No Lockett? No prob! The Chiefs still might’ve ‘won’ Day 2 of the NFL Draft
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — They got better. You can parse the names and the hows and the whens and the particulars, but the bottom line doesn’t change.
Interior of the offensive line? Addressed.
Secondary depth? Yep.
Big receiver? There ya go.
So why the long faces?
Because Chris Conley isn’t Tyler Lockett?
Because Mitch Morse isn’t B.J. Finney?
"Wherever you can improve your roster, that’s always important," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said after they put a bow on Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2015 NFL Draft late Friday night. "When you can get players that can contribute right away, that’s important as well."
Hindsight is the ultimate judge. But at first blush, it’s fair to say a lot of the Andy Gang’s on-paper needs have been addressed — as opposed to a year ago at this time — after three rounds, at least in theory. Corner depth and Sean Smith security blanket? Marcus Peters. Depth along the interior of the line? Morse, a swing guard/tackle out of Mizzou. Depth in the defensive backfield? Steven Nelson, a mauler from Oregon State. Offensive speed along the perimeter? Conley, a 6-foot-2 burner out of the University of Georgia.
Is there more work to do? No question. Inside linebacker immediately springs to mind, and a team with Alex Smith at quarterback can’t have too many capable tight ends or slot men to work with. Job’s not done.
And unlike Draft Weekend 2014, a screaming need — wideout — won’t be completely ignored in the War Room. Desperate times (zero wide receiver touchdowns?) call for desperate measures.
But make no mistake: Conley isn’t desperate. Nor is he a reach. And yet some Chiefs fans won’t forgive the general manager for having a crack at Kansas State All-American and all-around good dude Tyler Lockett available for the plucking with the pick in the second round — and going with Morse instead.
Pete Carroll didn’t hesitate. The Seahawks traded up 26 spots — with Washington — to nab Lockett with the fifth pick of the third round, and 69th pick overall. The Texans traded up to slot No. 70 and took another possible Chiefs receiving target, Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong.
"(Given) what was transpiring," Dorsey said, "it was probably best to go react right now and go get a receiver."
Which they did, swapping with Minnesota to jump from the 80th slot to pick No. 76, then grabbing Conley.
"He’s an outside receiver, OK?" Dorsey cracked. "That’s where he’s going to be."
And Nelson, the 98th pick, is a slightly slower, slightly smaller (5-foot-10, 197 pounds) version of Peters, a nickelback who can turn on a dime. With the Beavers, the Georgia native was a barracuda of a cornerback who would fight his man at the line — and beyond, a scrapper who wouldn’t back down willingly. He liked to hit, too:
New Chiefs CB Steven Nelson was one of two CBs in this class to not miss a single tackle in 2014
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 2, 2015
"In today’s football, where the game has actually gotten more outside," Dorsey noted, "you probably can’t have enough good corners on your team."
Preach, brother. Preach.
Now: Was Morse a reach? Probably, but with this offensive line, you can’t have enough road-graders on hand, either. As a collegian, Morse was strongest at tackle, even though he doesn’t necessarily translate there at the next level. Dorsey wanted flexibility, an outside-in man first.
But there are wants and there are needs, and an outside receiving threat was the latter. Conley may not be Lockett, but the kid ticks all the right perimeter/red-zone wideout boxes, including height (6-2), wheels (4.35 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, third-best among wideouts), soft hands, dancer’s nimble feet, and a Wiggins-eque vertical leap (45 inches, a Combine record). In his last 38 games with the Bulldogs, Conley scored a receiving touchdown in 18 of them. If there’s a knock, it’s the consistency, those raw physical skills not always translating to production.
But the pros outweigh the cons, at least where potential is concerned. With Jeremy Maclin on one side of the line of scrimmage and Conley on the other, if Smith doesn’t throw a touchdown pass to a wideout this fall, it’s because he didn’t try.
Plus, this is a journalism major who makes Star Wars fan films in his spare time — you can find the ex-Georgia star’s 26-minute epic, Retribution, on YouTube — and rates Obi-Wan Kenobi as his Jedi of choice.
"(Because) I try to think of myself as a guy that takes after a hero character," Conley explained. "And a guy that kind of seems underappreciated the whole time until he dies."
The Force is strong in this one. It just got a hell of lot stronger out on Arrowhead Drive, too.