Breaking Down the Kansas City Chiefs' Potential WR Targets in the 2014 Draft

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Breaking Down the Kansas City Chiefs' Potential WR Targets in the 2014 Draft
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Odell Beckham Jr. would be a great option for the Chiefs.

The Kansas City Chiefs will be in the market for a No. 2 wide receiver this offseason because Dexter McCluster is set to become a free agent when the new league year starts March 11. With only a few options on the roster, like Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins, the Chiefs will need to find a viable complement to Dwayne Bowe elsewhere.

If the Chiefs are going to find that player, chances are it will be in the 2014 NFL draft and not free agency. Ranked 25th in available 2014 cap space by Spotrac, the Chiefs don’t have the resources to pay a No. 2 receiver like a No. 1 on the open market.

One assumption was that the Chiefs would go after Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper, whom head coach Andy Reid drafted when he was in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles. Except the Eagles re-signed Cooper on Thursday and are working on a deal with Maclinaccording to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

ESPN’s Adam Caplan also reported that four to six teams could be interested in Maclin. The Chiefs don’t have the cap flexibility to get into a bidding war, nor should they consider it with the depth at the position in the draft.

That leaves the Chiefs the option of signing Jason Avant, another wide receiver Reid had a hand in drafting. The Eagles will reportedly part ways with Avantaccording to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Avant may indeed be an option, but he plays mostly in the slot and will be 31 next season.

What the Chiefs really need is a No. 2 receiver that can play on the outside and take over for Bowe as the No. 1 receiver within a year or two. Starting in 2015, the Chiefs can save $5 million in cap space by releasing Bowe, according to Over the Cap. In 2016, the savings increase to $7 million and to $10 million in 2017.

 

Why a Wide Receiver?

Given that it often takes college wide receivers a couple years to adjust to the NFL level, it makes sense to draft one this year. It’s also a deep draft at the receiver position, so a quality option should be available.

The Chiefs can address their other needs like offensive guard and safety later in the draft or cheaply in free agency. It makes sense for the Chiefs to take a receiver in the first round because they don’t have a second-round pick—even if not everyone thinks it's such a great idea.

Taking Receivers Early
Team Year RD SEL # PLAYER H 40-Yard Dash Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
PHI 2009 1 19 Jeremy Maclin 6'0" 4.45 35.5 120 7.06 4.25
PHI 2001 1 25 Freddie Mitchell 6'0" 4.46 39.5 120 6.95 4.06
PHI 2005 2 35 Reggie Brown 6'2" 4.45 41.5 128 6.99 4
GB 2008 2 36 Jordy Nelson 6'3" 4.51 31 123 7.03 4.35
PHI 2008 2 49 DeSean Jackson 5'10" 4.35 34.5 120 6.82 4.19
GB 2006 2 52 Greg Jennings 5'11" 4.42 36.5 117 6.69 4.18
GB 2005 2 58 Terrence Murphy 6'1" 4.39 41 128 7.02 3.91
SEA 2010 2 60 Golden Tate 5'10" 4.42 35 120 7.12 4.34
GB 2011 2 64 Randall Cobb 5'10" 4.46 33.5 115 7.08 4.34
GB 2007 3 78 James Jones 6'1" 4.54 35 126 7.06 4.2

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

In 2000, the Eagles drafted Todd Pinkston in the second round. In 2001, Reid added the title of executive vice president of football operations with final say over football matters and then selected Freddie Mitchell in the first round of that year's draft. In 2005, the Eagles drafted Reggie Brown in the second round.

The Eagles took Maclin in the first round in 2009 and DeSean Jackson in the second round in 2008. Clearly, the receiver position is important to Reid and his pass-heavy offense or he wouldn’t have used premium resources so frequently to acquire them.

Chiefs general manager John Dorsey worked his way up through a Packers scouting department that drafted five receivers in the second round in a six-year period from 2005 to 2011. John Schneider, who worked with Dorsey in Green Bay, drafted Golden Tate in the second round in his first draft as the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks.

All signs point to a wide receiver being high on the Chiefs’ priority list, but which ones should they target? Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans should be off the board early in the draft—Bleacher Reports’ NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller has them both going in the first 10 selections in his most recent mock draft update.

That leaves a huge group of seven wide receivers Miller has ranked in the top 50, but there is generally very little agreement on the order they belong in. It’s likely that one of the seven receivers will be the pick if the Chiefs decide to draft one in the first round. Below are the top fits for the Chiefs of those seven players.

 

Brandin Cooks

The 5’10” Cooks was one of only a few receivers to do all the events at the combine, meet all 10, and perform well enough in all of them to be a perfect match for the Packers’ prototype—the same one the Chiefs are likely to use with Dorsey as general manager. The wide receivers Reid drafted in Philadelphia also fit this prototype.

Cooks is also fourth on Matt Miller’s big board and 26th overall, putting him well within the range of potential selections for the Chiefs at No. 23. There are many good receivers in this draft, but Cooks is widely considered one of the best, and his stock is on the rise after his performance at the combine.

Cooks is a smaller-than-normal receiver, but he makes up for it with amazing athleticism. Cooks had the fastest 40-yard dash at 4.33 seconds and short shuttle at 3.81 seconds at the combine among wide receivers. Only Odell Beckham Jr. had a better 3-cone drill time among the top prospects, but the difference between the two times was an insignificant 0.05 seconds (6.69 vs. 6.74).

Cooks' Combine Measurables
Height Weight Arm Hand 40 (Official)
5'10" 189 30 3/4" 9 5/8" 4.33
Bench Vertical Broad 3-Cone 20-Shuttle
16 36" 10' 6.76 3.81

nfl.com

One of the best attributes about Cooks is that he is also an explosive punt returner. That was one of McCluster’s jobs last season, so this skill could definitely come in handy for the Chiefs in 2014.

Playing opposite Bowe and off the line of scrimmage should allow Cooks to avoid bigger cornerbacks that try to knock him around, a problem Dane Brugler of CBS.com brought up in his scouting report. Featured Columnist Ryan McCrystal noted that his speed makes defenders less likely to press him at the line, and he bench-pressed 225 pounds 16 times at the combine.

Cooks is widely considered a playmaker after the catch, which is exactly the type of player that can thrive in the Chiefs offense. Reid does a great job of creating opportunities for just such a player.

Quarterback Alex Smith might not be a deep-throwing gunslinger, but with a playmaker like Cooks, he wouldn’t need to be. Cooks blends perfectly with the Chiefs’ offensive style—Reid could use him much as he used Jackson his rookie year.

Jackson had 62 receptions for 912 yards and two touchdowns during his rookie year. Jackson also added a league-high 50 punt returns for 440 yards and a touchdown. That’s rare production for a rookie receiver, and Cooks has similar attributes.

Cooks’ speed will force defenses to commit a safety over the top, which should give Bowe more opportunities to win against man coverage. Safety attention will also help tight end Travis Kelce and a slot receiver such as Avant, giving the Chiefs the kind of potency on offense they need to take the next step in 2014.

 

Jordan Matthews

Both CBSSports.com and McCrystal of Bleacher Report expect Matthews to go in the second round. Miller has him as his 37th overall player and seventh-best wide receiver, so the Chiefs would have to bypass many other good receivers to select him.

However, Matthews was the only top wide receiver to do all 10 of the events at the combine that fit the Packers’ prototype in every category other than Cooks. Unlike Cooks, Matthews is a tall receiver at 6’3” and 212 pounds, but he still ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds.

Per McCrystal, Matthews has a reputation as a hard worker, is intelligent on and off the field, and displays good footwork and overall technique. With all the athletic boxes checked, Matthews would seem like a great fit for just about any team.

Matthews' Combine Measurables
Height Weight Arm Hand 40 (Official)
6'3" 212 33 1/4" 10 3/8" 4.46
Bench Vertical Broad 3-Cone 20-Shuttle
21 35.5" 10' 6.95 4.18

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

Matthews’ problem is drops, which is weird, considering he had the biggest hands among the wide receivers at the combine. It was a problem noted by McCrystal in his scouting report, and CBS’ Rob Rang saw the same thing during the Senior Bowl. Matthews’ 10 3/8” mitts should be able to snag balls out of the air with ease, but that just hasn’t been the case.

Still, Matthews has the kind of potential to develop into a nice No. 2 receiver and eventually into a replacement for Bowe. If the Chiefs believe they can fix his drop problem, Matthews has all the attributes they could want in a great No. 2 receiver.

Miller compares Matthews to James Jones, whom Dorsey helped select when he was with the Packers. There’s enough here to merit consideration for the Chiefs in the first round, especially if receivers end up flying off the board early and often.  

 

Marqise Lee

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Lee is the forgotten man at the receiver position in this draft class. After generating so much buzz in 2012, the wheels fell off the hype machine in 2013 even though Lee continued to produce.

Although Lee chose not to do two events at the combine, he did match the prototype in every other category. As a prospect, Lee falls somewhere between Matthews and Cook as far as size at 6’0” and 192 pounds.

Lee’s straight-line speed might not be impressive as judged by the stopwatch, but he is explosive and tied for the third-longest broad jump at 10’7” with fellow top prospect Allen Robinson at the combine. Unfortunately, Lee is considered more of an athlete than a polished player at this point.

Marquise Lee Combine Measureables
Height Weight Arm Hand 40 (Official)
6'0" 192 31 3/4" 9 1/2" 4.52
Bench Vertical Broad 3-Cone S. Shuttle
DNP 38" 10'7" DNP 4.01

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

At USC, Lee was used as a yards-after-the-catch specialist. Greg Peshek of Rotoworld charted that only 3.51 percent of Lee’s receptions came further than 20 yards down the field, 43.18 percent of his passes came on in or out routes, and 36.36 on comeback routes.

A fluid athlete with great ability after the catch fits the Chiefs offense, but the question is if he can run the diversity of routes required at the NFL level. It may take Lee some time to turn into a solid contributor even as a No. 2 receiver, which could give the Chiefs pause.

Per McCrystal’s B/R scouting report, “(Lee) is probably a better fit for a team with the depth to plug him in as a third or fourth option during his rookie year, rather than a team in need of immediate high-end production.”

The Chiefs could still be intrigued with Lee, considering his ability after the catch. Lee is the type of player that fits what the Chiefs like to do and isn’t nearly as small as Cooks, so that could be a positive.

There’s also a chance Lee’s value is actually low because of the hype surrounding other receivers. CBS still has Lee as the third-best wideout behind Watkins and Evans.

 

Odell Beckham Jr.

Miller’s third-best wide receiver in the class is Beckham Jr., and he comes in 20th on Miller's big board. The former LSU Tiger is just 5’11”, but he plays bigger than his size and does just about everything well.

The biggest knock on Beckham is that he had some trouble coming down with contested catches, but that’s what Bowe does best. Beckham is also a punt and kick returner, so he would replace McCluster immediately in that role.

McCrystal describes Beckham as “extremely shifty” with “elite change-of-direction” and the ability to beat press coverage with his quick feet. He also notes that Beckham is a smooth route-runner who is fluid in and out of his breaks.

Beckham's Combine Measurables
Height Weight Arm Hand 40 (Official)
5'11" 198 32 3/4" 10" 4.43
Bench Vertical Broad 3-Cone 20-Shuttle
7 38.5" 10'2" 6.69 3.94

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

Miller compares Beckham to Jackson with the ball in his hands and calls him a pro-ready No. 1 receiver from Day 1. That’s high praise at a position where it usually takes time for players to adjust.

The fine folks at CBS don’t like Beckham as much, ranking him fifth among wide receivers and comparing him to Cecil Shorts. CBS notes that he lacks elite speed, is timid over the middle at times, has occasional drops and needs to improve his consistency fielding punts.

As far as the prototype, only Beckham’s seven bench reps of 225 pounds kept him from being a 100 percent match. Many receivers don’t even do the bench press, so the prototype is based on a very small sample. Since his strength doesn’t affect Beckham’s ability to beat press coverage, it’s very easy to make an exception.

Beckham isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite, but he fits what the Chiefs need from their No. 2 receiver and has a ton of potential to develop into a No. 1 receiver quickly. The Chiefs would be lucky to get him in the first round.

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