Considering the Chiefs’ decision to part ways with receivers Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins on the eve of the annual NFL scouting combine, it’s certainly safe to assume general manager John Dorsey has some replacements in mind.
Free agency is an option, though Dorsey and coach Andy Reid have long been proponents of building through the draft. Fortunately for the Chiefs, this year’s crop of receivers is strong, even if it doesn’t match the depth of last year’s class. Regardless, there are several receivers that would have to interest the Chiefs if they are on the draft board at No. 18.
Here’s a quick look at five of them, with some thoughts on what each player needs to do this week in Indianapolis to prove himself worthy of the Chiefs’ pick. Receivers work out Saturday.
Amari Cooper, Alabama
Cooper’s tape speaks for itself. That’s why he’s projected to be a top-10 pick. He’s probably the best route runner in the draft, his quickness out of his breaks is impressive and so is his ability to track the deep ball. His particular set of skills already make him an excellent fit in Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. But Cooper is listed at 6 feet 1 and 210 pounds, which is a little smaller than you’d prefer in a receiver drafted that high; Sammy Watkins has a similar height and weight, but is probably the more explosive athlete. Regardless, it will be interesting to see Cooper’s 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and 20-yard shuttle, because if teams take a 6-1 guy that high they want to make sure they’re getting an athlete.
Kevin White, West Virginia
Some, like NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and Mike Mayock, have recently touted White as a better player than Cooper. I’m not sure about all that, but I do believe White is in Cooper’s class. “I think I know what Amari Cooper is, what a great football player he is,” Mayock said during a conference call Monday. “But I have Kevin White above him because I think he’s got a higher ceiling. I think his potential is greater. He’s 6-3, 219 pounds. But I want to know what he runs. I have all over my notes that he’s a 4.5 flat guy. If he’s a 4.58, I have to go back and look at my notes again.” The entire league wants to know what White runs. A fast 40-time would only back up what he showed on tape; a tough, physical and very competitive receiver who routinely made difficult catches and big plays and just had the “look” of a prototypical No. 1 receiver.
DeVante Parker, Louisville
Like White, the 40-yard dash will be key for Parker, a human pogo stick with the hops and hands to consistently make tough, downfield catches in coverage. The issue is he missed seven games last season because of a broken bone in his foot, and while he was still very productive in six games — 43 catches, 655 yards and five touchdowns — he seemed a tick slower than he did last year as a junior. That said, team doctors are going to be more concerned with the 6-3 Parker, especially because he is already a long strider who doesn’t create much of separation at the line of scrimmage. Some teams might not see him as a guy who can afford to lose much of his athleticism at the NFL level, so he needs to show some of that old explosiveness this week.
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
What a surname; it certainly fits, in this case. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Strong has the look of an NFL possession receiver. He’s made plenty of difficult, contested catches downfield and even has some run-after-the-catch ability for his size. But teams are going to want to see his 40-yard dash. Strong needs to refine his route running, and he didn’t create a ton of separation in college. That’s not something that gets any easier in the NFL. Teams will also want to see how fluid he is in and out of his breaks and how natural he is catching. He’s also the kind of prospect teams might feel more comfortable drafting earlier in the first round if he can sell them on his football character. “I think more than anything that would help is a good 40 time,” Mayock said. “I like him … He has the physical traits, height, weight, speed of Larry Fitzgerald, when he came out of the University of Pittsburgh. That doesn’t mean he’s anywhere close to him from a technique perspective. He’s really raw. But what he is is he’s strong, very strong hands, big body. I think he’s a second-round pick that could evolve into even a late first-round pick if a team falls in love with him.”
Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
At 6-6 and 225 pounds, DGB is a physical specimen with an elite catch radius. There’s a place in the league for someone with his his dimensions, so the way he performs in the physical drills won’t matter nearly as much as the way he interviews. Green-Beckham has had well-documented off-the-field issues, and he’s going to be asked about them repeatedly, both by teams and media. If he handles the questions well — and typically, that involves plenty of patient responses and mea culpas — it would go a long way toward helping teams near the end of the first round of the draft feel a little more comfortable with his background. “Dorial Green-Beckham is as gifted as anybody in this class,” Mayock said. “But you better do your homework off the field.”