NFL at the wide receiver position. It often takes at least a year for a player to settle, if not two or three. That’s important because there is an expectation that the Chiefs will make it back to the playoffs again next season.

The Chiefs have a tougher projected schedule in 2014 because they have to play against the NFC West instead of the NFC East. They need their first-round draft pick that makes an immediate impact, unlike last season when No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher was more of a liability than an asset.

 

Conclusion

How should the Chiefs address their need for a wide receiver?

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There’s no doubt the Chiefs need a receiver opposite Bowe, but using a first-round pick or precious cap dollars on one doesn’t seem like their best option. The Chiefs could re-sign McCluster or sign another inexpensive free agent, but players like Eric Decker or a healthy Maclin are going to be too pricey for the Chiefs.

A draft pick makes sense, but not in the first round unless the Chiefs get extremely lucky. Very few college wide receivers can be effective starters right away, as the Chiefs would need them to be— especially if Bowe doesn’t start justifying his lucrative contract.

Wide receiver may be a priority, but it shouldn’t become such a priority that it takes away much-needed resources from solidifying the offensive line or improving the secondary.

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