With just a few more weeks remaining prior to the NFL Draft in Kansas City, the anticipation — and in some cases, panic — is mounting.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a few significant position groups still needing attention on their roster, none of which are being discussed more than wide receivers. In this player profile, we look at a player who formally visited with Kansas City staff at the NFL Combine: Cincinnati Bearcats receiver Tre Tucker.
(Author’s note: This player profile was drafted prior to the Chiefs signing former New York Giants wide receiver Rickie James, a player whose style is similar to that of Tucker’s.)
Tucker spent all four years of his collegiate career playing within a booming University of Cincinnati football program that has produced plenty of NFL quality talent the last couple of seasons, especially at receiver and defensive back.
Tucker’s game is built entirely on speed, quickness and explosion — size and length are where he lacks the physical traits to be drafted in the first round.
Tre Tucker is a WR prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 7.07 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 848 out of 2895 WR from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/Hbu81k8xFH #RAS pic.twitter.com/K6RyyBBn61— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 26, 2023
It’s the kind of physical profile that offers an upside if afforded an opportunity in the right system. Tucker is an offensive play designer who really knows the how, when and where to leverage a small-yet-electric player. While Tucker’s height, weight and arm length are all in just the 10th percentile of historical wide receiver averages, his 10-yard split acceleration is in the 94th percentile.
#CFB's Top 5 Fastest Ball Carriers from Week 11— Reel Analytics (@RAanalytics) November 16, 2022
4️⃣ Cincinnati WR Tre Tucker (@1SilkySmooth) 20.6 mph @GoBearcatsFB | #Bearcats pic.twitter.com/4CAV5dMuP5
Referring back to the height and length deficiencies, however, Tucker is not going to win consistently if targeted downfield in contested coverage. But if he is drafted by Kansas City, that’s not a position that quarterback Patrick Mahomes is going to put him in often, if ever.
Illinois’ Sydney Brown showing his speed going step-for-step with Tre Tucker on this wheel route at the #SeniorBowl. The safety from London, Ontario has some serious athleticism. pic.twitter.com/WCXQER4ELW— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) February 2, 2023
In 2022, Tucker posted career-best numbers for the Bearcats with 52 receptions, 672 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Tucker consistently averaged close to 13 yards per catch during his four years with Cincinnati, and he only rushed the football one time in 2022 despite possessing traits that might make it more of an occurrence at the NFL level.
Tucker was a standout kick returner for the Bearcats, including a second-team All-AAC nod for his performance on special teams in 2020, when he averaged a significant 29.9 yards per return. His kick return load was reduced greatly in 2022 as his offensive role increased.
This made me laugh. Tre Tucker @1SilkySmooth could've ran at 40% and still blew past these Indiana special teamers. Dude can fly. pic.twitter.com/hc4UcXaSZx— Bearcat Matt (@BearcatMta) February 21, 2023
It’s somewhat noteworthy that even in present times, when collegiate football players transfer from team to team all over the country annually, Tucker stuck it out with Cincinnati’s program for his entire tenure despite not being featured heavily on offense until later in his stay.
It says something about the strength of his character and ability to compartmentalize and persevere, and this makeup has come through on the football field as well when he battles to overcome a size disadvantage.
Last things @seniorbowl likes about Tre Tucker is unselfishness & competitiveness. Here’s @1SilkySmooth giving up almost 8 inches and 45 lbs to 2023 first-rounder Kyle Hamilton and locking him up. Also give credit to @GoBearcatsFB WR Coach Mike Brown for this technique & effort. pic.twitter.com/YHQGgbc8n7— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) August 11, 2022
How he fits with the Chiefs
Tucker will have to hang his hat on being a slot-aligned home run hitter for whichever NFL team selects him later this month. He’s the type of player who can take a quick screen pass for 50-plus yards in a blink or run through voids deep downfield through zone coverages for deep passes.
With Mecole Hardman no longer part of the Chiefs roster, Kansas City has lost some serious speed in that gadget-like role made to get manufactured touches throughout games — especially with the likes of jet sweep play concepts. On special teams, it’s probable that the Chiefs would like to find more options for kick and punt returns to alleviate those responsibilities from running back Isiah Pacheco and receiver Kadarius Toney.
The proof of concept is already there — head coach Andy Reid knows how to highlight a smaller, less refined, speed-based receiver’s skill set. Mahomes loves to target receivers that create separation like Tucker most likely can rather than relying on them to make contested catches.
If the Chiefs pass on wide receivers in the first couple rounds of the draft, keep an eye on Tucker to see if general manager Brett Veach and company believe Kansas City is the place to maximize his explosive potential.