Stock Up, Stock Down for Kansas City Chiefs' Top Draft Targets
What exactly it is that one gains from evaluating a potential draft target in a controlled setting, sans pads or a helmet can be difficult to understand. Sure, the combine provides official quantifiables for prospects, and yes, individual pro days offer scouts an up-close look at specific mechanics and fundamentals.
But, when a strikingly impressive or particularly disappointing performance in a single offseason workout trumps an entire college career's worth of film and accomplishments, something simply isn't right.
We've witnessed a prime example of this over the last couple of months with Teddy Bridgewater.
Following an impressive junior-year campaign, Bridgewater declared his intentions to enter the 2014 NFL draft. He was initially a popular choice to be selected with the Houston Texans' first-overall pick. That sentiment was short lived.
Following a discouraging showing at his pro day back in March, he's seen his name drop out of the first round in several mock drafts. That's the same pro day in which Bridgewater sported shorts and a t-shirt while throwing to a single, uncovered wideout.
The former Louisville QB's situation is the most visible example, but it's an all-too-common occurrence in the months separating the end of college bowl season from the NFL draft. Though, however flawed it may be, it has significantly impacted several potential prospects that Kansas City might be targeting as well.
Many names on general manager John Dorsey's draft board—especially two oft-mentioned wideouts who have been linked to the Chiefs—have seen their stock rise to such a degree that they may no longer be realistic options for K.C.'s first-round selection.
On the other end of the spectrum, a number of targets originally thought to command top-15 value have become feasible choices for the Chiefs' 23rd-overall pick. It's sort of like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry realizes that everything in his life eventually evens out. (Was that forced? I've been known to occasionally force a Seinfeld reference or two.)
Anyway, here are five of Kansas City's potential targets who've experienced a notable change in their draft stock since January.
Stock Up: WR Brandin Cooks
Over the past few months, Cooks has been identified as arguably the best fit for Kansas City's vacant slot receiver position. He's a slippery 5'10", 185 pounds and earns the majority of his value following the catch; two traits coveted by head coach Andy Reid's offense.
Unfortunately, just as more of Chiefs Nation continues to hop on the Cooks train, the likelihood that he remains available at pick No. 23 grows increasingly smaller. The Oregon State-product has watched his stock rise substantially following a stellar performance at the NFL combine.
While other to-be participants casually gloated about all that they'd accomplish in the workout, Cooks epitomized the "big stick" ideology.
The projected first wideout off the board, Sammy Watkins, boasted prior to the event that, "I will definitely have the fastest time or one of the two or three fastest at the combine."
It's likely that a vivid projection of Cooks' floating, spiraling face appeared in Watkins' mind before adding the "or one of the two or three fastest" amendment.
Cooks finished with the top time of all receivers, logging a 4.33; Watkins tied for seventh with a time of 4.43.
Cooks also responded to doubts regarding his strength by turning in a respectable 16 reps on the bench press. Admittedly, there's more to shaking off press coverage at the line than an impressive bench, but it boosted the speedster's value nonetheless.
It was more than enough to push his early-second-round projection to a mid-first-round slot. As it stands now, the lion's share of mock drafts peg the 2013 Biletnikoff winner to be scooped by either the New York Jets with the 18th overall pick or the Philadelphia Eagles at pick No. 22.
The Chiefs will patiently stand by with the 23rd selection. Concerns about his size could conceivably cause him to slip, but banking on Cooks' availability that late in the first is likely wishful thinking.
Stock Down: DE Stephon Tuitt
You may recall that Tuitt was mentioned as an early favorite for Kansas City's first-round pick, though the hype has palpably died down as the draft has drawn nearer.
Aside from the Chiefs' D-line not demanding any immediate attention, Tuitt's stock has fallen at a painfully gradual rate since the dawn of the offseason.
Originally considered to be a first-round lock, he's instead experienced a steady slide into the early second. He missed February's combine following the discovery of a fractured foot—as a direct result, fellow DE Kony Ealy leapfrogged him in several analysts' draft rankings.
As early as January, ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. pegged him (h/t The Kansas City Star) as a possible target for Kansas City, observing that:
Tuitt has a rare combination of size and quickness, a player who will play at 300-plus pounds and drive blockers with power but can also turn, rip, bend and get around defenders with agility. He's not a 'perfect fit for this scheme' as much as he's a great fit in any scheme. He sometimes reminds me of a young Richard Seymour.
Tuitt would be a quality acquisition for Bob Sutton's scheme—he has four years experience in Notre Dame's 3-4—and is capable at both tackle and end. Having said that, his snail-like first step and issues regarding his playing weight could ultimately hinder his upside in the system.
Moreover, many organizations have grown progressively worried over his injury history; his inclusion on the injury report over the past few years has been somewhat frequent. Tuitt has loads of potential upside, but as it stands now, he's a fairly raw, out-of-shape, and injury-prone investment.
He'll be available when Kansas City's first pick rolls around, but there's a reason his stock has dropped. The physical tools and ability are certainly there, but, there's a high "bust" risk as well.
Stock Up: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
I wouldn't be fulfilling my due diligence if I didn't mention Odell Beckham Jr. here. You may be sick of sorting through the seemingly endless assessments of how he and Cooks are the best options for Reid's West Coast system, but, alas, here's another. Albeit, a brief one.
In Kansas City, Beckham would presumably fill the void at slot receiver left by the now-departed Dexter McCluster. With Dwayne Bowe commanding extra attention on the outside, he'd serve as a viable option underneath—he's routinely a threat to pick up yards after the reception.
And, an added bonus, he also tends to trouble safeties on fly routes; he's simply too fast to be covered effectively by most single-high coverage. He's an extremely versatile athlete who can be used in several different capacities, depending on how Reid envisions his role.
To boot, he's capable in both the punt and kick return game. Considering that the Chiefs just so happened to lose both a punt and kick returner through free agency, Beckham would appear to be the perfect fit for Kansas City.
Too perfect, as it turns out.
Similarly to Cooks' dilemma, Beckham's watched his value soar well above a late-first-round pick—much like the one that the Chiefs own. Originally thought to be the second-best WR prospect at just his own school, Beckham has truly separated himself from the pack through his junior season in Baton Rouge and predraft workouts.
Kiper now has him mocked (subscription required) as the 10th overall pick; Kiper's ESPN colleague Todd McShay projects Beckham at 12th overall. While it's fun to imagine what he'd bring to Arrowhead on Sundays, the chances of Beckham remaining available until pick No. 23 are slimmer than JaMarcus Russell seeing another NFL snap.
Stock Up: FS Terrence Brooks
The total antithesis of former Chiefs' free safety Kendrick Lewis, Brooks' top-tier athleticism and ball-hawking skills have made him an oft-mentioned option for Kansas City's third-round pick.
A leader of Florida State's top-ranked pass defense in 2013, he made visible strides in only his second season at the position. During his junior year in 2012, he struggled with consistency, revealing a startling lack of discipline at times.
He was seemingly able to put those issues behind him last year, though the 'Noles' potent offense usually provided a rather large cushion for Brooks and Co. He logged 56 tackles and two interceptions (despite that the first-team defense was routinely off the field for much of the second half) on his way to being named a first-team All-American by CBSsports.com.
Still, directly following FSU's defeat of Auburn in the BCS National Championship, most projections had Brooks slotted only in the mid-fourth round range.
Simply put: much has changed since then.
Over the past four months, he's steadily raised his stock by impressing scouts through essentially every outlet available for NFL draft prospects. The Senior Bowl, NFL combine, Florida State's pro day...you name it, Brooks has done it, and he's done it well.
Well enough, in fact, to ease concerns regarding his physical stature—he stands only 5'11", 198 pounds—and propel him into the late second- or early third-round. McShay predicts (subscription required) that he'll end up with the Buffalo Bills at pick No. 73—the Chiefs' third-round pick is 87th overall.
As value safeties are concerned, it doesn't appear likely that it gets better than Brooks. His physical tools are a clear fit for Kansas City's needs in the secondary and, having switched to FS fairly recently, there's reason to believe he hasn't come close to his ceiling.
His perceived lack of size shouldn't be a major concern for potential suitors—though, several league GMs will need to assume it will be if he's to remain available for the Chiefs late in the third round.
Stock Down: WR Marqise Lee
Remember when Lee was considered to be one of the top two wideouts in the 2014 draft class? Ahead of Mike Evans?
Yeah, most don't.
Lee has seen his stock slowly, but surely, drop from a borderline top-10 selection to his current status as a borderline first-round selection. Odd thing is, he hasn't had a particularly bad workout or any further concerns with injuries that could be singled out as the cause of his free fall.
Though, at the same time, he hasn't done much to strengthen his stock either.
Others—such as Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham, Jr.—have, and in turn, surpassed the 2012 Bletnikoff winner in the overwhelming majority of mock drafts.
McShay sticks Lee with a second-round grade (subscription required) saying that, "he isn't a burner, but he plays faster than his timed speed would indicate." When mentioned as a possible target for Kansas City in the infancy of its offseason, it appeared to be a long shot that he'd remain on the board until its first selection.
Well, that's slowly transformed into one of the more plausible scenarios, provided the Chiefs aspire to grab a receiver in the first.
Lee lined up both outside and in the slot in his three years at USC. He was generally more dangerous outside, as he was simply too athletic and physical downfield for inferior Pac-12 secondaries to contain. Though, like McShay noted, he's more of a threat with the rock already in his hands than his 4.52 40-yard dash time would suggest as well.
Kansas City likely desires more of a pure slot receiver here, but if its primary options have already found homes, Lee could certainly end up in a Chiefs uniform for 2014.
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