On Monday morning, Pro Football Focus published some way-too-early roster rankings for 2023 — and the Kansas City Chiefs were fourth in the index, behind the No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals, No. 2 San Francisco 49ers and No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles.
For those wondering, the Chiefs were eighth in the website’s final rankings ahead of the 2022 regular season. That list featured the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams rounding out the top four.
In other words, take the actual ranking numbers with a grain of salt. The article gets interesting when it comes to the details, as authors Dalton Wasserman and Jim Wyman reveal the X-factor and rookie to watch for all 32 teams.
The Chiefs’ X-factor in this evaluation is wide receiver Kadarius Toney.
X-Factor for 2023: WR Kadarius Toney
Acquired in a midseason trade with the Giants, Toney showed flashes of the kind of playmaker he can be in the Chiefs’ offense. A full season in Andy Reid’s system should do wonders for the speedster.
In the four regular-season Chiefs games where Toney played 15 or more offensive snaps, he totaled 11 catches for 154 yards. Over a 17-game season, that would equate to roughly 47 catches for 655 yards. But even though Toney reached over 15 plays in the games we’re considering, he played in over 31% of the snaps just once.
Should Toney stay healthy and his snap count grow closer to 80% or 90% over a full season, Kansas City may finally have a competitor to tight end Travis Kelce’s yardage output. His health is the crucial question — and it is one that is impossible to answer.
The rookie to watch
PFF says wide receiver Rashee Rice is the Chiefs’ rookie to watch.
Rookie to watch: WR Rashee Rice
The Chiefs traded up in the second round for the former SMU standout, who put up big numbers in his last season with the Mustangs. Given the Chiefs’ lack of depth at receiver, Rice will get plenty of deep looks.
At 6’1” and 204 lbs., Rice has college tape that shows he will offer quarterback Patrick Mahomes plenty of contested-catch ability. Earning the trust of head coach Andy Reid and Mahomes will be key to a productive rookie season — and the Chiefs need him, as his physical profile is closest to JuJu Smith-Schuster, the now-New England Patriots receiver who had nearly 1,000 receiving yards in Kansas City last season.
Before the post-draft signing of Donovan Smith, my Chiefs rookie to watch would have been offensive tackle Wanya Morris — but now, with the starting tackles likely set, Rice is the correct call.
AFC West X-factors
PFF lists Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Chargers cornerback JC Jackson as Kansas City’s rival X-factors. The fact that two of the other three teams in the division still have questions at the most important position in the game continues to be an advantage for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs should be listed _______ in the PFF rankings.
No. 3 or better
No. 5 or worse.