Hemingway deserves look as slot receiver

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Junior Hemingway doesn't look the part of a slot receiver. He's taller than 6-foot and well above 200 pounds. He's not quick like last year's Kansas City Chiefs slot receiver, Dexter McCluster, and he's not particularly fast.

But he's an intelligent player who runs reliable routes and consistently catches the ball when it comes his way. He's also been effective in his limited opportunities as a slot receiver. Both of his touchdown catches last season came from the slot, including one against Denver after he ran through an attempted jam at the line from a defensive back that might have knocked a smaller player off his route.

So it's no surprise that Hemingway has been first in line at offseason practice as the Chiefs' slot receiver. De'Anthony Thomas, the Chiefs' fourth-round draft pick, hasn't been able to participate under NFL rules because classes at his college, Oregon, are still in session. The Chiefs will give him a look as the slot receiver when he arrives.

Thomas is fast and the Chiefs need to find a way to get him in their lineup. Still, he'll have to produce a lot if he's going to be more efficient than Hemingway, who believes being 225 pounds as a slot receiver has its advantages.

“It's a lot more cluttered in there than it is when you line up on the outside," Hemingway said. “You've got linebackers in there, nickelbacks in there, guys blitzing. With me being a big body, I think that helps out quite a bit."

The Chiefs might wind up using a committee of players to replace McCluster, who left as a free agent for Tennessee. He was third on the Chiefs with 53 catches last season.

But he delivered few big plays. He caught just two touchdown passes while Hemingway also scored twice on his 13 catches.

That's a better ratio, one the Chiefs would be wise not to ignore. If they split up McCluster's role between two or more players, Hemingway deserves to be part of that rotation.