If there was one position the Chiefs seemed sure to address during the NFL Draft, it was outside wide receiver.
The Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver, Dwayne Bowe, is coming off his worst statistical season in years, while No. 2 receiver Donnie Avery was inconsistent. The front office and staff seemed happy with the development of youngsters A.J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway, but after their failed pursuit of Emmanuel Sanders during free agency, it was hard to imagine the Chiefs not adding another body to the mix, especially in a deep draft at the position.
Only, the draft has come and gone, and the position is still a question mark.
“There were a lot of receivers that could have been brought in,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said during a conference call Monday. “And they opted to pass.”
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey repeatedly said before the draft that he would stick to his draft board, come hell or high water, and draft the best player available at each spot, regardless of need. That’s the way smart teams like Green Bay and Baltimore do business, and after the draft, Dorsey said he simply did what he said he would do.
And Kiper, one of the multitude of draft analysts who consistently predicted the Chiefs would take a receiver in the first round, said the results turned out just fine. He gave the Chiefs a grade of B- for the draft, which certainly isn’t bad for a team with no second-round pick.
“They had their eye on a pass rusher, and Dee Ford was projected to be a late first-round pick in two of the mocks I did,” Kiper said of the former Auburn defensive end, whom the Chiefs took 23rd in the first round. “So that you want to have that Seattle Seahawks rotation, (mimic their) ability to keep somebody fresh and get there to the quarterback.
“With teams throwing the ball so much, it makes sense.”
The Chiefs can now throw four high-quality pass rushers — Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe and Ford — at teams, while rotating in two more established interior linemen in Mike DeVito and free-agent Vance Walker. That’s six playable linemen, not counting depth guys like Allen Bailey and 2013 seventh-rounder Mike Catapano. That brings the Chiefs a bit closer to Seattle’s defensive front, which went at least seven deep last season.
But another reason Kiper likes the Chiefs’ draft is the value they got out of their mid- to late-round picks, particularly Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Oregon running back/slot receiver De’Anthony Thomas, whose versatility could help offset the fact they didn’t land another outside receiver.
“De’Anthony Thomas is a versatile dynamo, he can do a lot of different things,” Kiper said. “He’s kinda like a Dexter McCluster-type player, so he could fill a role as a multidimensional receiver, runner and return man.”
For his part, the 5-foot-9, 174-pound Thomas conceded that he didn’t get much of a chance to line up as a traditional receiver and run a full route tree very often. He scored 46 touchdowns in three seasons, but many of those came on returns or as a slot receiver or tailback.
However, he’s confident he can fill the role if the Chiefs ask him to.
“I got to practice a lot of one-on-ones in practice, so that’s when I really was using my techniques and ability just to kill people, in those one-on-one matchups,” Thomas said. “I’m ready for it to happen now.”
But for all of Thomas’ gusto, the need is probably still there on the outside. For Dorsey, if that’s the tradeoff for taking the best player available at each pick — including a few that happened to come at other positions of need — then so be it, though you can reasonably expect the Chiefs to kick the tires on some free-agent options from now until the season starts.
“It’s not over yet,” Dorsey said.
Chiefs sign pick
The Chiefs announced Tuesday that they have signed one of their two sixth-round picks, offensive guard Zach Fulton.
Fulton, a three-year starter at Tennessee, is listed at 6 feet 5 and 323 pounds. He is the first member of the Chiefs' six-man 2014 draft class to sign a deal.
The Chiefs have yet to sign outside linebacker Dee Ford, cornerback Phillip Gaines, running back De’Anthony Thomas, quarterback Aaron Murray and offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.