Chiefs mock draft: Just because they need a WR doesn’t mean they’ll take one first

If you subscribe to the notion that teams are built from the inside out, LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins makes sense for the Chiefs with the 18th pick of the first round of the NFL Draft.

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It might surprise Chiefs fans to learn that quarterback Alex Smith threw just two fewer touchdown passes last season (18) than Seattle’s Russell Wilson (20) and that the Chiefs scored 36 offensive touchdowns, compared with 40 by the Seahawks. For a beleaguered offense, it wasn’t that much less productive than one that almost won a Super Bowl.

Even so, that reality is overshadowed by the oft-repeated number that some believe defined the Chiefs’ 2014 season: No wide receiver caught a touchdown pass. Not surprisingly, wide receiver sits high on the team’s list of needs as the new league year is set to begin March 10.

Does that mean the Chiefs will take a wide receiver with one of their top picks in the 2015 NFL Draft? Well, it’s always difficult to identify what a team will do in the draft when the free-agent process plays out for 51 days before the draft begins.

Still, even if the Chiefs were to add to the position in free agency, picking a receiver in the first three rounds of the April 30-May 2 draft in Chicago certainly should remain on their list of priorities. This year’s draft might not be as strong as 2014, but it’s very good, and the expectations are that at least a dozen wideouts will go off the board in the first three rounds.

The need for Kansas City would become even greater if the Chiefs make veteran Dwayne Bowe a salary cap casualty. Bowe managed just 60 receptions last season, averaging only 12.6 yards a catch, and the Chiefs must weigh his value against his salary cap charge north of $10 million.

Of course, wide receiver isn’t the only area that needs attention. Youth is needed at inside linebacker, where Derrick Johnson suffered a torn Achilles in the season opener last season. He will be 33 in November.

This looks to be a solid draft for offensive linemen, and that’s good news for the Chiefs, considering the help they need on the interior, especially if they can’t keep center Rodney Hudson from leaving as an unrestricted free agent.

A center would likely come later in the draft, but upgrading at guard would also be a smart move assuming Jeff Allen comes back healthy from his 2014 elbow surgery — like Johnson, he went on injured reserve following a Week 1 injury — and ends up at right tackle. In the interest of versatility, it also wouldn’t be out of the question to draft a tackle and put Allen at guard.

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With all that in mind, we’ll take out the dartboard and take a shot at what players would make sense for the Chiefs to select on the first two days of the draft. (Note: The Chiefs might receive a compensatory pick at the end of the third round, which completes Day 2 of the draft.)

Round 1 (18th overall): La’el Collins, T/G, LSU

The nasty Collins would be just what the doctor ordered for the Chiefs, especially considering their ability to run the ball. Collins projects at either guard spot or right tackle. It makes sense that he would start his pro career at guard while learning the nuances of pass blocking. Fans might want a flashy receiver, but football is won from the inside out, and a receiver should be the target in the second round. Having said that, it might be tough for the Chiefs to pass on Louisville receiver DeVante Parker if he is available. Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings would also make sense.

Round 2 (17th in round, 49th overall): Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State

Smith needs work as a route runner, but his speed and big-play ability can be intoxicating. He averaged nearly 30 yards per reception last season, and some compare him to Ravens wideout Torrey Smith.

Round 3 (16th in round, 80th overall): Ramik Wilson, ILB, Georgia

Wilson led the SEC in total tackles the last two seasons but needs work on striking more as a tackler and fighting off blocks. However, he has been productive, and that makes him a worthy selection in the third round.