The Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in a position of luxury, not necessity, at wide receiver before the NFL Draft.
The free-agent signing of Jeremy Maclin and re-signing of Jason Avant provide the Chiefs established veterans with proven production in coach Andy Reid’s West Coast offense.
Maclin and Avant will allow general manager John Dorsey to not have the pressure of finding an impact wide receiver at pick No. 18.
Dorsey can be selective throughout the draft with his choices to find a receiver who fits the system and will be afforded the opportunity to develop.
A receiver in the Chiefs’ system needs the following to be successful:
1) Catch the ball cleanly, no double catches, no body catches;
2) Ability to comprehend and execute the offense;
3) Sharp route running;
4) Defeat bump and run coverage;
5) Know where the weaknesses are in coverage and adjust to them;
6) Create separation;
7) Willingness to block down field.
Albert Wilson and De’Anthony Thomas did not see a substantial amount of snaps until the final four games of the season as they grew accustomed to the scheme.
Given the complexity of the system, receivers need at least two years to fully develop in Reid’s offense. There is no point in reaching on a receiver who will spend an extended period of time on the sidelines.
The best value for this draft will likely be in the second to fourth rounds without the pressure to produce immediately.
Below are some draft picks fitting the skillset needed to thrive:
• Kevin White, West Virginia
The 6-3, 215-pound White is an ideal X receiver, also known as the split end, and performs each task at the same intensity regardless of the assignment. The former Mountaineer understands how to climb back on top of a route. His ability to wait until the moment of truth before extending his hands with a defender’s back turned is impressive.
White consistently catches the ball with his arms fully extended. The West Virginia alumnus has a unique ability at boxing out defenders while making his catch. He is very aggressive with the ball in the air and will typically win the contested catches. White is very explosive in the open field.
• Amari Cooper, Alabama
The 6-1, 211-pound Cooper is a fast and fluid athlete capable of coming clean out of his breaks, and he runs double moves to perfection without losing speed. The Miami native can beat press coverage with his speed and is a smart route runner.
Cooper will deliver a crack block when the defender isn’t looking, but seems disinterested at times in blocking for the run gam. When he is blocking a defender in front of him, he seems content with getting beat at times.
DAY TWO RECEIVERS
• Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
The 5-10, 182-pound Lockett is fearless over the middle and always willing to make the tough catch despite the hit he may sustain. The Tulsa, Okla., native is very explosive in and out of his breaks. Lockett understands how to set up defenders with his routes to create separation and has effective double moves, adjusting to the football very well. The former Wildcat times back shoulder throws perfectly. He may not be the biggest receiver, but plays the game with the right attitude that is hard to ignore.
• Nelson Agholor, Southern California
The 6-0, 198-pound Agholor is the most polished route runner headed into this draft and can reach full speed in two cuts. The former Trojan is consistent in his technique of catching the football and an aggressive run blocker downfield.
The Tampa, Fla., native is natural and very elusive in the open field, providing tremendous YAC potential when the ball is in his hands. He has tremendous vision in the open field and showcases it well on punt returns.
• Phillip Dorsett, Miami
Dorsett, who ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, is the home run hitter of this draft and can put pressure on any defense with a post or vertical route. The former Hurricane is very explosive on his vertical routes and in the open field, and teams struggled to defend him on crossing routes. The 5-10, 185-pound Dorsett wants to take it the distance every time he touches the football.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has a second gear once the ball is in his hands. He will get in the way of defender blocking down field but isn’t going to sell out for a block. Dorsett is a solid route runner who needs to learn the nuances to take his ability to separate to a new level.
• Devin Smith, Ohio State
The 6-0, 196-pound Smith has the speed to stretch a defense vertically, tracking the ball well and makes impressive adjustments to put himself in position. The national champion receiver catches the ball cleanly away from his body. The former Buckeye understands how to get a corner to bite on false moves but maintain his speed when selling the move.
He can make impressive over the shoulder catches. Smith understands how to climb back on top of routes very well. He can eat up cushion very quickly and has the ability to gain separation on his speed alone.
DAY THREE RECEIVERS
• Jamison Crowder, Duke
Crowder, who measures 5-8, 185 pounds, explodes off the line of scrimmage as well as in and out of his cuts. He has smooth comeback routes and deceptive cuts. The former Blue Devil is willing to cut block on a run play if necessary. He has great fakes to create separation on his routes. Crowder doesn’t give away his route and has short space quickness. The two-time All-ACC receiver has solid releases at the line and cuts off routes when necessary to help out his quarterback.
• Tony Lippett, Michigan State
The 6-2, 198-pound Lippett is a very physical downfield blocker, and once he locks on a defender they do not typically shed the block. His skill set fits that of an X receiver in the West Coast system. He understands how to get separation based on using his body size to box out defenders. The former Spartan is willing to make the tough catches. Lippett is a solid route runner that has the ability to high point a football. He has smooth cuts on his breaks.
• Chris Harper, California
The 5-11, 176-pound Harper reminds a lot of Anquan Boldin or Keenan Allen coming out of college. He has a good presence over the middle and the former Golden Bear can make defenders miss in the open field. Harper is a solid route runner but lacks elite explosiveness out of his breaks. He is willing to block down field and would make a solid X receiver. The Northridge, Calif., native catches the ball away from his body and has good vision in the open field.
• J.J. Nelson, UAB
Nelson, who is listed at 5-10, 156 pounds, is explosive in the open field. He shines on crossing routes and is very difficult to cover. The former Blazer has good vision in the open field and huge YAC potential. Nelson needs to work on sharpening his route running. He is fearless over the middle and took some big hits in his college career. The former Conference USA receiver catches the ball cleanly and can close a ten yard cushion very quickly.
• Dres Anderson, Utah
The 6-1, 187-pound Anderson has impressive speed and gets good releases off the line of scrimmage, but needs to improve at securing the ball when sustaining hits from defenders. The former Ute tracks the ball well and create separation with his speed. Anderson has a good catch radius for his size. He must eliminate the double catches and climb back on top of his routes quicker.
• Tre McBride, William & Mary
The 6-0, 210-pound McBride is an aggressive blocker in the open field. He times his jumps well and high points the football with solid body control. The 2015 East-West Shrine Game participant is willing to get lit up over the middle to make a catch. McBride routinely made good adjustments on poorly thrown passes. He has a good field for where the voids are in zone coverage. The former Tribe is fluid in his run after the catch and would be a good X receiver in the west coast system.
• Chris Conley, Georgia
Conley has a very rare second gear similar to Nelson and Dorsett, but will need to work on sharpening up his route running. He has a unique ability to lull a defender with his first gear, and then hit his second gear at the break to create separation. The former Bulldog does a good job tracking and adjusting to the football. The 6-2, 213-pound Conley also understands how to climb back on top of a route so he doesn’t step out of bounds.
MISSING THE CUT
• Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
The 6-5, 237-pound Green-Beckham has a great combination of size and speed, and possesses an incredible catch radius and can contort his body for the catch.
The former Missouri Tiger, however, struggles to beat press coverage. His route tree is limited to smoke routes, verticals, slants and post. He is sloppy in his route running and rounds off his cuts, and still needs to learn the finer points of reading coverage and breaking off routes when necessary.
His off-field issues at Missouri will be a consistent concern. Green-Beckham needs to go to an established locker room and a team that is not near the state of Missouri. He is a big project and will need a lot of coaching to reach his full potential.
• DeVante Parker, Louisville
Parker struggles to beat press coverage despite his 6-3, 213-pound frame, and is inconsistent in his ability to run crisp routes. His tape from 2013 was much more explosive than 2014. The former Cardinal struggled to create separation on most of his catches.
• Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
The 6-2, 217-pound Strong is a long strider similar to Jon Baldwin and it typically takes him ten to fifteen yards to reach full speed in his route. The former Sun Devil catches the ball in his body and struggled to gain separation in man-to-man coverage. Strong is a very raw player who will need to improve the crispness of his route running and a great deal of attention to develop.
• Justin Hardy, ECU
Hardy, who measures 5-10, 192 pounds, is an impressive blocker down field and did a good job adjusting to poorly throw balls. The former Pirate gets good extension on his catches, but does not create separation and lacks explosiveness in and out of his breaks.