Work in Sports
K.C. deep threat
Chiefs fill need areas, starting with I-AA receiver Morris
Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 12:34 AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- With their first two picks in the draft, the Kansas City Chiefs concentrated on somebody to catch passes and two defensive backs to stop them from being caught.
With the 21st pick in the opening round, the Chiefs went for Sylvester Morris, a big and fast wide receiver from Division I-AA Jackson State who may eventually replace former All-Pro Andre Rison.
In the second round -- with their two starting cornerbacks a combined 70 years of age -- the Chiefs opted for William Bartee, a cornerback from Oklahoma who started seven games at free safety before moving to right cornerback.
The Chiefs then took free safety Greg Wesley, 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds from Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the third round, making him the 85th overall selection.
Wesley, who made 57 tackles and had four interceptions last year as a junior, was a late entry in the draft, petitioning March 10. He was academically ineligible as a freshman and would have had to graduate in August in order to gain an extra year of eligibility.
"He's a big, strong, physical safety -- kind of in the mold of Jerome Woods," said Terry Bradway, director of player personnel. "He played against Sylvester Morris. A good tackler and very good special teams player."
Morris, 6-3 and 208 pounds, could step in for Rison, whose production slipped dramatically last season. At the very least, he'll be asked to fulfill the role of deep threat that once belonged to Joe Horn, who signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints.
The Chiefs' staff worked with both Morris and Bartee when they coached at the Senior Bowl. Morris was the fourth wide receiver to be drafted.
"He's got a lot of coaching to receive," said Carl Peterson, president and CEO of the Chiefs. "But the fact we spent a week with Sylvester really helped us to know him as a person and a player also. He answered all the questions we had as to being able to adapt to our level."
As a deep threat, Morris will be asked to fill the void left by the free agent defection of Horn, Kansas City's only speed receiver.
But he might eventually replace Rison, a 12-year veteran who caught only 21 passes last season after going to the Pro Bowl in 1997.
In the offseason, Rison has also encountered legal troubles over unpaid debts.
"We're going to continue to evaluate Andre," Peterson said. "Every day he keeps working hard. He's got his weight down. That will be determined by the competition we see in minicamp, through spring and in training camp."
Morris has been timed at 4.34 in the 40-yard dash and became the first player in Jackson State history with more than 1,000 yards receiving in one season. As a senior he caught 63 passes for 1,139 yards and 13 touchdowns.
At the Senior Bowl, coach Gunther Cunningham said, "It was like a big kid playing with little kids. He's a powerful man. He caught 30 touchdown passes the last two years.
"This gives us some size."
Bartee, 6-1 and 190 pounds, ranked fifth on the Oklahoma defense with 51 tackles. The Chiefs' starting corners last year, Cris Dishman and Pro Bowler James Hasty, are both 35.
"All the things we're looking for in a corner, he has," said Cunningham.
Bartee played at Butler County (Kan.) Community College in 1997 before transferring to Oklahoma.
"I played corner and safety here at Oklahoma," Bartee said. "It's no big deal for me to play either corner or safety. I don't think it would be hard for me."
"William is just what we're looking for -- the size to match up with the big receivers in this league," said Bradway. "With all the big receivers you see, here's somebody who can match up with those guys and get up in their face and play bump-and-run."
Morris takes pride in his versatility.
"My mentality is to do whatever it takes to win," he said. "If my coaches need the short yards, need me to go across the middle, or need the deep ball, I'll do whatever it takes to get the team to win."
"My biggest strength is my size and my hands," he added. "I just want to make the catch. With my size, I can go anywhere. I think I need work most on my route running, becoming a better route runner."
Peterson denied a broadcast report that the Chiefs have been negotiating with former Detroit running back Barry Sanders.
"There's no truth to that. I haven't talked to anybody about Barry Sanders," Peterson said.