Chiefs Training Camp Preview: Wide Receivers

The day after the 2014 draft was completed I began conducting a poll of random Chiefs fans, asking very simply: “What is the weakest position on the roster?”

Survey says: Wide Receiver. Overwhelmingly.

Aside from the “loss” of Dexter McCluster this offseason, the Chiefs wide receiver group remains largely unaltered from a year ago. To be fair, DMC was Kansas City’s third-leading receiver behind Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Ultimately it was decided that McCluster was expendable, opening-up a tremendous opportunity for a host of faceless young players.

Let’s start with who we know: Dwayne Bowe sits atop the depth chart and multiple media reports have him “in the best shape of his life”… again. Despite signing a whopping new contract that pays him about $11M annually, last season wasn’t exactly kind to The Show. It’s difficult to find reliable “target” stats online, but the sites I used had Bowe right around 40th in the league among WR’s and TE’s with just 103 total targets on the season.

By my calculations, Alex Smith averaged 34 pass attempts per game with just seven of them going in Bowe’s direction. If there was a silver lining it’s that Alex Smith finally seemed to discover his best receiver in the playoffs with Bowe hauling in eight receptions for 150 yards and a score.

Veteran Donnie Avery was the target of far more scrutiny than he deserved in his first season with Kansas City, leading to speculation he may be among the Chiefs final cuts this year. As of this moment, I fully expect Avery to be starting week one and making fairly solid contributions throughout 2014.

The few remaining options that we actually know a little something about are Alfred Alonzo “AJ” Jenkins, Junior Hemingway and Kyle Williams… yes, THAT Kyle Williams. Jenkins was traded to Kansas City last season in exchange for much-maligned former first round pick Jonathan Baldwin. It wasn’t until late in the season that AJ was actually inserted into the offense and even then it was quite sparingly. A former first round selection himself, the potential is certainly there for him to step into the third wide receiver role in 2014.

Hemingway was a seventh round selection in 2012 under Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel and remains a long-shot at making any kind of significant impact. Once described as having “the best hands on the team,” the former Michigan product seemed to lack the speed and explosion to make a consistent impact at this level. He’s earned very little leeway in my opinion, meaning his performance in Training Camp/Preseason is just as important as undrafted players like Frankie Hammond, Albert Wilson and Darryl Surgent.

Kyle Williams was signed late last season and almost immediately landed on injured reserve. His potential contributions are completely unknown.

Weston Dressler (or the “Caucasian Sensation” as I’m choosing to dub him) is a 29-year-old “rookie” playing in his first NFL season after spending six years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. It’s impossible to predict the kind of impact he can make in Kansas City but he certainly looks the part of a slot receiver. His worst CFL season came in his second year when he went 62-941-4, while his averages over six years were right around 74-1100-7. At this point, the Chiefs would probably be happy with half that production in 2014 if he were to make the roster.

We discussed rookie De’Anthony Thomas during the Running Backs portion of the series, although his role in the offense will probably lack traditional definition.

A few guys you’ll want to keep an eye on during training camp/preseason:

  • Frankie Hammond Jr. – flashed enough in the 2013 preseason that I thought he might actually make the 53-man roster. Stashed on the practice squad immediately and looks to use the last year of experience in Kansas City as a springboard to making the team in 2014.
  • Albert Wilson – undrafted rookie from Georgia State with a compact build, great speed and countless explosive plays during his college career – including a 97-yard kickoff return TD against Alabama as a freshman. Read this piece from Randy Covitz.
  • Darryl Surgent – another undrafted rookie (Louisiana-Lafayette) with a rich history of returning kicks, but showed nice separation and strong hands during OTA’s.

Prediction: Chiefs keep Bowe, Avery, Jenkins, Hemingway and Dressler
Player most likely to miss the cut: Hemingway
Player most likely to make the cut: Wilson

 

Here’s the full schedule of my Countdown to Training Camp Series:

Quarterbacks
Running Backs

Still to come:

July 10: Tight Ends
July 12: Offensive Line
July 14: Defensive Line
July 16: Linebackers
July 18: Cornerbacks
July 20: Safeties
July 22: Kickers
July 24: Training Camp Begins

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