Now that former Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman have left in free agency — and having signed no replacements — the team is arguably headed into the 2023 NFL Draft with this as its most significant positional need.
While the team could use a first-round pick to get a wideout, the Chiefs would probably be wise to acquire more than one in this draft. In either the third or fourth round, Michigan State’s Jayden Reed could be a sensible option.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
Reed was a three-star recruit out of Metea Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois. Without a Power 5 offer, Reed ultimately landed at Western Michigan University. After tallying 797 receiving yards as a freshman, Reed was named to the FWAA Freshman All-American team. Then he transferred to Michigan State, where he started for three seasons.
The best of those was in 2021, when Reed was named an AFCA First-Team All-American — and was also named a first-team All-Big 10 all-purpose player and third-team wide receiver by the media — after he posted 1026 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Playing just 11 games in 2022, his production dropped to 636 yards and five touchdowns — at least in part because the offensive context was worse. Without running back Kenneth Walker — now with the Seattle Seahawks — the Spartans’ offense suffered. That didn’t help Reed’s productivity.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Reed checked in at 5 feet 10 3/4 and 187 pounds. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash — which was better than expected — but his other athletic measurements weren’t tremendous. Still, nothing he did at the Combine hurt his stock.
Jayden Reed (#1, WR, Mich St)— Nate Christensen (@natech32) March 1, 2023
- Coverage recognition, IQ to find openings on routes
- Release package off LoS developed, should be able to beat press early
- Attacks blindspots/leverages
- Great coordination over the shoulder
- QB friendly/versatile pic.twitter.com/5e6CR3pZCK
Reed’s film clearly shows that he has a good understanding of coverages, which allows him to find openings within them.
When he sees that a defense is in zone, he can consistently find a hole where he can sit down and present himself as a target.
While he isn’t a large receiver, Reed can beat man coverage off the line with a well-developed release package. He’s also an adept separator who is able to attack a cornerback’s blind spots with his feet; that will be an important NFL skill. Reed knows how to attack leverage — particularly from the slot. If a defender shades him a certain way, he can quickly read that and attack from the other side.
At the next level, Reed’s football IQ — and ability to separate against any kind of coverage — will allow him to quickly earn his quarterback’s trust.
Reed’s underneath game is where he is most comfortable, but he still can find success in vertical routes. While he doesn’t have dynamic vertical speed, he can still threaten downfield with his advanced vertical route-running skills. He can catch over-the-shoulder passes and does a nice job of attacking the football, flashing the ability to go up and get it.
How he fits the Chiefs
In Kansas City, Reed would fill a role similar to Smith-Schuster’s in 2022: playing on the line of scrimmage or in the slot. He can already run an underneath route tree very well — and like Smith-Schuster, he is a tough player with a good feel for space.
Among the receivers in this class, Reed could easily have the most potential to make an impact as a Chiefs rookie; he’s a polished player who can fill different offensive roles. One of the reasons rookie receivers struggle in head coach Andy Reid’s offense is that they must learn all of the different wide receiver positions. Reed, however, is already used to that. While it’s doubtfuI he would earn a starting role this season, he could easily do more in his rookie year than Skyy Moore did.
The bottom line
Reed might not wow anyone with his athleticism, but he’s going to be a productive NFL receiver. Any wideout with his combination of route-running skills and football IQ can become a slot receiver in this league. While Reed lacks the vertical speed to be a high-end slot receiver, he can still have a long career as a de facto tight end.
Reed is one of the few draft prospects who could immediately play in Kansas City by running option routes to expand the offense underneath; few guys could better replace Smith-Schuster’s slot productivity and role.
If he is still available to the Chiefs late on Day 2 — and especially during Day 3 — Reed could be a terrific value.