While the second day of the NFL’s scouting combine may be complete, the work of general managers, coaches, and scouts is not. Now comes the grueling task of not only analyzing the numbers compiled from today’s workouts, but using those numbers to determine who fits their scheme, needs, and preferences. It’s all a task that takes time, effort, and dedication that, in the end, leads to successful draft picks and improvement of the franchise. For the Kansas City Chiefs, they are a team on the brink of Super Bowl contention. Their Divisional Round loss to the Patriots is still a sore spot for myself and other Chiefs fans alike, but it also shined a light on their weaknesses. Fortunately, the Chiefs have an excellent general manager in John Dorsey and a good team of scouts that will help him and Reid make the selections that will best help the team improve in 2016.
Kansas City’s offense took big steps in 2015. Tight end Travis Kelce continued to ascend as a dominant, do-it-all tight end, earning his first pro bowl nod, but the real improvement came from the receiver position. Moving on from Dwayne Bowe, and failures A.J Jenkins and Donnie Avery, Dorsey ushered in a new era of Chiefs receivers in 2015. Snagging free agent receiver Jeremy Maclin, and drafting Georgia’s Chris Conley in the 3rd round, the Chiefs front office proved they were committed to improving their receivers. The production may not have been earth-shattering, but it was immediate. Maclin caught 87 of 88 balls for 1,088 yards and 8 touchdowns, while Conley caught 17 balls for 199 yards and a touchdown as the third receiver. While Conley and WR2 Albert Wilson made strides in their rookie and second seasons, respectively, there is certainly room for improvement. The Chiefs lack a player opposite Maclin who can draw coverage away from him and Kelce. Today, I got to see some receivers who could do just that. I’ve been high on Ohio State’s Michael Thomas, and he didn’t disappoint. He ran a 4.57, jumped 35 inches in the vertical, and bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times. At 6’3 and 218 pounds, I’m not concerned about his seemingly slow speed in sportswear. His game tape, which is what really matters, proves he can be a dynamic player at the next level. Another receiver that stood out to me was TCU’s Josh Doctson. 6’2 and 202 pounds, he ran 4.5 in the 40, similar to Thomas, but he jumped 41 inches. He’s one of the best receivers in the draft because of his hands, balance, and ability to make the tough catches. He’s projected by many to go in the first round, and since there are teams toward the bottom of the draft that need receivers, he may be a hot commodity.
If the Chiefs choose not to take a receiver at 28, no problem, as there are plenty of receiver prospects who would make excellent 2nd round picks. Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd is a guy that’s grown on me, and that’s not due to his combine numbers (4.58 40, 34 inch vertical, 11 bench reps), but his game tape. One of his notable games was against North Carolina, and he had 10 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown even though his team lost. Looking past the stats, I watched him battle Iowa cornerback Desmond King, a consensus All-American. Even though King did snatch two interceptions, Boyd beat him on numerous occasions not with foot speed, but with pristine route running. It’s these skills that will make him productive at the next level, and one that makes him a player Kansas City should target.
Receivers weren’t the only position that took the field today. Quarterbacks and tight ends participated in drills as well, and while I didn’t focus as much on the tight ends (the Chiefs have four under contract), quarterback is a situation that bears watching. Chase Daniel, backup for the last three seasons, is a free agent. Behind him, Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray have not played one down. It would be wise, for the present and future, that Dorsey and Andy Reid find a quarterback. Alex Smith is 31 years old, and while he’s played very well the last three seasons, it won’t last forever. At 28, the Chiefs will more than likely miss out on my top three quarterbacks of this draft class (Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, and Carson Wentz), but Dak Prescott or Vernon Adams, Jr. could be mid-round prospects. Prescott has a good build (6’2, 220) and possesses a strong arm, mobility, athleticism, and toughness. He endured a struggling offensive line at Mississippi State in 2015, but didn’t miss a game. He has all the tools that can be developed into a starting caliber quarterback. Adams may be undersized (5’11, 200), but he displayed good arm strength and accuracy during drills and, in addition to his game tape, is starting to build his case as one of the more intriguing prospects of the entire draft.
The Combine continues tomorrow at 9 A.M, with linebackers and defensive linemen taking center stage. Potential targets for the Chiefs, and thus players I’ll be watching, are Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence, Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland, Ohio State ILB Darron Lee, Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler, and Arizona LB Scooby Wright.
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