It's no secret that the wide receiver position presents one of the most pressing concerns for the Kansas City Chiefs heading into the 2014 NFL draft. One of only four teams sans a wideout eclipsing 700 receiving yards in 2013, several draft insiders speculate that KC will select a receiver with its 23rd-overall pick at Radio City Music Hall on May 8.
With $56-million-dollar man Dwayne Bowe a bit of a question mark and No. 2 wideout Dexter McCluster lost via free agency, the Chiefs' situation at the position is among the league's most dire at this juncture of the offseason. If general manager John Dorsey and the Kansas City front office indeed intend to target a receiver with their lone Day 1 pick, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks should be at the top of their draft board.
In 2013, it was painfully clear that the Chiefs' 24th-ranked passing offense lacked...something. Bowe failed to build any type of rapport with new quarterback Alex Smith, and McCluster and Donnie Avery were middling complements at best. Cooks is one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the draft and could provide that immediate "something" for Smith and Co.
Last year's Biletnikoff Award winner, Cooks is the kind of do-it-all wideout who can instantly step in and lighten running back Jamaal Charles' workload. Over-reliance on Charles was a recurring theme in 2013, and coach Andy Reid has already indicated that he plans on reducing his touches next season. Cooks could be a prime candidate to pick some of those up.
His refined route-running, coupled with his ability to line up in either the slot or outside, makes him a seamless fit for Reid's offense.
From the slot, Cooks is especially dangerous, particularly on the quick slants that Reid enjoys utilizing so often. He routinely finds space off of the snap and is lauded for his ability to make things happen after the catch. He's a clear upgrade from McCluster in this respect and meshes well with Smith's tendencies for checkdown and high-percentage passes.
Also, despite his size—5'10", 189 pounds—Cooks possesses the potential to become a legitimate vertical threat at the NFL level. Sure, he likely benefited from exploiting inferior Pac-12 secondaries, but a quick glance at the kid's highlight reel showcases an undeniable propensity to come down with contested grabs in high-pressure situations. That isn't likely to change in the league.
Actually, his skill set is strikingly reminiscent of fellow Pac-12 alum and former Reid disciple, DeSean Jackson. Cooks has acknowledged as much, going as far to declare that he can, "do it like [Jackson] and do it better." And you know what? I tend to believe him.
A borderline first-round pick heading into February's combine, Cooks drastically improved his stock behind a stellar showing in Indianapolis. His 4.33 40-yard dash was top among all wideouts, and his 60-yard-shuttle time was best at any position.
Alongside "cant-miss" prospects such as Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, it was Cooks who was the talk of both NFL execs and draft analysts following the event.
Now, while I generally avoid placing a profound emphasis on combine results, Cooks owns the resume to back his up. Though he played second fiddle to current Pittsburgh Steelers' wideout Markus Wheaton in 2012, Cooks still amassed nearly 3,000 yards during his last two seasons in Corvallis. Toss in 14.8 YPC and 21 TDs over this span, and there's very little not to like.
But of course, as with any prospect, there are some concerns regarding Cooks. Most relate back to his size, or lack thereof. Lined up against bigger, more physical corners, he's fairly susceptible to being jammed at the line when facing press coverage. For a quarterback like Smith who has become increasingly reliant on timing routes, this could possibly be a deal breaker.
NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki's draft profile of Cooks curiously questions his wheels as well, saying that he "lacks elite, blazing speed to run by NFL corners and safeties." Uh, what? We're talking about the guy who, in his first ever collegiate track and field competition, set an Oregon State school record in the 60-meter dash, right?
The same Brandin Cooks that won $100,000 from Adidas for recording the combine's fastest 40-time while sporting the new adizero 5-star 40 cleats? Yes, one and the same. If Cooks' speed doesn't measure up as "elite" in Nawrocki's eyes, I'd be interested in hearing whose does.
Ultimately though, the minor kinks in Cooks' game simply aren't enough for Kansas City to pass on him if he's available. The speedster would likely have the inside track for the Chiefs' No. 2 receiver slot—ahead of Avery and former CFL stud Weston Dressler. He's a matchup nightmare in man coverage and could provide Bowe with the worthy sidekick that he's lacked the past two seasons.
He'll be primarily utilized out of the slot, but don't be shocked when he completely burns coverage for a long score every now and again. He's enough to make defensive coordinators think twice about assigning an additional man to Bowe, which was the Chiefs' bugaboo in 2013. 60-plus receptions, 800 yards receiving and a handful of touchdowns isn't out of the question if Cooks can find his niche within Reid's offense.
In a receiver-heavy draft class, it's easy to imagine Dorsey waiting until day two or three to scoop a wideout. But in the end, the price is just too right for Cooks. He's clearly the best available fit for Reid's offensive scheme, and his combination of speed and reliability make him an enticing addition for any club.
In the right environment, Cooks could become a Rookie of the Year candidate by year's end. It's just a matter if that's in Kansas City or not.