Offseason Wrap-Up: Checking in on the draft picks

Posted Jun 21, 2012

A look at each of Kansas City’s eight draft picks following the team’s offseason program

Rookies are still in Kansas City for another week. Just a few more strength and conditioning workouts separate them from the downtime their veteran teammates are currently enjoying.

Of course, there isn’t much time to relax with the start of training camp looming on July 27th.

Most of the rookies will head home next week to continue workouts at a local gym, high school or university. They might take a weekend off to visit the beach, attend a wedding or travel with friends, but the business of being a professional football player is already well on its way.

“It’s slowing down bit-by-bit, but I’ve just got to keep going,” first-round pick Dontari Poe said. “It’s all about reps and the amount of reps you get so you can get used to seeing different things, so as long as I do that, I’ll be pretty good.”

Including rookie minicamp, Kansas City’s draft class received 17 on-field practice opportunities spread over a five-week period. Some made every session. Others missed more than half the practices because of injuries.

Here’s a check-up on each of Kansas City’s eight draft picks as we exit the offseason program and head toward training camp.

NT Dontari Poe (1st round, 11th overall pick)

The general consensus for all offensive and defensive linemen is that we won’t truly know where they stand until the pads come on. That will happen soon enough.

In the meantime, Poe spent the majority of the offseason program focusing on technique, footwork and hand placement. Physically, he more than passes the eye test and he made enough plays during non-padded practices to keep people excited.

Again, Poe’s true test will arrive when contact begins and he’s asked to crack pads with veteran linemen snap after snap. Consistency is where most rookie defensive linemen struggle most and the Chiefs have tried to prepare their first-round pick by emphasizing fundamentals.

“It’s good to have a guy of that magnitude with that size,” defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant said. “He just has to continue to work hard, which he has been doing.”

Poe seems to have already worked himself into the first-team rotation for sub-package snaps. He and Allen Bailey manned the defensive front in most sub-package situations throughout OTAs and minicamp.

As far as base sets go, the Chiefs used a rotation of nose tackles with the first-team defense throughout the offseason program. Anthony Toribio commanded the majority of first-team snaps during minicamp, but Poe is likely to get his chance once the pads come on.

OL Jeff Allen (2nd round, 44th overall pick)

After starting 47 consecutive games at the University of Illinois, Allen injured his ankle on the first day of OTAs was bound to a walking boot for two weeks. He eventually returned to action for the final week of OTA practices and was a full participant in last week’s three-day minicamp.

When he’s been on the field, the former collegiate offensive tackle has worked at left guard behind veteran Ryan Lilja.

“I think we all know who has played and who the veterans are, so in that sense I wouldn’t anticipate many changes,” said offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. “But I’m always looking for competition. I’m never just saying ‘You know what? We’ve got our five guys so we’re set right now.’ Because who knows?

“Let the younger guys push the older guys and we’ll see what happens. Without pads it’s difficult to make any real decisions right now.”

At a minimum, Allen enters training camp with an opportunity to earn a job as the top reserve at multiple positions across the Chiefs offensive line.

OL Donald Stephenson (3rd round, 74th overall pick)

In a perfect world, the athletically-gifted Stephenson will show rapid development and serve as the team’s swing tackle behind starters Branden Albert and Eric Winston. During OTAs and minicamp, Stephenson worked primarily at left tackle while David Mims manned the right edge.

Barring injury, the Chiefs are committed to Albert and Winston as their starting tackles, but it’s an open competition in the reserve ranks.

“Donald has been doing a real good job of learning the offense,” said Bicknell, Jr. “The thing I like about him is that when you talk to him about coaching, the next day he’ll go out there and I can see him try it. Rookies are going to make mistakes, let’s face it. That’s why we’re out here but I’ve seen him—even little technique things—he’s working on it, he’s getting better.”

WR Devon Wylie (4th round, 107th overall pick)

Working behind Dexter McCluster at slot receiver, Wylie’s first month on the job had its share of ups and downs.

Wylie initially struggled with drops as he adjusted to working with new quarterbacks and against pro-caliber defensive backs. However, after the first week of OTAs, Wylie settled into his role and notched several impressive catches as well as a few touchdown grabs.

“Things are all starting to click – remembering terms – things are all starting to click,” Wylie said. “It’s definitely a lot easier than it was in the beginning.”

Unfortunately, just as things began to click, Wylie suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of minicamp in its entirety.

As for his speed, Wylie is as fast as advertised and should make a solid push for time in Kansas City’s receiving rotation. He also saw plenty of reps as a return man during the offseason program.

“I’m a better player now than when I got here a few weeks ago,” Wylie said

DB De’Quan Menzie (5th round, 146th overall pick)

Menzie aggravated a pre-existing hamstring issue during rookie minicamp and missed the majority of OTAs because of the injury. He was able to return for the final week of OTA practices and also took part in each of the team’s minicamp sessions.

With starting safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis each held out of offseason practice sessions, and veteran Abram Elam not joining the team until the final week of OTAs, Menzie’s injury kept him from cashing in on an opportunity to receive snaps with the first-team defense. Undrafted rookie Terrance Parks was one of many inexperienced players to get extensive looks while the Chiefs dealt with a depleted cast of safeties.

When he was able to return to the field, Menzie rotated with the reserves. The defensive backfield will get much more crowded when Berry and Lewis return, but Menzie should be in the hunt for a sub-package role if his hamstring is healthy.

Reserve cornerbacks Javier Arenas and Jalil Brown saw the majority of action in sub-package situations this offseason. Travis Daniels should also be a factor in the battle for sub-package snaps, but spent OTAs working as the first-team free safety in Lewis’ absence.

RB Cyrus Gray (6th round, 182nd overall pick)

Gray injured his hamstring during the first OTA session and missed most of the offseason program. Like Allen and Menzie, he was able to return for the final week of OTAs and also participated in minicamp.

Once healthy, Gray jumped back into the running back rotation and displayed impressive cutback ability with several long runs. He also showed versatility in his ability to catch the football coming out of the backfield.

Touches may come at a premium for Gray with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis expected to command the brunt of Kansas City’s rushing attempts. Regardless, there is room for a third-down back with Dexter McCluster currently playing slot receiver and Gray has the characteristics to fit that role.

The Chiefs will also expect Gray to be a special teams contributor.

DE Jerome Long (7th round, 218th overall pick)

After missing portions of two practices during rookie minicamp – one because of a foot injury and another because of graduation – Long went on to participate fully in OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

Like any other lineman, it was difficult to gauge Long’s progress without contact being a part of the practice routine. Long spent OTAs rotating with the reserve defensive linemen.

At defensive end, the first-team rotation is set with Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. Long’s primary competition for a roster spot will come from former undrafted rookie Brandon Bair and veteran Ropati Pitoitua. Allen Bailey looks to have a firm grip the sub-package snaps once held by departed free agent Wallace Gilberry.

WR Junior Hemingway (7th round, 238th overall pick)

Hemingway really turned it on as the offseason came to a close, stringing together his most impressive practices at mandatory minicamp.

Speed isn’t the first thing that stands out when watching Hemingway run and he was somewhat anonymous over the first few weeks of OTAs.  But as time went on, Hemingway began to find his way into more plays and even appeared to play faster.

During minicamp, he showed an explosive second gear to get under an overthrown pass from Brady Quinn for more of the more impressive touchdown receptions of the offseason.

“Once you get used to the pace, and the veterans will help you with that stuff in individual drills and things like that, you’ll play faster,” Hemingway said. “Once you get used to it, it isn’t too hard to adjust.”

Hemingway is one of nine players with less than two seasons of experience competing for a roster spot in Kansas City’s wide receiving ranks. The fight for roster spots should be heated behind Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin.

“Junior is doing a pretty nice job,” head coach Romeo Crennel said. “He’s come on. I thought he started off a little bit slower, but now he’s come on. He runs good routes, makes good cuts, can catch the football. I think that he’ll be OK.”

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