With a little over a week before the 2023 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs have a group of wide receivers as young as any in the sport. The veteran is Marquez Valdes-Scantling at 28 years old, followed by a 24-year-old, Kadarius Toney, a 22-year-old, Skyy Moore — and then a mixed bag of players in their 20s looking to steal a spot at the bottom of the receiving depth chart.
The youthful position has some figuring out, considering that former Chiefs JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman played 1,068 snaps last season. Both roles will need to be replaced, and the only move Kansas City has made at the position is bringing in Richie James, who played 524 snaps and caught four touchdowns for the New York Giants last year.
Many of the onus will naturally land on Toney and Moore, two exciting playmakers acquired to become legitimate weapons. There is a long offseason of development ahead for each player, and that started this month with the workouts that quarterback Patrick Mahomes hosts down in Texas.
On Monday afternoon, the team’s signal-caller talked about the throwing sessions with reporters, marking the start of phase one in the team’s offseason calendar. He specifically spoke about the two aforementioned receivers.
“I think the biggest thing [is] getting both those guys in year two of the offense and letting them expand their roles,” Mahomes explained to reporters via Zoom. “I think you could see it, especially with Skyy at the end of the season, how he was getting more and more involved in the offense. I think he’ll continue to take those steps and be even better this next year when he’s more comfortable and can utilize his talents even more.
“With Kadarius, I think y’all saw what the upside this last year of how special of a talent he can be,” Mahomes continued. “To have him in that offense another year, have him working with (head) coach [Andy] Reid and how we practice and training camp, I think it’ll have his body in the best shape that you can possibly be in to go out there and be healthy all season long. And so, we’re excited for those guys to take those next steps within this offense.”
With so many factors playing into being a wide receiver for the Chiefs, the biggest thing may simply be chemistry with Mahomes. He and Smith-Schuster had it, but there were times when he and Hardman’s on-field chemistry looked rough.
Reid knows that’s a big part of it, and he is fortunate to have the right quarterback to strengthen those relationships.
“I think it’s important that they continue to grow — both of them,” described Reid of Toney and Moore. “They’re wired the right way, and they’ve just got to keep improving and develop that relationship with Pat.
“Pat’s been on it right from the get-go so he’s been all over it (building relationships) and with the guys, with the coaches. He checks them all the time, ‘Hey, how we doing?’
“In free agency, ‘Hey, how we doing with the Draft?’ He’s interested in that, which is unique, I think, so he’s either talking to myself or Brett all the time.”
Mahomes has organized unofficial workouts that get the team’s receivers together and more comfortable with one another. After a few years of tweaking it, Mahomes is starting to get the hang of putting it together.
“I think I had a better game plan for it just in general,” Mahomes admitted. “Getting the guys down here with several weeks, but several different days that they can make it so they don’t have anything, they can be here for at least two to three weeks at a time and they don’t have to worry about having to fit it into their schedule... I think that the biggest thing was I just had a better plan for what fields we can use — grass field options, turf field, indoor — and the timing so that we can get the guys in and out and they can still live their lives and be in virtual meetings... I’m excited for these guys, everybody looks hungry and ready to go.”
Not only is Mahomes managing the entire ordeal, but he’s also coaching on the field without additional direction from the actual coaches of the team. The quarterback acknowledged the benefits of being a de facto coach for these workouts.
“I think there’s a value to me talking to the guys like that, especially when you get new guys in,” Mahomes reflected. “For me to explain how I think of the route and how I teach it, and then them being able to go to virtual meetings now and hear how the coaches teach it, I think it gives them a better understanding coming from different perspectives.
“I’m actually proud of guys like Skyy and Marquez especially, just how they’ve been able to teach these guys that are new to the team how we run routes and everything like that. And I think that helps them as well. And so, it just builds those relationships at the same time as those guys learning the offense as quickly as they can.”
It all starts at “Camp Mahomes,” where on-field and off-field relationships are being created and strengthened. Mahomes’ comfort with his pass catchers is vital to his playmaking, and it’s why he doesn’t mess around with getting everyone together.
With the receiving corps as young as ever, this year’s version of the workouts in Texas may be more crucial than any of the previous occurrences.