Much of the offseason national talk surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs has been about what they lost in trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill — one of the pillars of their offense these last four years — to the Miami Dolphins. Less has been made about the receivers they added to the locker room: JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Both Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes were asked about the two new weapons during their initial Zoom press conference on Monday, which marked the beginning of the offseason program.
Valdes-Scantling and Smith-Schuster measure in at 6 feet 4 and 6 feet 1, respectively, though their good size is not the only thing the Chiefs like about them.
“I don’t know if we necessarily had to get bigger,” noted Reid. “These guys are bigger, so you’re going to utilize some of the things you can do with a little bit bigger guy. We’re fortunate that they have speed, athletic ability and size, so you try to take those redeeming qualities and exploit them the best you can, and that’s what we’ll do. It ends up being a little bit different flair than maybe what we had in the past.”
The Chiefs have encouraged Mahomes to organize on-field activities in his home state of Texas, rather than in Kansas City. Therefore, the quarterback has already had the opportunity to throw to both newcomers during these last few weeks.
Mahomes sounded more willing than his head coach to lean into the size factor.
“I think the biggest thing you see — actually from throwing to all these guys — [is that] really, we have a lot of size in that receiving room that we haven’t necessarily had in the past,” said Mahomes. “We’ve done it different ways with speed and beating guys deep. But to have big, physical receivers that can still run and still catch the ball over the top, there have been balls that I’ve thrown out there during routes on air, I’ve thrown in high thinking it was an overthrow, and those guys are catching it easy. Having that size, I think will be different. I’m excited for it — and I think it will be something that will be useful for us during the season.”
Wide receiver Mecole Hardman has already had the chance to see Valdes-Scantling during the workouts.
“MVS — that boy fast,” he said. “I didn’t know he was that fast. He’s definitely moving — a bigger receiver, taller receiver that’s got some speed on him. I think it’s going to be very beneficial to our offense for sure.”
Valdes-Scantling ran a 4.37 40-yard dash ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft that saw the Green Bay Packers select him in the fifth round. Last season, Next Gen Stats clocked him at 22.09 miles per hour, the second-fastest speed of any skill player in 2021. For what it’s worth, Hill never eclipsed 22 miles per hour throughout 2021.
Valdes-Scantling has averaged 17.5 yards per reception for his career but has yet to eclipse 700 yards in four seasons, leading some to believe he is simply a deep speed threat. But he doesn’t see himself that way — and neither does Reid.
“He’s a big kid. He’s very smart,” said Reid. “I think it’s great that he’s going to jump-start with Pat here going down on his own time here working with him, just so they can get to know each other. But I think Marquez can do a lot of different things. He’s got good start-stop abilities. He’s a big target. He can run your slant games. He can run your deep throws. He can run the intermediate routes. He’s got a good feel in space, so he gives us some flexibility in there.
“[The Packers] did more than just deep threat with him. They incorporated him in the whole passing game. He can kind of do all that stuff and do it well, so we look forward to getting him in and mixing him in. He seems like a good kid. I haven’t had much time to spend with him — zero time with football. I think when he came in for his visit, just him talking about what he did in Green Bay and watching the tape with him, you can see he has a nice package of work.”
Hardman also sees Smith-Schuster as a sizable target (other than tight end Travis Kelce) who can excel as he and Valdes-Scantling stretch the field.
“[Smith-Schuster’s] kind of a bigger receiver that can go in there, be a great blocker, that can get intermediate routes — those short routes,” said Hardman. “I think it’s a great combination, all three of us, honestly. It’s going to be interesting to see how they go through training camp, adjust to the offense.
“I think once they finally get the playbook — how we run things and everything goes, I think they’re going to come into their own for sure.”
Even before they add another wideout early in the NFL Draft — which is the consensus expectation among experts — the Chiefs feel good about their receiver room.