Assigning Odds to Every Potential Kansas City Chiefs 1st-Round Pick
Assuming they don't trade down (which is feasible), the Kansas City Chiefs are roughly three weeks away from filing another first-round pick into the archives.
So, entering Radio City Music Hall, who comprises John Dorsey's list of candidates? And what are the odds of each being plucked at No. 23?
The consensus slots a first-round wideout to Kansas City.
However, free safety still remains a mystery, and others, such as Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar, have ventured out on a limb with their crystal ball, forecasting that the Chiefs will take an offensive lineman (in this case, tackle).
ESPN's Ron Jaworski has even hinted that Dorsey and Co. could gamble on a quarterback (subscription required) in the early rounds.
Sure, some of the projections seem outlandish, but if Wheel of Fortune taught us one thing this past week—besides the fact that we're sharing the earth with living, breathing people who believe "dicespin" is a legitimate word—it was that nothing is as predictable as it seems.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan is a wild card.
When pass-rushers gain a step on him, Lewan is light-footed enough to recover and steer threats away from the pocket (Jadeveon Clowney being the exception). He displays impressive balance and utilizes his length to its fullest potential, showing a natural feel for the position.
In the ground game, he becomes an ill-intentioned steamroller, driving through the first wave of defenders, while his mobility enables him to disengage and latch onto second-level pursuers in one near-seamless motion.
The cons? Well, for starters, per Kyle Feldscher of Mlive.com:
Former University of Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan will be charged with three misdemeanors for an assault in Ann Arbor on Dec. 1, and is scheduled to be arraigned next month, according to court records. ...
The charges stem from a confrontation that took place about 12:30 a.m. Dec. 1 in the 1200 block of South University Avenue. The incident took place after Ohio State University defeated U-M, and two Buckeyes fans reported being assaulted.
If one were to give Lewan the benefit of the doubt, said person hasn't seen him in a jersey—his on-field persona is just as maniacal as the above allegations indicate.
Lewan is continually flagged for holding, and his Hulk-like temperament occasionally results in him trying to contort an opponent's face mask (before and/or after the whistle).
He's a ticking time bomb, and his talent doesn't warrant the risk of splintering a tight-knit locker room.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
It's not that I don't like Teddy Bridgewater—I do. And it's not that I don't think he can thrive in a West Coast offense, because I think he can.
But if Bridgewater's shaky offseason drops him to No. 23, upward of 10 GMs need to start thinking about life after football.
That hope is going to stay anchored in fantasy.
Alex Smith just authored what was arguably the most productive season of his career, and that was with no prior experience within Andy Reid's offense.
Furthermore, the majority of analysts tagged Tyler Bray, a then-true junior, as a third-round talent last year. If he would've returned to Tennessee, there's little doubt that—assuming he didn't add to his decorated off-field history—Bray could've breached the second round in 2014, if not higher.
One possible scenario would warrant Kansas City drafting a quarterback, and said scenario includes Dorsey wanting to trade or release Chase Daniel to free up $1.4 million in cap space ($4.8 million in 2015). Even then, the Chiefs would be wise to wait until later rounds and take a flier on a project like Aaron Murray.
If one of the surefire first-rounders (Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel) fall, and the Chiefs were to sign one of them, the team would enter Round 3 without having sealed any of the holes in its starting lineup.
Bridgewater is a technically sound, pinpoint passer (on short to intermediate routes, at least) who will excel in a timing-based system. Having said that, Kansas City already has a Pro Bowler who embodies those qualities.
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Cody Latimer might have the most upside of any wideout in this year's class, which is why, as B/R's Matt Miller reports, his presence is in heavy demand.
I'm told Cody Latimer has seven more visits lined up. There's been heavy interest so teams are coming to him before Apr. 27 deadline.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 11, 2014
However, Latimer is still fairly inexperienced—he's an underclassman who didn't play football until his junior year of high school—and he struggles with grasping the nuances of the position.
At this point in his career, his route running tends to be second-rate at best, as he often rounds routes off, making little effort to sell them.
Latimer's footwork is disjointed and sloppy at times. He's too upright when coming out of breaks, which hampers his ability to plant and change direction with any semblance of sharpness. Furthermore, his route tree is basically limited to digs, drags and go routes.
While blocking, the up-and-comer also regularly allows defenders to gain inside leverage.
So, why has he piqued the interest of so many general managers? Simply put, he's 6'2", 215 pounds and runs a 4.38 40, per The Indianapolis Star's Zach Osterman. Pair that with a 39" vertical and 23 reps on the bench press (which topped all wideouts at the combine), and you have the makings of a game-breaking, athletically inclined demigod.
Ideally, John Dorsey will want to approach next offseason knowing where the receiving corps stands, though. The team can sever ties with Dwayne Bowe in order to clear $3.5 million in much-needed cap space, but that becomes an afterthought if No. 82 remains the sole receiving threat throughout 2014.
While Latimer will make his presence felt on Day 1, it'll likely take a season or two before he fully acclimates to the NFL and evolves into a weekly playmaker, which, in the wake of next season, would birth just as many questions as answers.
Jimmie Ward, FS, Northern Illinois
Jimmie Ward rivals Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as the most versatile safety in the 2014 draft. He exhibits the physicality of a strong safety, the closing speed of a single-high (free) safety and the lateral agility of a corner.
NIU safety Jimmie Ward turned a few heads today w a 4.47-second 40 and a 38-inch vertical. Last chance at on-field impression.— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) March 7, 2014
In studying film of the small-school hopeful, one thing becomes readily apparent: He understands the game. He processes information on the fly, and his instincts allow him to play without hesitation.
Relative to other safeties, Ward's ball skills are second to none, and he rarely loses sight of his responsibilities.
However, at 193 pounds, he needs to bulk up, and judging by offseason interviews, John Dorsey seems sold on the idea of moving Sanders Commings to free safety (and I don't blame him).
Assuming Commings fends off injury, he could easily beat out a highly touted rookie like Ward in a position battle, which would relegate the team's first-rounder to nickel and/or dime duties.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
In terms of draft projection, Marqise Lee is somewhat difficult to gauge.
On the heels of an eye-opening 2012 campaign, he entered 2013 as a potential Heisman contender and top-10 talent.
When healthy, USC's star-studded playmaker seemingly oozes with sub-4.4 (40) speed, so a 4.52 raised a few eyebrows at the combine.
Lee's never been a BLAZER. Great play speed “@FriscoGiant49: 4.52 for Marqise Lee is disappointing, loving Brandin Cooks at 4.33 though”— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) February 23, 2014
The root of Lee's mediocre 40 time (lingering injury, poor technique, etc.) is anyone's guess. What isn't up for debate is his on-field elusiveness, which former scout John Middlekauff notes above.
No. 9 is a good but not great route-runner, though he has the potential to become one. His agility and acceleration are reminiscent of a slot receiver, but at 6', his frame—following an offseason or two in the weight room—will allow him to negate press coverage.
Again, due to inconsistent hands and health concerns, Lee has regressed to a mid-to-late first-round projection, and it's not implausible that he could slip into the second round. However, if he returns to his 2012, Biletnikoff Award-winning form, the renowned ankle-breaker will prove to be a Day 1 steal.
Zack Martin, G/OT, Notre Dame
If Zack Martin is available at No. 23—being that a ragbag of questions engulf the Chiefs front five—Kansas City would do a disservice to itself by overlooking him.
Blockers will never win over the hearts of fans, but consider this: As of today, Rodney Hudson, a middle-of-the-road center, is the most reliable starter on Kansas City's offensive line.
By the end of the 2013 regular season, Pro Football Focus' cumulative ratings (subscription required) slotted Jeff Allen at No. 61 among guards, while Jeff Linkenbach ranked No. 57. For tackles, Eric Fisher was cemented at No. 70, and Donald Stephenson finished at No. 64.
Martin, a left tackle whose arm length (32.88") will likely trigger a move to guard, started every game of his collegiate career.
He's a diverse, technically sound (though his footwork, while effective, is far from conventional) blocker whose skill set is best suited for a zone-based scheme.
Also, on film, it's evident that Martin has mastered the art of combo blocking, seamlessly switching between levels without disrupting the rhythm of designed plays.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang and Derek Stephens compare the potential first-rounder to six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins, writing:
Mankins has been one of the NFL's most valuable offensive linemen since being selected by New England in the first round of the 2005 draft, and has anchored the Patriots' front line with top-notch instincts, toughness and versatility despite lacking elite athleticism. Martin exhibits many of the same traits, and should draw first-round consideration.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
With the ball in his hands, Brandin Cooks' open-field evasiveness is akin to Darren Sproles, with a hint of Dante Hall.
Cooks spent the majority of his snaps on the outside but projects as a slot receiver at the next level, though he'll likely alternate between the roles to some degree.
The most fleet-footed receiver in the draft—and being that most coordinators opt to play off-man, giving him a cushion due to his top-end speed—he's especially dangerous on slants and bubble screens. In the rare occurrences in which he saw press coverage, Cooks used his distinct quickness and feints to gain clean releases at the line, often resulting in momentum-swinging plays down the field.
The 2013 Biletnikoff winner runs relatively crisp routes, and his low center of gravity makes for nightmarish mismatches on hitches and comebacks. Like Sproles, he's also deceptively strong, benching nine more 225-pound reps (16 overall) than Odell Beckham, despite weighing nine pounds fewer.
However, while Cooks totes secure hands, Beckham—whose 38.5" vertical edges Cooks' by 2.5"—is more likely to attack the ball at its highest point and snag contested passes.
Cooks returned just 12 punts for 72 yards, but on tape (the Stanford game, specifically), he appears to be a better returner than what he's given credit for—subpar blocking skewed his numbers.
Unsurprisingly, Cooks' size limits his effectiveness when blocking, as he often resorts to unsuccessful cut block attempts.
All things considered, Oregon State's human highlight will thrive in a West Coast system if given the opportunity. Cooks has every required skill to develop into a receiver of DeSean Jackson's caliber.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham can be plugged into a variety of roles—flanker, slot, returner, etc.—and succeed in every one of them.
At LSU, he was often utilized in the slot, though at 5'11", 198 pounds, he will (in all likelihood) primarily line up outside the numbers on Sundays.
Within the foursome regularly linked to Kansas City (Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Cody Latimer), the LSU product sports the biggest hands (10"), which is largely why he's the best pure pass-catcher out of the group.
Beckham routinely reels in improbable grabs amid traffic (see Mississippi State game), and he changes direction in one swift, fluid motion, turning upfield on crossing routes in the blink of an eye. The future draftee also accelerates off of the line in an instant, then exhibits route running that's on the brink of becoming first-rate.
The only glaring voids in Beckham's game stem from his lackluster strength (benching just seven 225-pound reps at the combine).
He's an average blocker, and he had varying success against bump-and-run—a technique that most secondaries shied away from due to his straight-line speed. If corners secure jams, he's rerouted fairly easily, so his early NFL success will hinge on how he's utilized (and aligned) prior to snaps.
Overall, Beckham's open-field abilities and unique versatility are tailored for Andy Reid's offense.
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