Where are the WRs?

I’ve been going through potential draftees in position after position this offseason, examining what the Chiefs’ options are. We can safely say that I’ve been more encouraged in some areas than I have in others. (Currently, for those interested, I am breaking down CBs.)

We all know that not all Drafts are created equal. This year’s Draft is strong on passrushers, on offensive line, and on safeties. This year’s Draft is weaker on nose tackles (always is), quarterbacks, and running backs.

But when compared to previous Drafts, no position is really as sad this year as wide receiver.

Watch this clip on NFL Total Access, as Charles Davis and Mike Lombardi break down what they consider to be the best WR talent available. Marvel at how thin the position is this year, and how weak the options are among those who are actually at the top of the list.

The clip starts off with the top five prospects as listed by NFL Network’s draft expert Mike Mayok:

  1. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
  2. Golden Tate, Notre Dame
  3. Arrelious Benn, Illinois
  4. Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
  5. Marty Gilyard, Cincinnati

On that list is no fewer than one wide receiving prospect I really like (Thomas, as discussed with Paddy), two prospects I could live with (Gilyard and the somewhat overrated Tate), and then two prospects I really don’t like at all for the Chiefs (Bryant and Benn). The end result is that I wouldn’t take anybody on this list with anything more than a third round pick — and these are supposed to be the studs in this Draft.

The amazing thing here is that nobody in that clip, which involved additional discussion about Texas’ Jordan Shipley and Ole Miss’ Dexter McCluster, mentioned the one WR that I think will be the best out of this entire class.

Let’s take each of these guys mentioned in the clip, and then discuss the guy I really like.

Dez Bryant and Arrelious Benn — Bryant and Benn are similar players to me, to the extent which I think they’re interchangeable.  Bryant is ranked higher simply because he played for a damn good offense, and Benn played for a pathetic one. Both players are bigger types with plenty of physical ability. Bryant’s hands are a little better but if you switched the teams they played for, you probably end up with swapped rankings as well. The issue is that they are both major, major projects. Benn had such a mediocre career in Illionois due to the (lack of) talent surrounding him you wonder how much of his shortcomings are truly his. And Bryant comes from a ridiculous spread offense that doesn’t even ask him to run routes.

These are buyer beware types. They have amazing potential, but on a Chiefs team that really needs help at the position, they provide nothing in the short term (although Dez would probably still make a few highlights) and no guarantees in the long run. If we were in a position to gamble like better teams are, we could try. But we’re not.

Marty Gilyard and Golden Tate — The WR class this year is weak in several areas, but it’s desperately weak on deep threats. It’s got decent possession guys (Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant), it’s got decent slot guys (Shipley and McCluster), but it’s got almost no pure deep threats. As a result, I believe some players will necessarily get overhyped as such. Gilyard and Tate are similar players; they are both dynamos with the ball in open space and they do possess a high gear which makes them a threat whenever they catch a seam.

But they don’t strike me as “special” players, deserving a 2nd-round-or-higher pick. Both do have some speed, but neither is an elite blow-you-away type. And while Gilyard can do a route here or there, Tate possesses virtually no route-running skills. But it doesn’t matter, because there doesn’t seem to be any other deep threats out there, so these two will get propped up as more valuable.

Jordan Shipley and Dexter McCluster – Now before you get ahead of yourself, I actually like both players. But as midrounders at best, and I don’t think they’d be the best use of our midrounders. Shipley and McCluster are both slot receivers, and with the advent of Wes Welker’s success of the Patriots, every team in the league has now put a premium on slot guys for some reason. What they’re forgetting is something that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley already knows: slot guys can be found deep in the Draft, or even in UDFA. I mean hey, Welker himself went undrafted!

Pioli was instrumental in picking up Welker, and Todd Haley has a UDFA guy he already likes as a slot receiver in Lance Long, although I’m certainly not equating the two. Pioli and Haley have the right idea: slot guys are much easier to track down. We plucked up two slot guys (Long and Bobby Wade) midway through the season.

The guys I like:

Demaryius Thomas — I love watching Thomas play. He is a big receiver with great hands and can run routes very, very well. But I still don’t think Thomas is worth much more than a 3rd to us, though. He is Dwayne Bowe, albeit without Bowe’s crazy athleticism. To keep a defense honest, we need some deep threats, not more possession guys. Although I wouldn’t complain if we picked him up.

The one WR in this entire Draft that I’d spend one of our first three picks on is:

Damian Williams, USC – If you are the Chiefs, and you are looking for an actual wideout rather than just a slot guy, and you want somebody who does more than just possession routes, than Williams is your man. He’d have to fall to the second round, which isn’t bloody likely, but anything’s possible come Draft Day. Williams is as clean a route-runner as the Draft has offered in years. He is not an elite speed, but he can locate soft spots in zones and break out of routes to get open. And his consistency is so great, his ceiling may never end up being the Pro Bowl but he’ll start Day One for the Chiefs, and regularly pull in above-average-to-great seasons in the right offensive system. Williams also comes from USC’s West Coast offense, which is close enough to Weis’ offensive system.

What WRs would you gamble on with the Chiefs’ first three picks?

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