This week’s post was supposed to be a simple draft profile on Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer. Depending on who you listen to, Latimer could be anywhere from a first round to fourth round selection in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. What started as a quest to see if Latimer was worthy of a first round selection turned into something bigger. The entire time that I was researching Latimer, what I was really trying to figure out is if KC is likely to take a WR in the first round as so many are predicting.
If you’ve been reading my thoughts on the NFL draft every Monday, you already know that I believe that defensive line is the most likely choice for KC and one that I have fully embraced. That having been said, I’m not SO stubborn as to ignore the fact that the Chiefs need a WR and that there could be some elite WR talents available in the first round. Regardless of what past draft history points to and what my personal preference is, those facts alone make investigating the first round WR prospects a worth while endeavor.
So what prospects should KC fans be focused on? Obviously, it is a waste of time to focus a lot of time on prospects that are highly unlikely to fall to KC at pick #23. For that reason, I’m not going to take any time discussing Clemson’s Sammy Watkins or Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. They are both great players with enormous upside and KC would be foolish to pass on either of them if they fell all the way to pick #23. There just seems to be no chance of that happening so I’m going to move on.
Next, I’m going to address a large group of talented “second tier” WRs. The collective group of Allen Robinson of Penn State, Donte Moncrief of Old Miss, Davante Adams of Fresno State, Martavis Bryant of Clemson, and Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt are extremely talented and have promising NFL futures. If Kansas City still had their second round pick all of these WRs would be under consideration. My general thought on all of them is that they’d be slight reaches in the first round and in a draft where you could get a similar player (or actually one of these players) in the third round it makes no sense to reach on one in the first round when you could draft an impact player at another position that isn’t as deep. Therefore, I’m taking those five WRs off the table for discussion.
For the remainder of this post I will focus on the five WRs that seem to be most discussed as options in the second half of the first round: Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Kelvin Benjamin, and Cody Latimer. I’ll address them in that order. Starting with……..
Odell Beckham Jr. – LSU – 5’11″ – 198 lbs – 4.43 forty
As I have spent time pouring over scouting reports and game film of the possible WR targets for KC, one player has slowly emerged as the clear optimal choice of the group and that is Odell Beckham Jr. Early in the process, I thought Beckham would be a reach at pick #23. Drafting a 5’11″ WR with average college production (he had a career high 59 receptions last season) in the first round of an incredibly deep WR draft seems foolish on the surface. Then I started to watch the tape.
The thing that jumps out to me right away when watching Beckham on tape is his outstanding use of his hands to catch the ball. That may sound obvious, but its not. Even very productive NFL WRs sometimes have the bad habit of catching the ball against their body instead of reaching out and grabbing it with their hands (cough..Bowe..cough). The tape of Beckham from last season is one of the best college tapes I’ve seen of a WR consistently grabbing the ball with his hands. This isn’t just something he does on jump balls like most WRs, but on the average catch. It keeps defensive backs from being able to get a hand in to knock the ball away and it leads to less drops. While a completely different type of WR, Beckham’s use of his hands actually reminds me a little of Larry Fitzgerald. I’m not saying that Beckham will be that kind of NFL talent, just that his use of his hands is a desirable trait that some elite WRs possess.
The fact that Beckham Jr. also runs great routes, has good deep speed, creates separation, has run after the catch upside, and is an asset as a kick/punt returner make him the top option of the five WRs considered by most to be options in the mid to late first round. There in lies the problem. If my armchair scouting report on him is accurate it also means that Beckham may be the least likely to make it to KC at pick #23.
Let’s assume that both Watkins and Evans go in the top ten as expected. When looking at the teams between 10-23 I see at least three that will likely strongly consider a WR: Pittsburgh, New York (Jets), and the Eagles. You could also list at least four more that might consider it (Giants, Rams, Ravens, and Packers). So if Beckham Jr. is emerging as the #3 WR in this draft, what are the odds that so many WR needy teams will pass on him?
My bottom line assessment of Odell Beckham Jr. is that if he is available at pick #23 that he would make an excellent selection for KC. However, I don’t believe he will be available and I don’t think KC fans should get their heart set on him winding up in a Chiefs uniform next season.
Next up, Brandin Cooks…..