From the FanPosts -Joel
As the end of the 2013 NFL season gets closer and closer,
the numerous draftniks, free agent watch dogs, and coaching fanboys here on AP are gearing up for the endless debates about who should be targeted in the upcoming offseason. Intense strategies, that will never be heard by anyone of any importance, will be drawn up on the best ways for the Chiefs to improve moving forward. Terms like "Quarterback of the future (QBOTF)", "natural position", "ceiling/floor", "injury concerns", "fits the scheme", "for what we do", and "sleeper" will be thrown around all over AP...to the point that many of the more casual readers will probably get sick of it. But what can I say? Some of us absolutely love the schemes, planning, and intricacies associated with running an NFL franchise.
So to start it off, I'm going to take a look at one of our biggest positions of need: Wide Receiver. The Chiefs were woefully inadequate on the outside this year. "Dropped passes", 'failure to get open", and "a general lack of production" are all adequate ways of describing what we saw from our WR corps.
We know what we have...and it's not much.
Dwayne Bowe - If you asked D-Bowe, this was going to be his big year. He was going to lead the league in receptions and TDs. Of course, that hasn't even come close to happening. It took a majority of the season before there was even really a semblance of chemistry between Bowe and Alex Smith. However, Bowe's contract and performance make him virtually untradeable. So Chiefs fans should certainly expect him back for 2014.
Donnie Avery - Brought in to be the deep threat for the Chiefs offense, Avery's tenure in Kansas City is probably best defineed by: "if he had just caught that one". Avery is probably one of the more frustrating players on the Chiefs' 2013 roster. One of the few guys who could get open, but you never knew if he would catch the ball. And it certainly seems to have worn on Smith's confidence in him as he was targeted just 5 times combined in the Chiefs' 2 biggest offensive performances of the season. Avery does carry some dead money in 2014, but if the Chiefs can find a better option, they should jump on it.
Dexter McCluster - Listed as a WR, but really more of a general weapon player, McCluster broke out this year as a return man under ST coach, Dave Toub. But more than that, McCluster is also having his best season as a WR (though not by much), and could reasonably break the 500 yd receiving mark. Being a Pro Bowl selection as a PR this year will add value to his contract, but it's unlikely that he can get much more than his current contract called for which is good news for the Chiefs as they will have the first crack at him this offseason. McCluster should be brought back for at least a 2-year deal to help provide some continuity with the ST unit.
Junior Hemmingway - Chiefs fans certainly got their hopes up early about Hemmingway, but he pretty much disappeared after a Week 1 TD reception against the Jaguars. With just 8 catches on 13 targets going into Week 17, Hemmingway is certainly not a lock for the 2014 squad. However, 2 of his 8 catches went for TDs, and he does have a 10 ypc avg going. And he has been very good on Special Teams. That likely gives him an inside track on making the team as a depth/development WR next year.
AJ Jenkins - Ah yes, THE TRADE! Believe it or not, the Chiefs completely came out on top in this deal. Jenkins and his amazing 63 yds receiving completely blew away the performance of Jon Baldwin...yes, you read that correctly. Baldwin has been inactive for the 49ers since the end of November, and wasn't exactly "active" prior to that, not having a single target since mid-October. On the financial front, we opened money for this season, and Jenkins costs exactly the same to keep or cut in 2014, meaning his spot is 100% up for grabs. There is no reason why the Chiefs can't expect an upgrade at this spot moving forward, although I would personally like to see that upgrade come in the form of Jenkins just figuring it out.
Kyle Williams - A complete non-factor for the 2013 Chiefs, though that's largely due to a season ending injury, Williams will have to fight for a roster spot on the 2014 squad. There isn't much to say about Williams' time here, but he was one of the most controversial players in San Francisco after the 2011 NFC Championship game. This is another opportunity for the Chiefs to upgrade moving forward.
That identifies 4 or 5 openings for the Cheifs. While that is pretty much terrible from the 2013 perspective, it provides plenty of opportunities in 2014. Moving forward, there isn't just a lot of talent available, there's a lot of talent available that fits what Andy Reid traditionally does at WR.
First stop: Free Agency.
Jeremy Maclin - Philadelphia Eagles: Since the hiring of Andy Reid, I have been banging the war drum for this move to happen. Maclin is extremely talented and has been very productive in Reid's offense in Philly. A former 1st rd pick, his injury history is a mix of concern and opportunity. Relying on Maclin for an entire year is probably not a safe bet, but that is also the reason why he should be very affordable for the Chiefs. When healthy, Maclin can destroy opposing defenses by being quick enough to get separation in man coverage and smart enough to locate holes in a zone defense. I would be surprised if there haven't already been some back-channel communications about this move.
Hakeem Nicks - New York Giants: Just last year, this would have likely been out of the question, but Nicks has not put up the big numbers one would expect in a contract year. There is a good chance that he finishes this season under 1000 yards and without a TD. It's hard to imagine that the 25 year old is on the down swing of his career, so there should still be plenty of interest in him. But his 2012 and 2013 seasons should limit his ability to demand a big time contract. That puts him in the mix for the Chiefs who could certainly use his big play ability.
Emmanuel Sanders - Pittsburgh Steelers: Sanders' fate in Pittsburgh is anything but certain. The Steelers made sure to match an offer on his RFA tender after the Patriots made a stab at him this past offseason. However, there is a lot of speculation that he may be moving on. The downside of Sanders is that he doesn't have the surest hands, so the Chiefs could potentially (though not likely) end up right back where they started with him replacing someone like Donnie Avery. Sanders has shown plenty of big play ability though, and that is something the Chiefs could use on the outside. Sanders will likely see a lot of attention in the offseason, and probably has the highest potential of anyone on this list to get a big payday.
Andre Roberts - Arizona Cardinals: I won't lie, there's a bit of nostalgia in this one for me with Roberts being one of the few Citadel grads in the NFL...but don't get it twisted, Roberts can play. After steadily improving in his first few years, Roberts' numbers slipped this year with a new offense and the emergence of Michael Floyd as a legitimate receiving threat. He is someone that can legitimately compete for a #3 spot on most NFL rosters, and a #2 on at least a few. He will certainly be an affordable option, and should be a strong consideration as a compliment to any other WR acquisition we make.
Danario Alexander - San Diego Chargers: With a career that has been plagued by unfortunate injuries, Danario Alexander has never taken off the way he should have. An extremely talented young player, he has yet to see a full season of action. Alexander was set to be the Chargers' #2 option this season, but an early ACL injury ended that, and the emergence of Keenan Allen likely means the end of Alexander's short tenure in San Diego. There would be a lot of risk in signing Alexander, but he is unlikely to be able to demand a high price which means he can be easily paired with another acquisition. He is the epitome of a high risk - high reward option.
Free Agency has a number of good options that are both likely to be available and cost effective, while also providing a boost to the Chiefs WR corps. But Free Agency is only one part of the offseason acquisition process. The 2014 NFL Draft appears to have a lot of WR talent available. But with the Chiefs drafting at the end of each round, one has to be reasonable in their expectations (sorry, but there is almost 0% chance we can land Marquise Lee).
Next stop: The Draft.
Kelvin Benjamin - Florida State - 1st Rd: Benjamin does not fit what Andy Reid normally does at WR, but if there is a guy worth making an exception for, I think this kid is it. Possibly the fastest rising player on just about any draft board, there's a good chance that Benjamin will be gone well before the Chiefs draft. But, a lot of boards still have him in the 20-32 range, so there's a chance. He has the potential to be one of the next great WRs. Size, speed, athleticism, and hands that make him almost impossible to cover. The lone weakness in his game is route running, but even that has improved as the season has gone on.
Odell Beckham Jr - Louisiana State - 1st Rd: Getting back to the mold of Andy Reid WRs, Beckham has come on strong this season and put up a very impressive performance. Beckham has speed and athleticism to burn, but his hand size might be what has scouts drooling as it allows him to make unbelievable catches. Another player who could be scooped up before the Chiefs pick, or could be a great steal because the WR class seems to be outstanding this year.
Robert Herron - Wyoming - 3rd Rd: I'll say up front that I wouldn't make this pick unless McCluster moves on. Herron is another of these tiny, shifty, guys who just seem to make plays. I've seen him listed at both 5'9 and 5'10...and I think both might be generous. He is definitely the kind of player who can line up in the slot and surpise a DB with a quick move inside or a sudden burst downfield. Set him up with a pair of decent outside threats, and he has the potential to exploit just about any secondary he faces.
Josh Huff - Oregon - 4th/5th Rd: Injuries and inconsistent play early in his career at Oregon have kept Huff's draft stock from ever taking off. He flourished this year for the Ducks and had what was easily his best year. He could be an absolute steal with a mid-round draft pick, but I imagine he will start to get more and more looks as the offseason process goes on. He's a home run hitter, but will need some technique work before he can become an every day contributor at the NFL level. But his ST ability could be the deciding factor in putting in an investment on him.
TJ Jones - Notre Dame - 6th Rd: Leading the Irish WR corps this year, Jones has the kinds of numbers that would make you think he was a top end prospect. However, his speed and consistency have been questioned. While it is expected that he wouldn't perform as well against better teams, his production tapers off noticeably, and it's hard to argue that he's put up any really solid performances in the big games. Jones is an unknown who will need a solid scouting process (Senior Bowl, Combine, Pro Day) in order to jump his stock up to where his numbers say it should be. While many places have his currently listed in the 6th, I expect that he will jump up to the 4th before it's all said and done.
Of course, these are only a few of the many options that will be available to the Chiefs. But given what we saw this year, and what is available moving forward, I foresee a lot of roster turnover at the WR spot. There is a good chance that the Chiefs will sign (or at least pursue) several of these options in the offseason. Hopefully Andy Reid and John Dorsey can turn WR from a weakness in 2013 to a strength in 2014.