Upgraded Chiefs wide receiver corps primed to succeed in 2015

June 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin  on Day 7 of OTAs at the team's training facility. Photo used with permission from Chiefs PR. Credit: KCChiefs.com
June 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin on Day 7 of OTAs at the team’s training facility. Photo used with permission from Chiefs PR. Credit: KCChiefs.com

The Chiefs coaching staff spent the past two seasons scheming ways to create explosive plays and get wide receivers open.

The 2015 receiver corps looks like it has a chance to break that trend to create an offense that can beat a defense one-on-one, as well as get in the end zone.

The top five spots look to be set with the training camp battles happening at the sixth and potentially seventh spots, respectively.

Here’s how the current position group breaks down:

1. Jeremy Maclin: The athletic ability and technique polish of Maclin showed up quickly during offseason workouts, as he exploded in and out of his breaks very quickly. The former Missouri Tiger was able to create separation and fought for every ball thrown his way.

At one point during a drill, cornerback Sean Smith gained inside position on Maclin and was able to make a play on the football. Maclin hopped on Smith’s back and knocked the ball away while making sure no defender would get a chance for the turnover.

It may seem like a routine play to some, but it is a competitive trait that has been lacking at this position. An early June play is treated with the same respect by Maclin as it would be in a regular season game.

The seven-year veteran built a good foundation with quarterback Alex Smith during the offseason practices and clearly has the quarterback’s trust. The key for Maclin will be perfecting his timing with Smith.

2. Albert Wilson: Wilson was limited with a hamstring injury during the offseason activities. But the second-year pro looked comfortable in the offense prior to the injury and has improved his release off the line of scrimmage since last season.

The Georgia State alumnus will likely see time a great deal of time on the outside considering he has good burst in and out of his breaks as well as good vision in the open field. The most impressive thing about Wilson is he constantly works as if battling for the final roster spot.

3. Jason Avant: The 10th-year veteran does all the little things right and is precise in his release, route and break. He understands how to help out his quarterback when a play breaks down and has a full grasp of the offense.

De’Anthony Thomas, Albert Wilson and rookie Chris Conley have all mentioned Avant at one point during the offseason programs and how they study what he does. Avant is limited in his explosiveness on the field, but his intangibles are what make him so valuable to this roster. He is the veteran presence this roster has lacked over the past two seasons.

4. De’Anthony Thomas: The second-year pro appears set to make the switch from running back and has the opportunity to make a big impact on the offense in 2015. Thomas is one of the more explosive players on the team and was difficult for corners to cover in practice. The former Oregon Duck typically found a comfortable cushion out of his breaks and can get up field very quickly. He did a good job of not giving his routes away with a shoulder lean and found good timing with Alex Smith.

5. Chris Conley: The third-round pick had a great string of offseason practices and an impressive 6-3, 205-pound stature to go with it. Conley has really good speed and is already a very savvy route runner. He was able to get good releases off the line and continually worked on improving his technique.

The former Georgia Bulldog, who possesses 4.36 40-yard dash speed, catches the ball cleanly and away from his body, as well as gets behind defenders very quickly and has the ability to take the top off a defense. Conley showed his growth in the final days of practice as he kept corners from getting their hands on him and using his body to get open at times.

6. Kenny Cook: The undrafted free agent shined during the offseason practices. Cook is one of the best vertical jumpers on the team and has an impressive catch radius to go with it. If he is able continue the same production in pads, he will push for a roster spot this season. The former Gardner-Webb alumnus could be a very good red zone threat and can make the contested catches.

7. Fred Williams: Williams had a consistent offseason similar to Wilson last year. He routinely made impressive catches, rarely had drops and seemed to consistently find a way to get open over the middle. Williams has a stacked deck against him but could find a spot on the roster if he continues to build on what he did in the offseason practices.

8. Junior Hemingway: The third-year veteran enters a critical season. Hemingway shined in 2013 as a very good gunner for special teams coordinator Dave Toub, and made a couple plays on offense. He just didn’t seem to make much of that same impact in 2014. The former Michigan Wolverine made a couple of catches during minicamp, but lacks the explosiveness and polish to make the same impact that some of the players above him can make. Hemingway will need to turn up his production in August.

9. Da’Ron Brown: The seventh-round pick showed potential during offseasons practices. He doesn’t appear to have the same explosiveness of Conley, Maclin or Thomas, but he provided consistency. Brown still has room to show the flashes needed to make the roster, but right now looks to be a practice squad candidate.

10. Frankie Hammond Jr.: Hammond enters his third season in the system and this will be another one of those make-or-break opportunities. The former Florida Gator has good vision in the open field, but seems to only excel at the crossing routes. He still has work to do in cleaning up his routes and accelerating out of his cuts.

11. Armon Binns: The third-year veteran showed flashes during a couple of practices. Binns outleaped a defender for a contested ball and scored a couple of touchdowns in red zone work. He is more of a possession receiver in the mold of Avant, Cook and Hemingway. The deck is stacked against him on making it to the final 53.

12. Donatella Luckett: The undrafted free agent had a handful of drops during the practices and missed some opportunities to push himself up the depth chart. He will need to improve his catch rate during camp and preseason to have any shot at the roster.

13. Jeret Smith: Smith attended minicamp on a tryout basis and was signed after the final day of minicamp. There wasn’t enough time to evaluate what he brings to the roster.


Nick Jacobs is a contributing writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @Jacobs71.