There was a small stretch of activity that most NFL fans won’t remember even now, even just several weeks after the 2022 NFL Draft, that served as a small but interesting blip in the second round of the three-day event. It involved only a few teams and a single trade, but it will likely link a few wide receiver prospects for as long as they decide to play the game of football—at least in terms of player comparison.
In the second round of the 2022 draft, Kansas City Chiefs fans will likely remember the growing anticipation of the second round on Friday night. The Chiefs had already made two major selections to serve as cornerstones for the defense going forward along the defensive line and the secondary in George Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie, respectively. It felt certain that an offensive move was next, and it was the one that most fans were hoping for: a wide receiver.
The Chiefs had traded away Tyreek Hill only the month before, but they’d also watched Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle sign with other teams in free agency. Mecole Hardman was back as a veteran holdover, but ’22 was a known contract year for him.
Given the run on wide receivers and the draft story around Skyy Moore, he will likely find himself compared to other second-round wideouts for a long time.
Even new signings to the roster were really only short-term additions—or at least they could be. Josh Gordon returned on a one-year deal. JuJu Smith-Schuster was a single-season signing as well. Marquez Valdes-Scantling technically signed a three-year deal, but the structure lacks any guaranteed money after this season, meaning it’s really a series of team options that get quite pricey after this next year.
In short, it was possible that whoever the Chiefs were going to take in the draft would be the only wide receivers on the roster going forward into 2023. So, yeah, this pick felt important.
The Chiefs were originally on the clock at No. 50 when an interesting wrinkle happened, the aforementioned short stretch that would link a few wideouts for the duration of their professional careers. The New England Patriots came calling with a minor trade offer for K.C. to slide back to No. 54 and pick up an extra fifth-round choice (which would become Darian Kinnard after another deal in the fifth to move up with Seattle).
For a wideout-needy team like the Chiefs, the second round had fallen brilliantly. Yes, a few receivers had been selected, but teams had largely ignored the position as franchises instead made runs on running backs and corners. Only three teams in front of Chiefs general manager Brett Veach had taken a wide receiver, and one of those was a bit of a head-scratcher when the Giants selected Wan’Dale Robinson much earlier than anyone anticipated.
At No. 50, Chiefs Kingdom was ready for a wide receiver, but then the Patriots traded up. However, given that a few impressive pass-catchers remained on the board, the Chiefs looked smart when they traded back. Then here’s how the next few picks went off the board:
50. Tyquan Thornton, wide receiver, Baylor
51. Cameron Jurgens, offensive line, Nebraska
52. George Pickens, wide receiver, Georgia
53. Alec Pierce, wide receiver, Cincinnati
Just like that, three of four picks were wide receivers and a simple slide down the draft order looked like it might have been the worst decision possible. Then the Chiefs turned in their draft card to add one more pick to the mix.
54. Skyy Moore, wide receiver, Western Michigan
For some, it was a chance to breathe easy after a tense viewing experience. For others who’d been coveting Pickens, it was a frustrating moment to see other teams feast on the position before the Chiefs just so they could pick up a late-round pick. And in that single decision, Moore suddenly became linked with a few other wideouts for the rest of his career.
Going forward, Moore and the rest will likely be compared for the ways their careers play out and the what-if questions that draftniks like to ask will linger. Of all of the selections, Moore seems uniquely suited for what Kansas City wants to do offensively as a versatile player who can create separation with the best of this class. However, he was also taken last and some fans will wonder who the Chiefs would have made the same decision at No. 50.
Pickens will also forever be linked to quarterback Kenny Pickett as the Steelers clearly imported their next-gen offense in this draft one year after also adding running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freirmuth a year ago. Can Pickens live up to the hype in Pittsburgh and be the top target for Big Ben’s replacement?
Thornton has very impressive measurables including speed for days and length, but questions linger about his size and frame and the Patriots seemed to reach on more than one pick in this draft (the Cole Strange draft). Then again, if Thornton can prove himself to be Mac Jones’ deep threat, this will look like a great pick.
As for Pierce, the Colts are hoping the addition of an all-around target like Alec Pierce can take the offense to another level. Pierce is walking into a perfect situation in terms of need and opportunity, much like Moore, and will likely put up the biggest numbers along with Moore of this quartet in ’22.
There are questions with any prospect, of course, but it will be interesting to see how each of these wide receivers elevate their game at the pro level.