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How Skyy Moore can build off rookie year and break out in 2023

The second-year receiver had exciting flashes last year, but can he translate that to being a full-time playmaker?

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Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In the era of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs have built their corps of wide receivers around previously-established players. It’s been an asset in his development, but it’s not as possible now that his contract figures are more fitting of his boundless value.

This means that the team needs to acquire go-to receivers through the draft — but their first attempt failed: 2019 second-round pick Mecole Hardman left in free agency this offseason. He simply could not grow into anything more than the explosive-but-limited weapon he was as a rookie.

General manager Brett Veach’s next try at drafting a dynamic receiver for Mahomes happened last offseason: wide receiver Skyy Moore was taken with the 54th pick. Over 20 games in his rookie season, he totaled 298 yards and a Super Bowl touchdown.

With his sophomore season on the horizon, I took a closer look at Moore’s performance in 2022 to figure out what a breakout year could look like:

Finding his role

As a rookie, Moore fit into the on-field lineup any way he could: taking jet-sweep handoffs, working in the quick-screen game as a receiver or blocker, even returning kicks. His ability to do more than run traditional receiver routes allowed him to see the field more than a wide receiver who doesn’t have those skills.

On offense, some of Moore’s most productive plays came on quick passes that put him in space with blockers. He maximizes these opportunities because he is an explosive runner; historically, the 1.46-second 10-yard split he recorded at the 2022 NFL Combine was 97th percentile among wide-receiver prospects. He can burst through run lanes and shake off arm tackles and ankle swipes because he has some power at 195 pounds in a frame of 5 feet 9.

It’s similar to what the Chiefs have valued in receivers like Sammy Watkins in the past, or Juju Smith-Schuster last year: stronger players that can turn into running backs after the catch. Moore wasn’t as physically built as they were, but he has some of that ability.

At the same time, Moore has shown off impressive, natural hands so far in his young career. According to PFF, he had only one drop over 42 targets, a drop rate lower than every receiver on the team besides JuJu Smith-Schuster. When you watch him bring in the ball, he has no issue extending his arms outside his frame and quickly tucking it back in to become a ball carrier.

He also has a hand size of 10 1/4-inches, which was in the 94th percentile for wide receivers prospects last year.

Not only does he look confident in his hands, but he also has the strength to catch through contact or just physical coverage. He is a little denser than some receivers his size, which allows him to absorb contact better.

Overall, he can provide a lot of what Smith-Schuster specialized in last season.

Connecting with Mahomes

Now that we understand the foundation of his role, we must see him take steps to build off it and become a go-to, dependable option for Mahomes. This is the step that Hardman could not complete in his four years here.

Mahomes and Moore built chemistry last year by executing the scramble drill on a few occasions. In both of these plays, Moore comes off his original route once he recognizes the play has gone off script and works his way into a throwing window that Mahomes can get to.

This might have been the most impressive connection between the two last season. The highlight is Mahomes throwing an absolute rope on an out route from the opposite hashmark, but Moore’s ample separation makes the completion possible. After releasing to the inside of the cornerback and getting him turned in that direction, Moore bent back around to the outside; his acceleration out of the turn led to the throwing window.

Even when Moore may not have done anything wrong, the newness of the connection between him and Mahomes may have led to a few misses — like this first one. With the defense rotating to a one-safety coverage, Moore’s route should go vertical, but Mahomes throws it like he expected a sit down. The muscle memory of connecting with Moore should only get stronger.

Natural improvements

Naturally, Moore will improve on some things now that he has the experience of a season. I believe we’ll see a better feel for him in his routes, knowing when to speed up and settle into space. On the first play here, he simply doesn’t sprint through the slant route — subtly settling when he anticipates the ball.

He’ll also naturally improve at being precise in his routes. On this play, Moore drifts too far upfield after his initial breakdown at the top of the route, leading to a pass at his feet. If he had been tighter to his landmark, the ball is likely low — but in his hands for a completion at the sticks.

The bottom line

The Chiefs need to be hitting on their draft picks at wide receiver. Moore is only their second shot at doing so in the Mahomes era, but it’s still important we see some form of breakout from him this season.

In my eyes, he can fulfill a lot of the roles that Smith-Schuster played last season, and that turned the veteran into the team’s leading wide receiver. That’s not to say Moore will top the team’s depth chart, but it does mean he could have a very consistent, important role.

The most important thing to monitor will be his rapport with Mahomes. If the two can build a chemistry that reaches beyond Moore’s down-to-down role, that will be the sign of a true breakout.

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