6 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest the Kansas City Chiefs
Last April, Andy Reid and Co. phoned in the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft. One offseason overhaul later, the Kansas City Chiefs' mustached savior, alongside general manager John Dorsey, will watch the competition pluck 22 names from the team's draft board.
Although Reid easily exceeded expectations, the Chiefs depth chart isn't without its flaws—flaws that were exploited time and again throughout Wild Card Weekend.
On May 8, the front office will take the first step in sealing the roster's rifts.
While the 2014 draft order is far from cemented (particularly in the later rounds), the Chiefs, barring a first-round trade, are anchored at slot No. 23.
Prior to the combine, Kansas City's scouts will train their cross hairs on six potential game-changers.
6. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Weight: 322 lbs
If Stephon Tuitt remains relatively healthy, the rookie's soon-to-be general manager will be adding a feather to his cap within three years.
Offseason surgery (sports hernia) curtailed the defensive end's production (nine tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, INT) throughout his junior season. That, plus Notre Dame's linebacking corps took a step back after 2012's gut-wrenching finale.
In spite of that, Tuitt remained a domineering force to be reckoned with.
Over the span of his collegiate career, the 300-plus-pounder has proven that he can line up at either end and terrorize backfield ball-carriers.
Tuitt has quick hands and a host of pass-rushing moves in his arsenal. He's far from one-dimensional, though, routinely gaining leverage on tackles before shrugging them off like rag dolls and disengaging. He also totes one of the most powerful and disruptive bull rushes in college football.
Tyson Jackson's bloated salary is bound to escort No. 94 to Arrowhead's exit sign. If the club doesn't feel that Allen Bailey has reached starter status, drafting Tuitt would instantly fill the void and transform Kansas City's defensive line into a (potentially) commanding unit.
5. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Weight: 210 lbs
Practically everything about Allen Robinson is shrouded in mystery, and potentially drafting him presents a dicey "risk vs. reward" scenario.
Robinson has a wealth of physical tools at his disposal. His 6'3" stature designates him as an ideal red-zone target and, despite his lengthy frame, he's deceptively quick in the open field. There are two red flags, though.
For starters, Robinson habitually allows passes to strike his chest before cradling them, as opposed to using his hands to snatch them on arrival. In the NFL, that tendency often proves to be the difference between a catch and tipped turnover.
Secondly, the Penn State product shows glimpses of precise route running—just not on a consistent basis. From time to time, half-hearted routes and sloppy footwork telegraph his intentions, which, at the next level, will result in corners shadowing him closer than paparazzi on a Kardashian.
Now, by this point, I'm sure half of you have already popped a pair of aspirin due to Jon Baldwin flashbacks. There's no denying that parallels can be drawn between their respective skill sets—lackadaisical route running, imposing frame, etc.—but rest assured that Robinson's game is better-equipped for life in the big leagues.
Baldwin is a possession receiver (ironic, I know) who, to his credit, excels in attacking passes at their apex and reeling in highlight-worthy catches. Robinson is known for the same, but the rookie is infinitely more shifty and agile in space, which helps him create separation and regularly accrue yards after the catch.
4. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Weight: 200 lbs
If you're a Chiefs fan, there's a good chance that you reside in Big 12 country. And if you reside in said country, your favorite passer has probably regretted testing Justin Gilbert.
By the end of 2012, Gilbert was a promising cornerback prospect. A year later, he's a surefire first-rounder.
The senior is a bona fide playmaker—and while college stats can be misleading, his seven interceptions this past season tied for second most in the country—who boasts a multifaceted skill set, doubling as a lockdown corner and special teams ace.
Watching tape, it's obvious that Gilbert tirelessly worked on honing his craft prior to the 2013 season. Subtle but pivotal refinements, such as fine-tuning and improving his once-choppy backpedal, are readily apparent. He's a willing run defender, and flexible hips allow him to jump routes at the snap of a finger.
Although he was rarely asked to jam receivers at the line, Gilbert spent the majority of snaps isolated on the outside with little to no safety help, and he proved to be effective in both off- and press-man coverage.
Kansas City has a Pro Bowler in Brandon Flowers, a serviceable but erratic No. 2 in Sean Smith and two budding projects in Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker. Dunta Robinson, meanwhile, is a shoo-in for the unemployment line, and while Sanders Commings has the tools to be a difference maker, a broken collarbone limited him to only three regular-season snaps.
If there's one thing that last year reaffirmed, it's that a team can never have too many quality defensive backs, especially in the AFC West.
If Gilbert, who would make for a seamless fit in Bob Sutton's defense, falls to No. 23, he may be the most gifted prospect left on the board.
3. Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Weight: 208 lbs
As it's currently constructed, Kansas City's depth chart reveals two glaring weaknesses: free safety and (No. 2) wide receiver. While they're nearly neck-and-neck, free safety is the more immediate need. Why? Two reasons.
In order to succeed in the AFC West, teams must be able to score in bunches and effectively defend against the pass. Before Week 16’s staunchly conservative game plan and Week 17’s second-stringer auditions, the Chiefs doubled as the league's No. 3 scoring offense (finished No. 6). Furthermore, Kansas City's offense churned out 513 yards against Indianapolis on Wild Card Weekend—the highest single-game total of the 2013 playoffs thus far.
Adding a legitimate No. 2 receiver is pivotal to the Chiefs' 2014 run, but even without one, Andy Reid's offense wasn't exactly in danger of a scoring drought. Meanwhile, Kendrick Lewis and/or Quintin Demps (who occasionally played the part of deep safety) consistently misjudged angles or jumped underneath routes, opening the door for game-changing downfield bombs that dictated outcomes time and again.
So, that brings us to Calvin Pryor—someone who, if studied throughout an entire game, would leave you convinced he has wrecking balls for pupils. Louisville's back-end ball hawk has sufficient closing speed and laudable ball skills. But make no mistake, he's most well known for cracking pads like a 208-pound mobile mallet—the man ruins days like clockwork.
Most importantly, though, he possesses keen instincts. Pryor processes information and diagnoses offensive intentions in the blink of an eye, allowing him to anticipate the opponent's next move and position himself to wreak havoc.
2. Ha'Sean 'Ha Ha' Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Weight: 208 lbs
Bob Sutton's defense typically calls for a single-high safety, and when there's only one safety valve, a premium is put on speed. According to NFL Draft Scout, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's (no matter how many times you say that name, it still always feels the first) base 40 time is 4.54; Kendrick Lewis' is 4.73. If you lined the two up beside each other, it'd be the football equivalent of a Prius revving its engine at a Chevelle.
But if you're still not sold on selecting a first-round free safety, consider this: If asked who the club's biggest defensive liability is, the lion's share of Chiefs fans would subconsciously cut you off with Lewis! It's an automated response at this point.
Now, venture out on a limb and take a stab at which player partook in the most defensive snaps this past season. Answer: Lewis (1,072), who, including the Wild Card loss, allowed receivers to catch 73.7 percent of passes that targeted him, while quarterbacks posted a 122 cumulative passer rating when throwing in his vicinity.
There's no doubt that the front office will consider taking a free safety at No. 23, and when juxtaposing the strengths and weaknesses of Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, the consensus is that there is no consensus. Scouts, analysts, etc., are fairly conflicted when ranking the two safeties.
Personally, I'd give the nod to Clinton-Dix. Like Pryor, Alabama's star has an unquenchable appetite for contact and showcases solid ball skills. However, Clinton-Dix is more trustworthy in coverage, and his straight-line speed—an all-important factor in Cover 1—is slightly faster than his peer's.
This much is certain: Regardless of where they land, both rookies will make an immediate impact.
1. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Weight: 197 lbs
I realize that I just spent the better part of two slides ranting about why free safety is Kansas City's kryptonite. But if Marqise Lee plummets to No. 23, start dialing his number before the first second ticks from the clock. He's too valuable to turn a blind eye to.
If the underclassman would've been eligible to declare as a true sophomore, he could've been a top-five selection last year. Top 10, easily. Throughout 2012, USC's playmaker amassed 14 touchdowns and 1,721 yards on an NCAA-leading 118 receptions.
Due to a nagging knee injury, an inexperienced quarterback and a midseason coaching quandary, Lee's numbers drastically declined in 2013.
That being said, when he was afforded three weeks of rest prior to the Las Vegas Bowl, a healthy No. 9 recorded 118 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Once he secured possession, Lee reminded viewers that, when injury-free, he's arguably the most exhilarating talent in college football; it was still the same guy who jukes defenders out of their cleats with a brand of open-field dynamism akin to Dante Hall.
As far as the art of receiving goes, Lee's hands tend to fluctuate between commendable and average. He's capable of snatching highlight-worthy receptions that ooze with spectacular balance and body control. He's also capable of bobbling surefire completions. Lee's a better-than-average route-runner who, due to the threat of his top-tier speed, creates separation with relative ease. Despite unremarkable size, the junior's also a willing and—within the context of wide receivers—fundamentally sound run blocker.
The aforementioned injury, more than anything else, has caused his draft stock to dip. But if he somehow falls in the front office's lap, the Chiefs could exit Radio City Music Hall with the biggest Day 1 bargain of the 2014 draft.
Regardless, questions loom at the Chiefs' No. 2 receiver spot, and the only answer that Donnie Avery supplied is that he's not the solution.
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