We'll be starting Kansas City Chiefs positional previews before the start of training camp next week. Up today are the wide receivers.
Unofficial depth chart: Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Jason Avant, Chris Conley, De'Anthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond, Junior Hemingway, Fred Williams, Kenny Cook, Da'Ron Brown, Armon Binns, Donatella Luckett, Jeret Smith
Changes: Maclin and Conley are in, Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery are out.
Will Jeremy Maclin open up the offense?
That's the big question as the Chiefs go from Dwayne Bowe to Jeremy Maclin, who was with Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Maclin offers more speed and more of a vertical threat. In a poll, 64 percent of Chiefs fans said Maclin will be a 1,000-yard receiver. The question is whether the Chiefs will take advantage of his speed. I'm of the mind that Alex Smith is who he is and isn't likely to make any wholesale changes to his game. Where the Chiefs might see the biggest upgrade is with Maclin's speed, which is much better than Bowe. Reid can scheme ways to get Maclin open where he has an opportunity to pick up YAC. With slants and screens, Maclin can make a difference in the Chiefs offense.
Is Albert Wilson the No. 2 receiver?
There is legitimate excitement around Albert Wilson but the sample size is an issue. The optimism around Wilson comes from a three-game stretch last year (Week 14-16) where he caught 12 balls for 209 yards. Wilson is smaller (5'9) but he's a strong dude so size shouldn't be too much of an issue if the Chiefs can get him open. What Wilson has working against him is missing a good chunk of the offseason with an ankle injury. He wasn't entrenched enough in the Chiefs offense that he'll have the No. 2 job just handed to him, especially after a strong offseason from rookie Chris Conley. I will predict that Wilson opens up the year as the Chiefs No. 2 receiver but he'll need to earn it to fight off Conley.
What can Chris Conley do in year one?
The third round pick had a strong offseason which led to the Chiefs feeling comfortable in releasing Da'Rick Rogers. Conley's strengths are his athleticism and speed, which were off the charts at the Combine. On paper, he looks like a good one. However, Reid's offense can be difficult on first year receivers due to the size of the playbook. For that reason, I'm not expecting a whole lot out of Conley early on in the season. I could see a similar pattern as Wilson last year where Conley comes on strong later in the season once he's had an opportunity to assimilate himself into the offense.
The DAT impact
We listed De'Anthony Thomas as a running back last year. We list him as a wide receiver this year. The truth is it doesn't really matter. DAT probably will never be a traditional back or receiver and that's a good thing. DAT's skills are unique and can be exploited in different ways. I go back to the Seahawks game last year where simply his presence on the field caused problems for Seattle's defense. He's more than a gadget player but not quite a full time player. I expect him to increase his numbers from last year when he had 23 receptions and 14 carries. I hope to see continued creativity in plays designed for DAT as well as more overall snaps.
Who else makes it?
The locks I see are Maclin, Wilson, Avant, Conley and DAT. So who gets the final spot or two (depending on how many receivers the Chiefs keep)? Frankie Hammond and Junior Hemingway were on the team last year. Hammond had opportunities while Bowe was out but didn't stand out in my eyes. Hemingway had a crucial drop last season and seemed to disappear after that. UDFA Kenny Cook has reportedly impressed during OTAs but the Chiefs were in shorts at the time. Let's see how he does in pads. There's also a rookie WR Da'Ron Brown, who could be a fit on the practice squad.