Grading the KC Chiefs position groups before the 2023 NFL Draft
Wide receivers: C+
The Chiefs receiving unit appears to be the position group under the most scrutiny amongst fans following the departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster who led all K.C. wide receivers last season in targets, catches, and yards. His withdrawal as well as the loss of Mecole Hardman leaves a missing chunk of production from this unit that needs to be addressed. The remaining three receivers who saw meaningful snaps last year include Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Justin Watson.
Kadarius Toney is the most explosive and dynamic receiver currently on the roster. Despite joining the team just before the trade deadline in 2022, Toney proved that his speed and lateral mobility would allow him to be a productive member of the offense, health permitting. The biggest knock on Toney throughout his time in New York as well as in Kansas City has been his inability to stay on the field consistently. Rumors have circulated that the Chiefs believe Toney will be their #1 receiver for the upcoming season which is a bit concerning considering his recent injury history, however, he possesses all the talent to do so if he remains healthy.
MVS, Moore, and Watson made some crucial plays last season and it should be expected that their output will increase in 2023. Andy Reid’s offense is notoriously difficult to pick up in the first year, which should mean that these receivers have a chance to build upon the foundation set last season. Skyy Moore in particular is a player who will be expected to make a jump after a rookie season that saw some flashes on limited opportunities.
The rest of the receiving corps is rounded off with Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Justyn Ross, John Ross, Cornell Powell, Ty Fryfogle, Jerrion Ealy, and Richie James, the latter of the bunch just being recently acquired from the New York Giants. It’s worth mentioning that James ranked second among all Giants receivers in receiving yards with 569, while also filling in as their punt returner. Veach recently stated that he previously targeted James when he was a part of the 49ers making his addition to the squad even more interesting.
These remaining members ultimately should be thought of as a mixed bag of practice squad players and rotational depth pieces, though there is always the chance that one or more of these guys becomes a surprise contributor. Justyn Ross is perhaps the most boom or bust candidate of the group. His college abilities had many slating him as a first-round pick in last year’s draft before injuries derailed that. After coming off an entire year getting healthy and familiarizing himself with NFL life, it’s possible he can showcase his abilities on the field this year, though fans should be careful to keep their expectations in check.
Though this group has talent and the starters have built up chemistry with Mahomes, it is far from the scariest receiving group in the league. Luckily, Mahomes and Reid have a knack for elevating the pieces around them. The Chiefs proved last year that losing their top receiver had little impact on the team’s offensive production following the Tyreek Hill trade. By this logic, attempting to replace the production of JuJu and Hardman in the aggregate should prove an easier task. Though the offense will surely remain successful regardless many expect the Chiefs to pick up a receiver in the draft to keep adding to the youth at the position. However, the signing of Deandre Hopkins would introduce a reliable veteran who would make an immediate impact this season and present a true #1 option if that’s the route Veach decides to pursue.