How Xavier Worthy is set to bury the myths about 'small receivers' for the Chiefs

Will Xavier Worthy succeed in the modern NFL? Let's take a comprehensive look at his strengths, weaknesses, and how the Chiefs are likely going to use him.
Texas Tech v Texas
Texas Tech v Texas / Tim Warner/GettyImages
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The John Ross Comparison

John Ross
Cincinnati Bengals v Miami Dolphins / Mark Brown/GettyImages

The most banal comparison being used for Worthy is former Bengals/Chiefs receiver John Ross, a player who was mired in controversy after being selected 9th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, then subsequently labeled a "bust" less than 2 seasons later. This comparison isn't without some validity, as their most blinding trait (generational speed) defines their game. It does, however, seem to infer that Worthy will suffer the same fate and that his speed/agility will prevent him from becoming an effective NFL talent.

Ross' college playstyle and production did not translate to the NFL because he was not utilized the same way in Cincinnati as he was in college, his agility didn't match his speed, and his injuries prevented him from progressing. His disappointing professional career was also determined by a misunderstanding of prospect evaluation and how his game would translate to the NFL.

Ross's college profile indicated that he would be a prototypical Z receiver, however, this is not how Cincinnati utilized him. For example, there are 3 routes that are consistently used by offensive coordinators to beat man coverage (slants, go routes, and curls). These routes are especially effective when used by a player with exceptional speed because their ability to threaten a deep completion downfield scares cornerbacks into staying back, thereby creating space. In college, John Ross ran slants, go routes, and curls for over 50% of his routes and possessed the exceptional speed to make them effective, yet he had just a 69% success rate vs man coverage. This was a blinding indicator that he would not be effective against man coverage in the NFL, except in special circumstances (underneath crossing routes, WR screens, etc.). However, Ross was particularly good against zone coverage, where he had an 80% success rate, well above the average WR prospect. Ross's below-average arm length, smaller hands, and low contested catch rate were also indicators that his ability to win deep catches over the middle of the field was severely lacking.

Again, Ross' prospect profile heading into the 2017 NFL Draft had him as a Z receiver and a down-the-field threat against zone coverage, with the potential to be a YAC threat. Yet, this was not how he was utilized during his time in Cincinnati, where they expected him to start at X receiver, beat man coverage deep down the field with his speed, and catch contested passes.

Xavier Worthy's skillset is somewhat comparable, as his contested catch rate is poor and he probably won't be great on the line against press-man cornerbacks in the X receiver role but, his ability to get open against man-coverage is what sets him apart from Ross. Worthy doesn't just rely on his speed to get open, he does an incredible job at planning his routes and getting open reliably.

Worthy's utilization and development will also be maximized by Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, whose hall-of-fame resume is founded on his ability to get the most out of his players. With Reid and Mahomes' help, Worthy's chances of becoming the next John Ross are incredibly slim.

Now let's discuss the size concerns.