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USA TODAY Sports|Image Edited by Brett Gering

As a kid, Christmas morning falls on December 25. As an adult, at least for Kansas City Chiefs fans, said morning falls on Day 1 of the NFL draft. 

A year ago, Kansas City's Kool-Aid Man, Andy Reid, captained a sinking ship, plugged the leaks and U-turned it in the right direction. Since then, one truth has remained constant: The Chiefs are proactive, especially when it comes to personnel decisions. 

In the past handful of days, gossip has enveloped Kansas City, with trade- and contract-related rumors turning water coolers into debate desks. If the whispers ring true, by the time Reid and John Dorsey localize the war room, their current notepad of needs may look more like a laundry list.

Suddenly, within the span of 48 hours, the scope of first-round mocks changed from "which wideout or free safety will land at No. 23?" and broadened to a head-scratching farrago riddled with corners and quarterbacks.

Now that the days on your countdown clock have struck zero, consider this primer a one-stop shop for the five W's surrounding the Chiefs' Day 1 draft. 

Departures and Additions

The bad news? Kansas City lost a slew of talent to free agency. The good? A number of those departures were relatively obscure names before last season, which speaks volumes of Reid and his coaching staff. 

As far as the offseason is concerned, 2013 was an anomaly. Due to the turnover and lack of depth, John Dorsey authored a free-agent shopping spree, and the spending binge ultimately handcuffed him throughout this offseason.

Regardless, you can archive last year's approach as a one-time occurrence. Dorsey is a firm believer in building through the draft (and rightly so). 

 

Departures

Branden Albert, OT

Dexter McCluster, WR

Geoff Schwartz, G/OT

Jon Asamoah, G

Tyson Jackson, 3-4 DE

Akeem Jordan, ILB

Quintin Demps, S

Jerrell Powe, NT

Dunta Robinson, CB

Dominique Jones, TE

Robert James, LB

 

Additions

Vance Walker, 3-4 DE

Joe Mays, ILB

Chris Owens, CB

Jeff Linkenbach, G/OT

Cory Grissom, NT

Otis Hudson, G

Team Needs

Soon after free agency's floodgates opened, the Chiefs were left with an equally inexperienced and inconsistent offensive line. Still, some of the roster's positions have become perennial weaknesses, seemingly resurfacing every offseason.

Also, for the time being, cornerback ranks in the latter half on the list of needs. However, if Kansas City trades Brandon Flowers, the position instantly becomes a vulnerability. 

 

No. 2 Receiver

Donnie Avery is a one-dimensional wideout. He straight-line speed still deems him a vertical threat, but he's an average route-runner who exhibits untrustworthy hands and subpar blocking. 

While A.J. Jenkins is undeniably talented, he has yet to prove that he can consistently gain clean releases and beat press coverage. 

Moreover, if the team anticipates parting ways with Dwayne Bowe next offseason (to generate cap space), drafting and sampling his potential replacement for a year is wiser than simply crossing its fingers at this point in 2015. 

 

Guard

With Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah out of the picture, center Rodney Hudson is flanked with uncertainty. 

Jeff Allen gradually improved after Week 10's bye, and according to The Kansas City Star's Terez Paylor, he worked on refining his craft at LeCharles Bentley's training center—always a welcome sign. 

Allen desperately needs to improve his upper-body strength and general technique, as defenders regularly exploit his upright stance and gain pad leverage. 

Rishaw Johnson saw extended time and raised eyebrows in Week 17's gut-wrenching loss, but considering it was at the expense of one of the league's worst defensive fronts (San Diego Chargers), it's hard to accurately gauge his upside.

Jeff Linkenbach is a stopgap solution, but thus far in his career, erratic play has rendered him little more. 

 

Free Safety

From a tangible standpoint, Sanders Commings boasts near-quintessential skills for a Cover 1 deep safety. He's an instinctive, bone-bruising, distinctively fast defender with laudable ball skills. 

Having said that, a season-ending collarbone injury limited his rookie campaign to three snaps, and he garnered minimal experience at the position throughout college. 

Husain Abdullah was the key re-signing of Kansas City's offseason. He's effective in press coverage and when roaming between the hash marks in zone, but he'll need to reaffirm that he still has the closing speed to play deep safety in Bob Sutton's defense. 

 

Slot Receiver

Dexter McCluster booked a one-way flight to Tennessee, which left a glaring vacancy at the slot position. 

Kansas City inked CFL star Weston Dressler, whose success against bump-and-run will determine his expectations. Being that the CFL allows pre-snap vertical movement, recent tape of him doesn't drop any hints. 

A.J. Jenkins will presumably spend this summer digesting the playbook, and he rarely lined up in the slot at Illinois. 

 

Inside linebacker

Nobody is threatening All-Pro Derrick Johnson's job status any time soon, and Joe Mays was recruited to be the starter at "Mike" linebacker. 

Dorsey will eventually need to hire replacements, though, especially if Nico Johnson's development flatlines. 

The front office might eye a linebacker such as Jordan Tripp—a markedly athletic talent who is dynamic enough to play multiple positions—in the third or fourth round. 

Top Targets

Just to reiterate: Brandon Flowers' pending status is an X-factor that can remodel this shortlist in a heartbeat.  

As of now (and excluding unrealistic options), the following six standouts should headline Kansas City's big board. 

 

1. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

In all likelihood, Gilbert will leave the board as a top-15 pick. That being said, if the past is indicative of the future, the only surefire prediction is that there are none (see TebowMania—Chapter One). 

If Gilbert slips, regardless of Flowers' situation, John Dorsey should speed-dial the corner's cell and call it a day.

Oklahoma State's star touts prototypical size, Mach-like speed and top-tier athleticism. During his four-year stint in the Big 12, he employed a healthy balance of press and off-man coverage while showing keen instincts (in zone) and game-changing capabilities when cradling the ball.

Gilbert's footwork noticeably improved throughout his senior year, resulting in a relatively smooth backpedal, and fluid hip flexibility allows him to change direction on a dime. 

He's an ideal prospect for Bob Sutton's system and would allow the team to sever ties with Flowers or Sean Smith (next offseason), creating much-needed cap room in the process. 

 

2. Zack Martin, G/OT, Notre Dame

Martin isn't a sexy selection, but a case can be made that he's the safest one in this draft. He's a durable, deceptively athletic prospect with innate leadership skills.

Martin's footwork (i.e. slide) is far from conventional, but his technique has proved to be tried and true nonetheless. He's nimble-footed enough to pull and effectively latch on to second-level defenders, and his knack for combo blocking is immediately apparent on tape. 

At the next level, Martin's average arm length will likely prompt a transition to guard, though he can revert back to tackle if need be. 

  

3. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Cooks will be expected to anchor the slot—and in all likelihood, he will—but the vast majority of his collegiate snaps stemmed from outside the numbers. Even in the instances in which he was aligned as a split end (with no cushion), his quickness, along with his feints, avoided jams and charred press-man on a regular basis. 

Entering the draft, the Biletnikoff winner is quicker, faster and more athletic than DeSean Jackson was, despite weighing 20 pounds heavier. 

He's one of the sharpest route-runners in the class (Exhibit A), and while he isn't the fail-proof pass-catcher that someone like Jarvis Landry is, his hands are considerably more reliable than most players of similar stature. 

Also, Cooks won't bulldoze a tackler at any point in the near future, but his strength is undersold. 

Stylistically, no wideout projects better for Andy Reid's version of the West Coast. 

 

4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Just as Cooks defied the norm by primarily aligning as a flanker, the taller, heavier Beckham spent the bulk of his snaps in the slot. 

He runs relatively crisp routes, and his vision normally results in him easily evading would-be tacklers in the open field. Furthermore, Beckham often shows the ability to out-jump defenders for 50/50 balls, attacking intended passes at their highest point. 

LSU's playmaker needs to camp out in the weight room, though. Every now and again, corners (and small ones at that) were able to successfully jam and redirect him at the line of scrimmage. 

 

5. Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Depending on the day, Lee is either overhyped or overlooked—it seesaws on a weekly basis. 

His game tape reveals another above-average route-runner with momentum-swinging explosiveness.

He routinely displays sideline recognition, snatching spirals while tapping his feet inbounds, and once he secures possession, Lee's spatial awareness is second to none; ankle-breaking agility and dangerous straight-line speed regularly embarrass someone's son at the start of another signature highlight. 

However, due to recurring injuries and inconsistent hands, Lee's stock took a nosedive in 2013.

 

6. Jimmie Ward, FS, Northern Illinois

When Dorsey is on the clock, odds are that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will have already posed with the commissioner. In spite of that, three years down the road, Ward may be enjoying a more fruitful career. 

His experience at the position doesn't rival Clinton-Dix's, but his coverage skills more than compensate for it. On any given down, both can approach the line of scrimmage and play press, but in terms of footwork and ball skills, Ward trumps his peer. 

He also flashes a higher grade of closing speed, as his 40 time (4.47) edged Clinton-Dix's (4.58).

What Are the Experts Saying?

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Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

COMPARES TO: Terence Newman, Cincinnati Bengals - Gilbert offers extraordinary athleticism, including natural receiving skills, agility and acceleration make him a potential early first round selection and Pro Bowl cornerback and returner. Dedication to his craft and Gilbert could be a true difference-maker at the next level. 

This is a spot-on comparison.

Given his local ties to Kansas State, a number of Chiefs fans recall how dynamic Newman was before age and injuries hamstrung his career.

Like the former Pro Bowler, Gilbert flaunts a lengthy frame and a rare degree of athleticism. Throughout college, both also developed into renowned return specialists. 

 

Ian Rapoport, NFL Network: Zack Martin, G/OT, Notre Dame

As Rapoport alludes to, Martin and Mankins, when juxtaposed, share a number of striking similarities. 

The two are surprisingly light-footed and embody enough short-area quickness to fend off stunts and delays. They rely first and foremost on their fundamentals, which help them effectively shield stronger defenders. 

Like Mankins, Martin will likely slide inside due to ordinary arm length. Considering the transition has yielded six Pro Bowl nods for the vet, that's not exactly a negative. 

 

Todd McShay, ESPN (subscription required): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Ran the fastest 40-yard-dash time of any receiver at the combine (4.33 seconds), is a very good route runner and plays bigger than his size (5-foot-10, 189 pounds).

To piggyback on McShay's point, Cooks also topped the upcoming class of wideouts in the 20- and 60-yard shuttle. 

Watching footage, it's evident that he takes pride in the position and treats it like a craft, honing subtle nuances like head fakes and stems, which often lay the foundation for his decibel-cranking highlights. 

Like Darren Sproles, Cooks' low center of gravity translates to exceptional balance, and in the rare occurrences in which defenders get their paws on him at the line, he has the strength to regain leverage and create separation (see 2013 Stanford game). 

 

Mel Kiper, ESPN (subscription required): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Beckham is an explosive athlete, with a potent initial burst off the line and then a second gear to reach full speed quickly. But the pass-catching skills are also good because not only does Beckham create good separation underneath, he'll also make plays in traffic, snatching the ball away from his body and then transitioning immediately into a dangerous runner after the catch. He's a potential No. 1 wide receiver.

Beckham is a freakish athlete. So much so, if the NFL met its demise tomorrow, he would still be lighting up scoreboards and cashing checks. 

He throws down rim-rattling dunks that could make John Wall blush. Per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, at age 14, he was invited to try out for the U.S. national (soccer) team, evidenced by him recently angling kicks and putting his own spin on "bend it like Beckham." 

If your ego still has a pulse, here's a clip of him cracking home runs

As far as football is concerned? He's pretty good at that too.

Regardless of how many opposing jerseys surround him, Beckham has repeatedly shown that the smart money is on No. 3, as he leaps over the competition with undeterred focus and reels in pigskin prayers. 

The soon-to-be draftee needs to improve his upper-body strength, but all things considered, Beckham's explosive skill set is a threat to breach the end zone on any given down. 

 

Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

The Chiefs lost Dexter McCluster, a wideout and return man. They can upgrade and get younger with Lee. He runs great routes and can also help in their return game.

Here's the thing: In the return game, Lee is liable to tack six on the scoreboard in the blink of an eye. However, given his lengthy injury history, assigning him to return kicks becomes a game of Russian roulette. 

Irrespective of that, from a receiving standpoint, Lee's anticipation, agility and speed regularly turn would-be tacklers into ghost hunters. He's one of the few talents who can take a sliver of space and use it as a springboard to outmaneuver gangs of defenders.

 

Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

In Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor re-established the value of the safety who could play in lurk (mid-field) coverage against slot receivers and tight ends, adding an important element to a team’s overall defensive concepts. Ward has already done a lot of lurking, and he’d be a great asset to any team that plays a lot of nickel or dime coverage. The question is whether he’d be better off moving to cornerback, or sticking at the safety position, perhaps moving to free safety and helping his NFL team in more of a hybrid role. One thing’s for sure — despite his small-school history, Ward will be highly intriguing to many NFL teams, because teams now prize safeties who cover ground more than ever.

Farrar poses a question that will intrigue a band of GMs. 

If you've never seen Ward play, take Husain Abdullah's skill set, then amplify it by a notch in nearly every facet. 

As Farrar detailed, the late riser is a chameleon of coverage. His technique is sound enough to hug the line of scrimmage in press-man. He has the hips and ball skills to blanket the slot, and his flavor of physicality shines in run support. 

Most importantly, though, Ward boasts the necessary speed to close distances in single-high safety sets. Foot surgery scratched him from the combine, but he eventually recorded a 4.47 40 at his pro day, which would've tied for second among safeties at the event.

Latest Rumors, Reports and Analysis

Is a First-Round Quarterback in Kansas City's Cards?

A few days ago, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport spawned waves of local headlines, announcing that negotiations between the Chiefs and Alex Smith's agent had screeched to a standstill:

Don't buy into the hype. More than likely, the front office leaked the news in an attempt to gain leverage in contract negotiations. 

While someone like Teddy Bridgewater could thrive in a West Coast offense, the roster already features a proven passer with a similar skill set, and he's seemingly now just entering his prime. 

 

Is Brandon Flowers Leaving Town?

The above whispers reigned as the talk of the town for less than 24 hours, as B/R's Dan Pompei relayed that Dorsey is entertaining the idea of trading Flowers for draft picks:

Teams looking for a starting cornerback in the draft may be hard pressed to find one if they don't strike early. But they may be able to acquire a veteran in a trade. The Chiefs are believed to be willing to deal Brandon Flowers in an attempt to acquire extra draft selections. The corner made the Pro Bowl in 2013 even though he did not have his best season. Pro scouts consider him a tough, scrappy player who is an above-average cover man. Flowers' contract could make a trade difficult. He is due to earn $5.25 million in base salary this year, and at this point of the offseason, not many teams have the type of cap flexibility to acquire a player with that big a number.

Given the set of circumstances, by the time Dorsey and Reid localize the war room, their current notepad of needs might look more like a laundry list.

Trading Flowers makes sense for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, it would stimulate $3.5 million in cap room. Secondly, Dorsey has only six picks at his disposal, and the upcoming draft is arguably the deepest in NFL history. Lastly, the upcoming class is brimming with early to mid-round cornerback talent, and Flowers uncharacteristically struggled after the Chiefs switched to a predominantly Cover 1-based defense. 

 

Is Reid Lobbying for Brandin Cooks?

According to Rotoworld.com, ESPN's Chris Mortensen claimed that Kansas City's head coach "really likes" the Oregon State wideout.

Cooks' game is reminiscent of DeSean Jackson's, only the rookie comes packaged with a cheaper price tag and without the baggage—the interest was inevitable. 

If his services are still available by pick No. 23, Cooks' phone is all but certain to start ringing. 

7-Round Kansas City Chiefs Mock Draft

Round 1, Pick No. 23: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Concerning receivers, is Lee Kansas City's first choice? No. 

But talents like Odell Beckham and Brandin Cooks have attracted heaps of interest from around the league, and it's highly doubtful that Dorsey trades up—especially when considering his meager amount of picks—to select one of the two. 

Lee possesses speed that rivals Donnie Avery's, but he's infinitely sharper in every other facet of the game.

If opposing corners play press-man, they risk being dusted by his vertical speed. Conversely, if they afford him a cushion, Lee will pepper them with short to intermediate routes, and even then, he still doubles as a home run threat. 

As of now, the Chiefs offense features only one consistent playmaker: Jamaal Charles. Enlisting Lee adds another game-breaker to Reid's offensive repertoire and forces safeties to stay honest. 

 

Round 3, Pick No. 87: Dakota Dozier, G/OT, Furman

Selecting an offensive linemen will never win over the hearts of fans, but snagging a star-studded wideout makes little sense if the quarterback is running with the bulls on every other down. 

Kansas City lacks stability on both sides of center; Dozier (partially) rectifies that. 

Evaluating Furman's mobile mountain, CBS Sports' Derek Stephens writes:

COMPARES TO: Jonathan Cooper, Guard, Arizona Cardinals - Dozier's "plus" athleticism and movement skills are extremely impressive for a big man, and may remind some of last year's seventh overall pick Jonathan Cooper. Dozier's limited experience against high-level competition and very recent conversion to guard (Shrine Game) certainly differentiate him from Cooper in terms of draft value, but his upside could be massive and it wouldn't be surprising to see him gone by the end of round three.

Reid has a soft spot for versatile, athletic linemen, and Dozier is cut from that cloth. 

 

Round 4, Pick No. 124: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma

Colvin is a mid-round gem waiting to be excavated. 

He's capable of anchoring the slot or outside, and he regularly employed press coverage at Oklahoma. 

Colvin's fundamentals immediately jump out on tape, as he rarely opens his hips prior to the receiver committing to a break. He also flashes impressive ball skills, and though he's prone to over-pursuing at times, the Oklahoma product is a willing tackler. 

As B/R's Matt Miller notes, if it weren't for a torn ACL, Colvin's skills could've warranted a top-32 selection: 

 

Round 5, Pick No. 163: Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming

Being that he can hold down either safety position, signing Huff adds another layer of diversity to the secondary.

The small-school late-rounder ranks among the most feared hitters in the class and offers a back-end road block in run support.

That being said, typecasting him as the stereotypical hard hitter would be a mistake. At the combine, Huff's 4.49 40 time eclipsed that of both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, tying for third overall among safeties. 

With a few years of coaching, Wyoming's bone rattler can develop into a regular contributor. 

 

Round 6, Pick No. 193: Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest

Like Huff, Campanaro is severely underrated. 

By the time he left Wake Forest, he was the school's all-time leader in receptions (229). After studying his tape, it's easy to see why. 

Campanaro is the archetypal slot receiver, running textbook routes with pinpoint precision. When given a plot of open field, he becomes a shifty, fleet-footed playmaker who's stronger than he appears. 

Unlike most slot receivers, Campanaro actually owns an above-average set of hands, rarely allowing passes to contact his shoulder pads. 

With the way that Kansas City's roster is currently constructed, he would, at the very least, challenge Weston Dressler to be the primary slot option. 

 

Round 6, Pick No. 200: Ryan Carrethers, NT, Arkansas State

Since switching to a 3-4, backup nose tackle has been a revolving door. 

Though the team signed Cory Grissom, his past is painted with injury problems. Carrethers can bring a hint of consistency to the table. 

B/R's Ryan Lownes adds:

As one of this draft’s few pure nose tackles, Ryan Carrethers fits inside in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. A former wrestler with an understanding of leverage, he is capable of playing 0-, 1- and 2-technique.

While he is extremely strong and flashes some functional power, he appears to be a marginal athlete by NFL standards and will need to adjust to a drastically higher level of competition. He is worthy of a late-round selection and will earn his paychecks as a rotational run-stuffer.

Obviously, Carrethers isn't Dontari Poe, but he's a remarkably durable fill-in whose raw strength and size make him a worthwhile investment. 

 

Combine results provided by NFL.com

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