To hear ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. tell it, the Chiefs could go in several different directions with their first-round pick come May.
“They could go wide receiver, they could look for a defensive lineman, they could look for a safety or a tight end,” Kiper said during a conference call Thursday.
But Kiper, who also released his second mock draft Thursday, said that the depth of one of those positions, in particular, could present the Chiefs with a general manager’s dream: a chance to take the best player at a position of need.
“Because of the great depth and talent at receiver and that’s something I think the Chiefs need to add, I think probably the first round would be the chance to do it,” Kiper said.
Hence the reason he has the Chiefs selecting Florida State star receiver Kelvin Benjamin in his latest mock draft.
Benjamin, a redshirt sophomore, is a raw prospect who is only 20 years old. But he is coming off a breakout season — in which he caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns for the national champions — and at 6 feet 5 and 234 pounds, he offers elite size at a position of need.
Kiper isn’t the only one who feels the Chiefs will take a hard look at receivers, either. His draft cohort at ESPN, Todd McShay, also released his mock draft on Thursday and has the Chiefs taking a wideout in the first round as well, albeit a very different one in Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU.
Beckham, a 21-year-old junior, is much smaller than Benjamin at 6 feet and 193 pounds, but according to McShay, he’s a little more polished than Benjamin. Beckham is also coming of a strong season — he caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns — and also boasts return ability, as he brought back 18 punts for 160 yards and 32 kicks for 845 yards in 2013.
Beckham has also returned two punts for touchdowns in his career, a talent the Chiefs could find useful if Pro Bowl punt returner Dexter McCluster bolts this offseason via free agency.
Though he slotted Benjamin to the Chiefs, Kiper noted that Beckham and several other receivers — including Marqise Lee of USC, Davante Adams of Fresno State, Brandin Cooks of Oregon State and Jarvis Landry of LSU, could be viable options for the Chiefs at No. 23, depending on how they test out over the next few months. The evaluation process will really heat up in a few weeks, when the entire league converges upon Indianapolis for the annual combine from Feb. 19-24.
“You could see six to nine wide receivers go in the first round, but a lot of these kids are underclassmen, so you have to be conservative because they need to test well to be a legitimate first-round pick,” Kiper said.
But while receiver is widely expected to be a position the Chiefs address via free agency or the draft, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey is a staunch believer in simply taking the best player available.
“Once the group has done the research, you’ve spent days upon weeks upon months preparing for the draft and you set your board,” Dorsey said. “As things begin to unfold, you’re going to take the best player available, and that’s the way it should be. That’s the only way you’re going to begin to develop quality depth.”
When asked how much input Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who handled player personnel for several years in Philadelphia, will have on the draft process, Dorsey made it clear it’s a collaborative effort. So if the Chiefs do end up going receiver in three months (like Kiper and McShay predict), just know that it will be an organizational decision.
“I mean, we talk about everything — that’s the relationship Andy and I have always had,” Dorsey said. “In that relationship between the general manager and head coach, communication is key and everybody understands, philosophically, what’s best for the organization.”