While ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. currently projects the Chiefs to pick Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis with the 27th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he expects them to have some other options intriguing first-round options, particularly at quarterback.
“They tried to get Paxton Lynch last year, and of course they passed on Dak Prescott with three fourth-round picks,” Kiper said. “They took Kevin Hogan, who they let go … you know Andy Reid’s going to draft a quarterback; he always does.”
That said, one player Kiper likes for the Chiefs early in he draft is Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, who he projects as a second-round pick who could slide up into the late first.
Mahomes, listed at 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds, boasts good athleticism and a strong arm. In 2016, he completed 65 percent of his passes for 5,052 yards, 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the Red Raiders’ wide-open offense.
Kiper, however, said Texas Tech’s style of play and the generally poor success rate of Air Raid quarterbacks in the NFL will hurt his cause.
“The only concern I have — and this is a major concern for some people — is coming out of the Texas Tech Red Raider offense, that’s the issue,” Kiper said. “There’s no issue physically. There’s no issue with the arm strength, mobility, character and attitude and approach.
“I still think he deserves to be a second-round pick, and it wouldn’t shock me if he went in the late first round.”
When asked specifically about other quarterback options for the Chiefs, Kiper mentioned Miami’s Brad Kaaya, a 6-4, 215-pound pro-style passer with accuracy issues who projects as a third- or fourth-rounder, and Tiffin’s Antonio Pipkin, a 6-3, 225-pounder who set school records but comes from a small college.
“I think with Pipkin, you see a kid who could have played at any major college,” Kiper said. “The Senior Bowl will be important for him, as well as the Combine and Pro Day. I could see him being in the fifth to seventh-round discussion.”
Another QB who has created buzz as a potential Chiefs fit is Clemson star Deshaun Watson. Kiper once saw Watson as a second-round pick, which would put him in striking distance for the Chiefs, but that was before his stellar performance in the College Football Playoff, in which he showed a tremendous amount of poise in upsetting a talent-laden Alabama defense.
In Kiper’s first mock draft, which came out Thursday, he had Watson going 10th to Buffalo.
“To put him up there at No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 — based on the fact he was a quarterback that I thought was a second-rounder going into the latter portion of the season — to move him up that far, I couldn’t do it,” Kiper said. “Now, could he go? Vince Young had that great bump from the National Championship Game, so I’m not going to say it’s out of the question.
“But that would be quantum leap for me to go from the early- to mid-second all the way up to one, two or three.”
One player Kiper mentioned could fall to the second round is Notre Dame redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer. He boasts 6-4, 240-pound size and athleticism, but the Fighting Irish only went 4-8 this year, which generally isn’t a great sign for a first-round quarterback.
“I watched Notre Dame — I’m a big Notre Dame fan — and you see the struggles in terms of decision-making, late getting rid of the football at times,” Kiper said. “Just didn’t have the year you would have thought.”
Kiper said he believes Kizer, who is young for a prospect at 21, should have gone back to college.
“The (Notre Dame) system doesn’t fit him, I understand that,” Kiper said. “But if you don’t play at a high level at Notre Dame, how are you gonna be expected to play at a high level in the NFL? But he’s got physical and athletic talent, a big strong-armed kid. Athletic. He looks the part, but didn’t play like you would expected.”
But for all the quarterback talk, Kiper projected the Chiefs to select the dynamic Davis in his first mock draft of the year because he represents the best value.
Davis, 6-2 and 205 pounds, caught 91 passes for 1,427 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior as he helped lift the Broncos to a 13-1 record and their first-ever appearance in the Cotton Bowl.
“(He) has the size and the ability, in terms of the length, to be a real fear-factor player,” Kiper said. “He had a great career with Western Michigan, and P.J. Fleck, the former coach there, raved about his work ethic — he said he was the first player on the practice field, last one off the practice field. Really a good player. He’d be the best value.”
The Chiefs’ top receiving threats in 2016 were tight end Travis Kelce, who caught 85 passes for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns during a Pro Bowl campaign, and fifth-round rookie Tyreek Hill, who caught 61 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns and also made the Pro Bowl as a returner.
The Chiefs’ highest-paid receiver, 28-year old Jeremy Maclin, was coming off an 87-catch, 1,088-yard season in 2015 but only caught 44 passes for 536 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games in 2016.