Throughout the 2013 season, Kansas City Chiefs fans were able catch a glimpse of a few players that have the potential for a special future. Young players such as Knile Davis, Marcus Cooper and Sanders Commings have fans excited about what’s to come in Kansas City. But the one player that Chiefs nation should be most interested in seeing more of in 2014 is WR Junior Hemingway.
Even after Kansas City sent receiver Jon Baldwin to the San Francisco 49ers for A.J. Jenkins prior to the season, Hemingway saw snaps as the Chiefs’ fourth wideout behind Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster and Donnie Avery. Head coach Andy Reid particularly enjoyed using him in goal line situations, as Hemingway consistently found space from opposing cornerbacks quickly off the line.
If McCluster does in fact end up leaving Kansas City this offseason and the team is unable to secure a serviceable replacement in free agency, seeing how Hemingway performs as the team’s third receiver wouldn’t be the worst thing. He’s not unusually big or speedy, but simply always finds a way to contribute.
The Chiefs selected Hemingway in the seventh round (238th pick) of the 2012 NFL Draft, after he concluded his senior season at Michigan with 699 receiving yards and four TDs. Additionally, he earned 2012 Sugar Bowl MVP honors after he logged two TDs to guide the Wolverines to a 23-20 overtime victory against Virginia Tech.
At times, Hemingway even made Denard Robinson look like a capable quarterback; he generated yards following the catch and routinely came down with jump balls Robinson blindly lobbed down the field. He’s stands only 6-foot-1, but possesses a Bowe-like physicality that makes him a nightmare for corners to match up against.
In 2013, Hemingway played in all 16 games, but registered just 13 receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Hemingway often lined up in the slot near the goal line and quarterback Alex Smith generally appeared to look his way when on the field. It may have been too small a sample size to make an accurate judgement, but it appeared that Smith and Hemingway developed a bit of a rapport throughout 2013.
Though, with Bowe on the field as well and Smith seemingly unwilling or incapable of throwing downfield to his receivers, is a wideout with Hemingway’s particular skill set needed? The short answer is no. Kansas City’s offense is more conducive to a short, quick wide receiver that’s capable of creating plays after the reception.
Hemingway was able to dominate Big 10 defenses, but simply isn’t fast enough to do the same at the NFL level. Still, of the current receiving options on the Chiefs’ roster, Hemingway is my dark horse for semi-quality production next year.
Jenkins seems to own the tools to be a great receiver, but there’s a reason that San Francisco dealt this guy away so easily. Jenkins hadn’t even hauled in a pass for the 49ers before they decided they had seen enough and he didn’t especially amaze in Kansas City this year either. The former first-round pick seems primed to be a classic case of promising talent gone to waste.
If Hemingway makes the 53-man roster next season, expect him to see similar goal line usage once again. Reid would be wise to give him more looks than the 19 targets he received during the Chiefs’ 2013 campaign. Hemingway isn’t going to blow anybody away, but he’s clearly a quality receiver who could be a reliable option for Kansas City if given the chance.