Each receiver has a role in Andy Reid's offensive system. You don't necessarily need a No. 1 wide receiver -- you just need certain skill-sets that open up the offense. For example, speed at receiver would allow some space to let Jamaal Charles work. An improvement in the release at the line of scrimmage and creating separation is a must. The Chiefs face some tough defenses in 2014 and they will need to find upgrades to fight for the AFC West title.
Here's a list of some receivers who fit the bill for the Chiefs, and some who don't.
Worth the investment
1. Jeremy Maclin: Although he is coming off an ACL injury, Maclin could be a low risk / high reward player, who likely won't find much over the veteran minimum with incentives or protections built into the contract. What Maclin gives you is a speedy receiver that can stretch the field. He has a shiftiness in his moves and corners respected him at the line of scrimmage by playing off and soft. Maclin was able to eat up the cushions and make a great deal of plays in Reid's system while with the Eagles. Maclin is a smart route runner and can make a secondary pay on the double move. He also knows how to sell a route and when to make the double move based off the corner. Maclin understands how to get off the line of scrimmage, make the catch and turn it up field. The added bonus is he already has a working relationship with the Chiefs offensive staff with his time under Andy Reid, so he knows what to expect and how to execute this system.
2. Anquan Boldin: Boldin is the best wide receiver on the market. He knows how to get open on any play. Even if he is covered, he is going to catch the ball because he knows all the tricks on how to create separation even if you don't have the speed to beat them. He attacks the football aggressively and runs all the routes to perfection. He is a play-maker and a chain mover. In the Chiefs system, he would be the same as Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway in terms of a possession receiver. The difference being that he knows how to play the game better than either. He could teach Hemingway and push Bowe. Boldin plays with an attitude and aggression you want in any player. But he will not come cheap. I expect him to want $6-7 million a season but he is worth every penny. The 49ers would be wise to lock him up because they wouldn't have made the playoffs without him.
3. Emmanuel Sanders: He did a lot of motion this past season. The Steelers were able to get him into favorable match-ups. I liked his speed. He was able to get down the field in four seconds. Sanders was also a physical run blocker. He can run the route tree and created separation with his speed. Sanders could give KC a consistent deep threat. I expect Sanders to hit the open market but I think the 49ers or Patriots will give him an offer he can't refuse.
4. Julian Edelman: Edelman has grown into a good receiver. I was impressed with how important he was on slants, out routes, crosses, quick screens and occasionally the vertical routes. Edelman can succeed at beating the press on the line of scrimmage. He impressed me in his ability to sell a route. He can run the pivot route really well. He also knows the art of getting yards after the catch. He can be used either outside or in the slot position. He has grown as a wide receiver and gives you a consistency in effort, ability and attention to detail on routes. Edelman provides you an upgrade on the offense but New England needs to figure out a way to keep him.
5. Robert Meacham: Meacham is familiar with Andy Reid's system based on his time in New Orleans. He would need to be used as more of an inside receiver on crosses, slants, quick in routes and some out routes. He can give you a solid deep post but won't give you break away speed. Meacham is a player who will move the chains but won't change a game in one play. He is more of a last resort if you need a solid veteran.
Not worth the investment
1. James Jones: Jones is another player who knows the West Coast System very well. He runs the comeback route to perfection. It's actually his best route. He is a tough and physical receiver. My issue with him is he is the same player as Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway. Now compared to Boldin, he doesn't give you the aggression or ability to separate, which given the money I expect him to get on the open market isn't the return on investment expected.
2. Andre Roberts: Early on in the season, Roberts' tape was promising. He was a physical player who can adjust to the football and willing to sell out to make the catch. As the season wore on, you saw flaws in his game. He gives away his route with his shoulders, lacked toughness over the middle with alligator arms when there was a chance of being hit. He caught the ball in his body. Roberts runs a precise curl route, has the speed to challenge vertically and can adjust to the football. Unfortunately, when he is challenged at the line, you can knock him off of his route.
3. Hakeem Nicks: Nicks has the athletic ability to catch the ball in stride and make the big play. Now that's if it's a one cut route. Nicks needs about 10 yards to build up his speed so, most of the time, that big play comes on a slant or crossing route. Nicks seems to have issues tracking the ball when it's a back shoulder throw or he has to make an adjustment to the throw. He also seems to struggle with double moves and accelerating out of cuts with multiple moves. I don't think a player headed into his sixth season should still have these issues. It is why the Giants will let him walk in free agency.
4. Eric Decker: Decker is a name every Chiefs fan remembers but he is not a player I would invest big money in. I believe Decker is a product of the Broncos system. For him to achieve similar success, he would need to go to a system where he is part of a supporting cast but not the No. 1 wide receiver. Peyton Manning has helped Decker become a precise route runner and he sees a lot of one on one coverage. He has issues with press coverage and disappeared when a team got physical with him. I believe the Colts, Patriots, Saints and Titans are the best situations for Decker.
5. Kenny Britt: Britt has talent. He is a very athletic receiver and can make some spectacular catches. His issue has been his attitude. He gives effort on his terms and when he feels like it. Britt was a headache in the Titans locker room and may bring baggage this roster doesn't need.
In an ideal world
You sign Jeremy Maclin to a incentive deal. Find out if he is healthy with little risk. You sign Boldin to help provide you with a consistent go-to wide receiver, who can show the other receivers how a professional works. You invest in a speed wide receiver in the draft to groom. Bowe is pushed and motivated by Boldin to become the receiver he is capable of. AJ Jenkins, Hemingway, Kyle Williams and Weston Dressler are allowed to have a healthy competition for the 2-3 remaining spots. Unfortunately, I expect Dexter McCluster to find a better offer in free agency. I'm also expecting Donnie Avery to be released.
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