7 2014 NFL Draft Picks That Could Be Opening-Game Starters for Chiefs
With the 2014 NFL draft inching toward the horizon, the Kansas City Chiefs’ intentions are becoming clearer with each calendar flip.
Translation: Roughly a month from now (May 8-10), Chiefs fans will join 31 other fanbases—all salivating in suspense—in crippling Twitter’s servers with tweets of why X rookie is the team’s ticket to the promised land. Regardless of location, bro culture will unite, history will be swept under the rug, and awoken spouses will mutter, “My god, is it loud enough?” under Gus Johnson-laden YouTube highlights.
That is, unless the franchise’s first pick is an offensive lineman—a possibility for Kansas City—in which case teams’ Twitter handles will be ambushed with “We want answers! We want the truth”-like mentions, and the world will turn into an apocalyptic hellhole. Hashtag Nihilism.
With that being said, unlike a handful of the aforementioned clubs, national expectations will deem the Chiefs playoff contenders. Kansas City is a few roster tweaks away from being legitimized as a postseason threat.
So, which names could be echoed over Arrowhead’s PA in Week 1?
7. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
By electing to forgo the 2012 draft and return to USC, Matt Barkley's stock ultimately plummeted.
If anyone can relate, it's his former wideout, Marqise Lee.
Following his sophomore season, the human highlight would've been a top-10 selection. In the wake of an injury-riddled and drop-plagued junior campaign, though, USC's star could feasibly breach the second round.
Would he be an upgrade over Donnie Avery? Absolutely. When cradling a pigskin, he's the most elusively dangerous player on the field.
However, recent head-scratching workouts have shrouded his offseason with doubt, leaving some, like CBS Sports' Rob Rang, to speculate that 2013's injuries have bled into this spring.
6. Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
For reasons unknown, Terrence Brooks has been grossly overlooked throughout the draft process.
He's a former linebacker who, like Eric Berry, totes the physicality of one and occasionally occupies the box. Obviously, those qualities scream "strong safety."
At the combine, Brooks headlined this year's safety class with a 4.42 40, though, which opened eyes and changed outlooks.
The Florida State standout is deemed a Day 2 choice because his hands are inconsistent, as he's just as liable to drop a potential pick between his numbers as he is to pluck an improbable interception.
Also, he's not as nimble-footed as names like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Jimmie Ward, and while he has more positional experience than Sanders Commings, he still needs to hone his craft. Whoever drafts him will need to preach on-field discipline, ensuring he's not prone to revert to old tendencies and bite on play-action fakes.
However, Brooks' unique athleticism—his 38" vertical at the combine also tied for first among safeties—fleet-footed speed and instinctive run support are unquestionable.
5. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
While I think Kansas City's need at free safety is legitimate, I also think it's overstated. Sanders Commings' skill set makes him an ideal candidate for the position.
Having said that, Jimmie Ward can make a case as the most versatile safety in this year's draft. He flashes the necessary closing speed to roam as a Cover 1 deep safety, while possessing the footwork and lateral agility to hug the line in man coverage.
In terms of tackling, Ward isn't the red-eyed wrecking ball that Calvin Pryor is, but he embraces contact and takes pride in grounding ball-carriers.
Also, his ball skills are more reminiscent of a cornerback, periodically grabbing the "He did what?" interception and regularly batting passes with his inside arm (on underneath routes).
4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
If you've scoured the depths of Google for Chiefs mock drafts within recent months, you probably know everything but Odell Beckham Jr.'s first-grade crush.
While I believe that Brandin Cooks is a better option for Kansas City's offense, Beckham is nipping at his heels. The former is quicker off the line and touts faster straight-line speed, while the latter is a hair more agile and presents a wider catch radius (Beckham stands an inch taller, and his 38.5" inch vertical bested Cooks' by 2.5").
The LSU product is a solid route-runner—though not as precise as former teammate Jarvis Landry, who might be the best within the upcoming class—and trustworthy hands.
Beckham's balance jumps out on tape, as he often sheds lower-body arm tackles, anticipating contact and shifting his body weight without losing vision. He's also an evasive, game-changing punt returner.
3. Zack Martin, OT/G, Notre Dame
Zack Martin is a left tackle who's slated for a conversion to guard.
He's a durable, fundamentally sound blocker whose athleticism will allow him to effectively pull around tackles and latch onto second-level defenders.
NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki adds, "Athletic, smart, competitive, dependable college left tackle whose length dictates a move inside, where he has plug-and-play ability in a zone-blocking scheme. One of the cleanest prospects in this year’s draft."
As Nawrocki mentioned, Martin figures to excel in a zone system. On tape, his knack for combo blocking becomes immediately apparent, driving pass-rushers inward while maintaining his balance, then successfully peeling off and engaging linebackers or safeties.
Despite the transition, Martin would still offer a dose of stability to an unproven offensive line.
2. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Five years from now, Brandin Cooks could prove to be the most explosive receiver from this draft class.
He dusted pass-catchers at the 2014 combine, topping the class in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. In fact, his 40 time (4.33) was just nine-hundredths of a second slower than Chris Johnson's record of 4.24 (based on electronic timing, which was introduced in 2000).
Overall, Cooks is a crisp route-runner who flaunts ankle-snapping agility and world-class speed in the open field. He's also sure-handed, showing the ability to make the circus catch, as well as contested receptions amid traffic.
In the rare instances he saw bump-and-run, Cooks gained clean releases and added to his highlight reel, making him a threat while lining up on either side of the numbers.
If he remains on the draft board and the Chiefs are targeting a wideout at No. 23, they would be foolish to overlook him.
1. Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
If you aren't familiar with Cody Latimer, it's due to two reasons: He's recovering from injury, and Indiana's average blocking and decent but spotty quarterbacking combined to birth an inconsistent aerial attack.
In the accompanying highlight, you'll notice that the first- to second-round talent routinely reels in catches over cornerbacks' shoulders. There's a reason for that.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt writes:
Due to a broken bone in his foot, Latimer was only able to run straight ahead and did not participate in any positional drills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 and 4.45 seconds. He also had a 39-inch vertical jump. Latimer was at the NFL Scouting Combine, but only competed in the bench press (in which he led his position group with 23 reps of 225 pounds).
Genetically speaking, Latimer is an enigma—4.44 40 times aren't supposed stem from 6'3", 215-pound players (let alone rehabbing ones) who double as the combine's strongest wideout. And if you're wondering what a 39" vertical looks like, glance at footage of him walking on clouds and punishing the rim in Victor Oladipo-like fashion during the football team's dunk contest.
On the gridiron, Latimer is a relatively sharp route-runner, but he possesses the agility to become a first-class one if his nuances (head fake, foot plant, etc.) add another layer of polish. The same applies to his hands, as he can be overanxious to run before securing passes, leading to drops (although it's not common).
Latimer experienced only two years of high school football, so some of the finer details can elude him. For instance, from a blocking standpoint, he's not as imposing as his size would lead one to believe, often authoring ineffective cut blocks on screens (which might have been a coaching preference).
Ultimately, the junior playmaker supplies the vertical threat that John Dorsey's searching for, while boasting the big-bodied frame and agility that have become staples of the West Coast offense.
If there's one thing higher than Latimer's vertical, it's his ceiling.
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