The Chiefs Can Go Several Directions In The Draft
By Eric Paolini
The NFL’s annual draft combine just concluded in Indianapolis. Among the 40 times and bench press reps, time was spent discussing the merit of all these numbers. For the first year that I can remember, part of the discussion around the combine was the value the numbers actually have.
It is silly to get caught up in a player’s 40 time. Rarely does an NFL game have a situation where a player needs to run in a straight line. Football requires players to be more versatile than that.
Also, it's just as important for a player to know where to run. This has always been the knock on Chris Johnson. Johnson's record 40 time was untouched again this year. However, the Tennessee Titans may cut Johnson this offseason to get out from underneath a mammoth contract that is owed to a player who can't always find where to run.
The Oakland Raiders were always the favorites to be the team that became too enamored with the speed (or arm strength) of a particular prospect -- at least when Al Davis was at the helm. As easy as it is to mock Davis, overreactions to numbers still occur.
Former LSU wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is considered a “winner” from this year’s combine. After this past weekend, Beckham Jr. may rise up draft boards into the middle or top half of the first round. (He is currently projected to go 23rd by football.com draft expert David Seigerman). It would be unfair to attribute Beckham Jr.’s potential rise to only his 40 time (which was quite fast). But it did play a role. He was one of the fastest receivers, posting a time of 4.33.
The combine segments skills used on the field into specific skills. Even though the most known combine drill, the 40-yard dash, isn’t the most applicable to on-field performance, the knowledge of a prospect’s speed has value. Speed is important on the field as long as it’s combined with other relevant skills.
The combine is only a stop in the long path to the draft. Pro days still remain. While those don’t give as much value to NFL teams as the combine does, information learned from the combine may become devalued at the pro days.
Each team gets to medically evaluate each prospect as well as interview many of them. These two aspects might be more valuable in terms of a prospect’s draft stock then how much weight they benched or how fast they ran between cones. But unless former Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland is involved, there isn’t too much knowledge of what teams learned in the interviews. The medical results can trickle out, usually if there’s something notably wrong with a prospect.
But all that is for the behind-the-scenes people in NFL organizations. Draft junkies care about the combine in part because of the speculation about what the decision makers will think of what happened. But a part of it is being able to play scout at home while evaluating the shuttle-cone form of a random prospect.
Let's get specific: How did the four days in Indiana affect what the Kansas City Chiefs may do in April? A likely target for the Chiefs is also one of the deepest positions in the draft. If Kansas City opted to select a wide receiver with the 23rd pick, it would surprise no one.
The first round wide receiver talent pool is quite deep. It wouldn’t be a shocker if wide receivers accounted for a quarter of the players selected in the first round. Some of that pool will be depleted by the time the Chiefs are on the clock. Sammy Watkins will surely be off the board long before it’s the Chiefs’ time. The same goes for Mike Evans. After a strong performance at the combine, the aforementioned Beckham Jr. might be gone before the Chiefs can take him. (Kiper Jr. and SI’s Chris Burke both have Beckham Jr. being selected by Kansas City).
Beckham Jr. could provide the downfield threat the Chiefs lacked last season. He could stretch the field and could actually catch the ball if and when Alex Smith trusted to throw the ball deep. A player with this skill set could entice Smith to occasionally stray from the short-and-safe stuff that is the bread and butter of his game.
If Beckham Jr. is not available at No. 23, Brandin Cooks probably will be. The Oregon State receiver is projected to go at the end of the first round. Cooks’ solid combine performance (another receiver benefitting form a good 40 time) should keep him from falling to day two. The 5-10 Cooks is a smaller receiver but makes up for it in quickness. Surely, Andy Reid would be able to find use for the explosive athlete.
Beyond these two (and the receivers expected to go much earlier), the Chiefs have numerous other options at wide receiver if they so choose. Davante Adams, Kelvin Benjamin, Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson are all potential first-round choices.
However, what if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were to fall? The safety from Alabama was projected to go in the middle of the first round, but didn’t post the fastest 40 time (it’s that pesky 40 again). As opposed to the other safety candidate available, Calvin Pryor who is fairly similar to the safety already on Kansas City’s roster -- Eric Berry -- Clinton-Dix would be able to provide a better complement in the secondary. A Clinton-Dix stock fall would be great news for many Chiefs fans. Safety is a position of concern for the team.
Before the Chiefs actually select one of these players, there will be opportunities for much more research and scouting. In the meantime, we can pore over all the numbers and decide whether Player X’s 40-yard dash time is a concern or not. Most likely his Wonderlic test is the concern.