Chiefs need to draft a red-zone WR, but not necessarily in Round 1

West Virginia's Kevin White (left) and Louisville's DeVante Parker are both tremendous wide receiver prospects. Alas, both are expected to be off the board by the time the Chiefs pick in the first round.

Justin Ford - Jamie Rhodes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The short answer, of course, is red-zone threat at wide receiver and front-line pass protector — just not necessarily in that order.

Obvious needs are, well, obvious, and after a historic, almost absurdly comic, zero receiving touchdowns from a wideout in 2014 — believed to be a first, and a worst, in modern NFL annals — the HELP WANTED sign at receiver has been out on Andy Reid’s lawn for a few months now.

And yet at least one longtime draftnik thinks that if the Kansas City Chiefs can’t find THE GUY at pick No. 18 (assuming they aren’t moving from pick 18, given a haul of a reported 11 draft picks to play with this spring), THE GUY might actually be there later. In other words, if an impact tackle happens to fall into your laps — at the moment, you have zero on the roster — late in the first, go back to Need 1A (keeping Alex Smith from getting more body parts lacerated), then circle back to Need 1.

"Actually, where this draft is strong at receiver is probably at the middle, in the second through fifth round," Dan Shonka, one of the leading stopwatch gurus over at Ourlads’ NFL Scouting Services, tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "There are going to be a lot of receivers that will probably be (able to develop into) No. 2s (on the depth chart), guys who work their way up there."

And lots of big guys, too, which is even better. The annual NFL Scouting Combine starts next Tuesday in Indianapolis, although the wideouts aren’t slated to arrive until next Wednesday and won’t conduct on-field workouts until Saturday the 21st. Local sentiment favors, as it often does, former Kansas State star Tyler Lockett; the kid would look good in red (or any other color, frankly), his dad played here, he sets up defenders as well as any of his peers, and he has a pair of suction cups for hands.

But at the next level, the 5-foot-10 Lockett projects as more of a slot/returner type, and the Andy Gang has two pretty good fits there already in De’Anthony Thomas and Albert Wilson. Meanwhile, of the Chiefs’ top five wideout/scatback options at present, only two — Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway — are listed as 6-1 or taller.

The Chiefs need height. Red-zone height. Hell, red-zone anything. Of the top 30 wide receiver prospects as ranked by NFLDraftScout.com, 20 — two-thirds — are 6-1 or taller. And the farther down you go, the bigger it gets: From a depth perspective, among the wideout prospects ranked 16-40, 17 of the 25 — 68 percent — are 6-1 or above.

The Chiefs had the No. 1 pick in an awful college-quarterback year (’13), then missed out on really cashing in on one of the best single wide receiver classes in recent memory (last spring). But while the Class of ’15 doesn’t promise the same type of instant-impact stars after Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White, it’s long in solid. And given what’s on hand, even "solid" feels like a step forward.

MORE ON THE CHIEFS

As a group, "quarterback sucks, running back is really good," Shonka says, "and receivers, if you were giving a grade, I’d say a B."

"B" works. Come to think of it, "B" feels like a step forward, too.

"Kevin White at West Virginia, that’s who I think (the Chiefs) would really love," Shonka says, but notes that White (6-3, 210, 4.49 in the 40, according to NFLDraftScout.com) is expected to be off the board by the middle of the first round. Ditto Cooper (6-1, 210, 4.52) and Louisville’s DeVante Parker (6-3, 209, 4.48).

And as for a certain Green-Beckham out of Oklahoma …

"I see all these mock drafts out there with him in the first round," Shonka chuckles when asked about the troubled former Missouri star. "I think, ‘Are these guys stupid, or what? Why would you take that guy?’ He didn’t look like a big-time until that SEC championship game (in 2013), (then) he finally started looking like what a big-time first-round receiver looks like."

Shonka’s most recent first-round mock paired the Chiefs with Arizona State wideout Jaelen Strong (6-3, 215, 4.55), a physical presence and a back-shoulder-fade machine who ticks a lot of the same boxes White does.


But Strong may be gone by pick No. 18, too, and almost certainly will be by the middle of the second round. The Chiefs could wind up with as many as three compensatory picks in Rounds 3 through 5, though — giving them more chances to mine the aforementioned depth, or the flexibility to move around and target the target of choice.

Among the next tier, Shonka notes, Combine watchers might want to take note of Michigan junior Devin Funchess, who fits the size profile (6-5, 230, 4.63), but maybe not so much the "hands" part. More names to follow: Vince Mayle (6-2, 219, 4.52), a former junior college basketball player who landed at Washington State; Tony Lippett of Michigan State (6-3, 192, 4.49); and Tre McBride (6-1, 205, 4.44) of William & Mary, all of whom could be on the board after the second round.

"He knocked the socks off of people at the East-West (Shrine) Game," Shonka says of McBride.

"I tell you what, though, this is a good draft overall. In certain rounds, it’s better at the third-through-fifth area. If you’ve got a lot of those middle-round guys, you’re going to get a lot of good, solid, serviceable-type players and a few will work out to be pretty good players. That’s what I think the strength of this draft is."

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @SeanKeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.