Who would you rather have on the Chiefs next season?
118 targets, 57.6 catch percentage, 7.6 drop percentage, 4.2 yards after catch average, -6.5% DVOA
71 targets, 74.6 catch percentage, no drops, 3.3 yards after catch average, +6.8% DVOA
Which player would you rather have on your team the next season?
Context means something, of course. What is the health situation of both players? What scheme was being run? Who were the quarterbacks? How much is each player going to cost? All of these questions and more are very valid so let’s assume all things are equal. Just looking at the raw numbers, which receiver would you rather have?
I’ll let this simmer for a minute while we consider something about the Chiefs’ current wide receiver situation. In short, it is not very good. Dwayne Bowe is by far the best wide receiver on the team and everyone knows it, which is why it is difficult to get him open down in downfield situations.
Donnie Avery is, frankly, “a guy.” His 56.2% catch rate last season was the best of his career. He’ll turn 30 this summer, cannot consistently catch passes thrown to him, and was dumped by the Indianapolis Colts only to be replace by the dreadful Darrius Heyward-Bey. Nothing says “you’re just a guy” than if an NFL team would rather have Heyward-Bey over you to be their third receiver.
Dexter McCluster is gone to free agency, so this gets us to A.J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway. The two have combine to be on an NFL roster for four seasons and have caught 24 total passes in 556 snaps. Do the two have upside? Yes. However, if the Chiefs are counting on them for starter-level production in 2014 then the Chiefs are screwed. Neither has shown the ability to carry the load, and as things stand now Jenkins and Hemingway would be the team’s second and third wide receiver if Bowe were to be injured.
Let’s put it this way – Chad Hall got snaps on this team last year. CHAD HALL!
We already knew the Chiefs had a need at wide receiver, of course, because there have been several fans clamoring for the team to take a wide receiver in May’s draft. It makes sense. Most mock drafts have the Chiefs leaning wide receiver with their first round pick. The need is obvious.
The problem is, no matter who the Chiefs take at wide receiver in the draft, it isn’t going to solve the Chiefs immediate problem at wide receiver. There has to be a guy on the other end side of Bowe to attract attention. We know Avery cannot fill that role and to leave that responsibility in the hands of a rookie, Hemingway, and Jenkins seems like a bad idea.
Kansas City absolutely has to find a veteran guy who can be productive.
Avant is not a flashy guy, but the dude gets things done. He finds open space, makes the plays in front of him, and opens things up for the rest of the offense. There is an added bonus of him already knowing the offense and his presence in the locker room. It makes far too much sense to add Avant if he is available.
The problem with signing Avant to some fans is he is not a flashy guy. He doesn’t have the same highlight reel as Maclin or DeSean Jackson because his role in the offense wasn’t to be the big play guy. Reality is he’s been one of the more productive receivers in the NFL over his career. In 2012, the last year both Maclin and Avant played in Reid’s system, Avant ranked as the 28th best receiver in the NFL according to Football Outsiders while Maclin couldn’t crack the top 50. Maclin had the better counting stats in terms of yards, touchdowns, and things that make you go “Wow!” but his total value was below average. Avant fills a production role the Chiefs desperately need to have filled.
Yes, the Chiefs still need a playmaker at wide receiver, but that playmaker is not going to be found in free agency. Kansas City has too many needs and not enough cap space to spend millions on one of the top free agent receivers. It makes more sense for the Chiefs to find their future star in the draft and find a glue guy like Avant in free agency.