After acquiring SMU’s Rashee Rice with the 55th selection, the Kansas City Chiefs did not get another wide receiver during April’s NFL Draft.
However, within hours of the draft’s conclusion, they signed undrafted free agent Nikko Remigio of Fresno State, who had previously played four seasons at the University of California-Berkeley.
After leading the Golden Bears in receiving as a true sophomore in 2019, Remigio was often used as a return man during his final two seasons in Berkeley. So he took advantage of the extra year of eligibility made possible by the coronavirus pandemic, transferring to Fresno State for an additional season.
There, Remigio had his best college campaign, catching 74 passes for 852 yards and six touchdowns in 2022. He also continued to be a lethal force in the return game, averaging nearly 20 yards per punt return and registering two more touchdowns. He also averaged 22.9 yards on 21 kickoff returns.
Given this production, it’s likely that Remigio’s underwhelming testing numbers at his pro day kept him from being drafted. At 5 feet 9 and 183 pounds, his 4.56 second 40-yard dash time wasn’t likely to open many of the NFL’s doors.
His exciting moments are tantalizing, however. Let’s look at what the Chiefs may see in Remigio:
Return game monster
Remigio’s one chance to succeed at the next level is obvious: he has to stand out as a return man. After suffering through inexperience in the return game in 2022, the Chiefs have acquired a player with plenty of experience at both punt and kickoff returns.
The Chiefs signed Fresno St. WR Nikko Remigio in undrafted free agency. Remigio's clear path to making it is as a returner. He doesn't have great long speed (4.56 40 at FSU Pro Day). But he has a chance due to his quick decision making and ability to break tackles pic.twitter.com/RVT4l9hjZP— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) May 22, 2023
Although Remigio is not the fastest punt returner, Kansas City fans may see this run against Connecticut and be reminded of a recent tackle-breaking return that helped deliver a championship. Remigio’s decision-making is almost instantaneous, allowing him to hit his full speed almost immediately. He’s also tough to bring down; six Huskies miss tackles on this play.
Remigio brings ample experience returning both kickoffs and punts and his decisiveness shows in this kickoff against UCLA while at Cal in 2021. An inch of sideline is all that prevents a touchdown pic.twitter.com/EXVIuNaFzo— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) May 22, 2023
Remigio also displays outstanding vision on kickoffs. On this return from 2021, he runs straight through a very narrow opening — and would have scored a touchdown without a slight step out of bounds.
Now that starting running back Isiah Pacheco has had two offseason surgeries, the Chiefs will likely want to take him out of kick returns. They may also want to limit Kadarius Toney’s use on punt returns to help keep him injury-free. Remigio could use his experience in both roles to find a place on the Kansas City roster.
Big offensive plays
In college, Remigio’s quick decision-making and ability to slip tackles also led to some impressive offensive plays — although there are reasons to be very skeptical he can be as successful on Sundays.
The missed tackle ability that shows up in the return game is there on offense when the ball gets in Remigio's hands, though the big plays often come against weaker opponents. If he makes the back of a roster, he may see a handful of fun designed plays each season. pic.twitter.com/eyuTiXTctq— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) May 22, 2023
While this play against San Diego State is exciting, he will be unable to outrun NFL coverage as quickly as he does here. During his best season at Cal — a program that has not produced a drafted wide receiver since 2017 — he led the team in receiving with only 513 yards before having a diminished offensive role for the remainder of his Pac-12 career.
Many of last season’s highlight-reel plays came against Fresno State’s weaker opponents. Against USC — easily the best team he faced in 2022 — Remigio was held to only a single catch for six yards. So his breakout season may be the result of a very experienced player facing a weaker slate of opponents.
Still, if schemed into space, the traits that make him a dangerous return man could produce a few memorable plays.
Terror in short-yardage situations
If Remigio ever sees significant offensive playing time in the NFL, it likely will be for what he can do on short routes. Even when he has little time to build momentum, he is very hard to bring down — and he can make the most of a small opening.
Remigio will never be mistaken for Kadarius Toney, but he is a smart player when called upon for a tough catch. Watch his feet confuse the defender on this tough 4th down catch against a very good 2021 Oregon squad. Also note his strength as he fights for the line to gain pic.twitter.com/c3jYA5DlgA— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) May 22, 2023
Late in this game against a ranked opponent, Remigio is trusted in a crucial fourth-down situation. While he should be stopped short, he can will his body forward for a new set of downs. Also, note how well he sells the misdirection at the beginning of his route.
Remigio can also use his instincts on screens and wheel routes — almost like a passing-game running back.
When watching Remigio's college plays, the ones that translate best to the NFL are short routes, similar to what you would see a pass catching back reel in. More quick than fast, the Chiefs could definitely find short yardage uses for him. pic.twitter.com/CiLIffCeZW— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) May 22, 2023
While he made many bigger plays for the Grizzlies last season, plays like this touchdown against San Jose State are much more likely to be repeated in the NFL.
If Remigio had college to do over again, he may have done better to put a bit of weight on his 5'9 frame and converted to RB, where his vision and elusiveness would make his less-than-ideal speed a non-factor. Regardless of how he gets the ball, he can move a defender forward. pic.twitter.com/ZAcsZkHI94— Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief) May 22, 2023
This option route against TCU in 2021 begs the question: might Remigio have found more success by transitioning to running back earlier in his career? While no one will mistake him for a dynamic player, he is decisive; he breaks tackles and almost always moves forward as he goes down.
The bottom line
Remigio made a good impression on Arrowhead Pride’s Pete Sweeney at the Chiefs’ rookie minicamp earlier this month.
#Chiefs rookie seventh-round CB Nic Jones recorded an interception in team. LB Buddy Johnson had an interception in 7-on-7. WR Nikko Remigio had the catch of the day deep down the left sideline.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) May 6, 2023
Johnson, Remigio, CB Anthony Witherstone Jr., RB Deneric Prince were standouts.
His biggest obstacle to making the roster is the numbers game. Kansas City currently has 12 wide receivers on the 90-man roster. Another factor complicating his chances is that the Chiefs guaranteed over half a million dollars to a similar player: former New York Giants wideout Richie James.
Remigio would be a good depth option if injuries force James into a more significant offensive role. Still, the players in front of him on the depth chart will make it hard for him to win a roster spot; his unfortunate combination of size and speed means he will need to do a lot to carve out an offensive role — even as a rotational receiver.
Expect Remigio to be a strong candidate for the practice squad, where his skills should make him a valuable scout-team player. And don’t be surprised if he sees a couple of gameday elevations to help in the return game — possibly giving him a chance to establish himself.