INDIANAPOLIS — The tape started rolling a day after the parade marched through downtown Kansas City, with Chiefs front office personnel turning their full attention toward 2020 and, more specifically, its NFL Draft class.
As the group moved to examination of available wide receivers, watching film of one player after another, general manager Brett Veach turned to the rest of the room.
“When are we going to see a guy we don’t like?” Veach asked, recalling the story this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Ahead of a draft that sparks annual debate, arguments and counterarguments, there’s a general consensus about two things regarding the 2020 iteration.
The pool of prospects converging in Indianapolis for the combine this week is deeper than most.
And nowhere is that more obvious than in this class of wide receivers.
“Here’s what I’ll tell you — the average over the last five years for wide receivers going in the first three rounds is between 12 and 13 a year. You can easily make an argument, from a grade perspective, that there are 20-25 of those guys out there this year,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said.
“Do I think it’s a special receiver draft? Yeah, I think there’s a lot of depth at the wide receiver position,” Colts general manager and former Chiefs executive Chris Ballard added.
At the very least, the Chiefs are doing their due diligence with college prospects at the position.
Incumbent Demarcus Robinson, who started 10 games in 2019, is a free agent. The Chiefs will ask Sammy Watkins to restructure a deal in line to pay him $21 million in 2020, with that dialogue expected to begin this week.
That leaves questions at the position. Watkins and Robinson could still offer the answers. But so could the draft.
The Chiefs have spoken to several receivers throughout the week, The Star has learned, some in formal meetings and others in informal settings. Per league rules, each team is allowed to conduct 45 formal interviews that span exactly 18 minutes each. An informal meeting could be as brief as a conversation in the hallway of the convention center.
A handful of the top receivers are near-locks to be off the board by the time the Chiefs draft at No. 32 in late April, barring a trade — among them, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. Others could be gone, too, though that’s less certain.
The situations with Robinson and Watkins should become clearer before the draft hits in April. But if those outcomes prompt the Chiefs to spend an early-round pick on a wide receiver, here are some players they could target in the first two rounds — and some they’ve already spoken to here at the scouting combine.
JALEN REAGOR, TCU (5-11, 206)
Reagor, not lacking confidence, likened himself to Deebo Samuel, Stefon Diggs and “probably” Tyreek Hill. TCU used him primarily at wide receiver but also featured him occasionally at running back and on jet sweeps to get his speed into open space. He said he expects to top all wide receivers in the 40-yard dash later this week but should receive stellar competition there from Ruggs.
Reagor said he watches Hill every day.
As it pertains to KC: The Chiefs used one of their 45 allotted formal interviews with Reagor, he said.
Quotable: “Me being a smaller receiver, I can still be a deep threat because I can jump out of the gym.”
JUSTIN JEFFERSON, LSU (6-1, 202)
Jefferson led the nation with 111 catches in 2019, when he moved from an outside receiver to the slot. Scouts love his ability to make contested catches in traffic but see room for improvement against press coverage, which he will face more often in the NFL.
As it pertains to KC: Jefferson said he talked to the Chiefs early in the week.
Quotable: On what he hopes to highlight in Indianapolis, Jefferson said, “I’m very versatile. I can do slot and outside. Just being able to play different positions on the field.”
TEE HIGGINS, CLEMSON (6-4, 216)
Walter Football’s latest mock draft projects Higgins to Kansas City in the first round. The initial impression of Higgins is his size (6-4), and true to form, he is an adept jump-ball receiver. That could offer coach Andy Reid an intriguing weapon in the red zone. Higgins acknowledged seeing very little press coverage during his time at Clemson, which would require an adjustment at the next level, wherever he winds up.
As it pertains to KC: Higgins met with the Chiefs at the combine in an informal interview.
Quotable: “I feel like I’m the No. 1 guy,” he said of this year’s deep wide receiver class. “I feel like I can go to a team and immediately impact that team and help that team get to the Super Bowl.”
BRANDON AIYUK, ARIZONA STATE (6-0, 205)
Aiyuk totaled 710 yards after the catch last season, fifth most in the nation, per Pro Football Focus. He is rapidly moving up draft boards, a late arriver on the scene after spending two years at Sierra College. Aiyuk also returned kicks at Arizona State.
As it pertains to KC: Asked if he has talked with the Chiefs, Aiyuk said, “I’m not disclosing that right now,” but said he had 20 scheduled formal meetings in the first two days.
Quotable: “With my running back background, I feel like after I catch the football, I transition back into that running back I used to be.”
LAVISKA SHENAULT, COLORADO (6-1, 227)
He moved all around the offense, playing all three wide receiver spots and also running the football out of the backfield. He caught 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons but also ran for seven more.
As it pertains to KC: As of Tuesday, he had not met with the Chiefs. But we include him here anyway because that’s historically not a disqualifier from selection in April.
Quotable: “I think my versatility is a good thing. I don’t want to be in one spot. Then I wouldn’t get that many balls or attempts. I want to be able to move everywhere. I want to be able to create mismatches everywhere on the field.”
A FEW MORE …
In addition to Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs, the five men listed above will likely be off the board by the close of the second round.
Here are some projected middle- or late-round wide receivers who told The Star they have spoken to the Chiefs:
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan
Aaron Fuller, Washington
Juwan Johnson, Oregon
©2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)