Frontrunners in the 2023 NFL MVP race? Look to the AFC as the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the Bengals’ Joe Burrow and the Bills’ Josh Allen are tied atop the latest odds for the award, via BetMGM, as of Tuesday morning. Here’s what you need to know:
The quarterback trio currently stands at +700 as they opened the offseason tied atop the race at +650.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert ranks fourth at +900. The Eagles’ Jalen Hurts carries the best odds of an NFC player — he ranks fifth overall at +1100, which is slightly worse than his opening odds of +1000.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson comes in next at +1400. Then there’s a four-way tie to round out the top 10 at +1600 between the Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence, the Jets’ Aaron Rodgers, the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa and the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes would likely be able to lead a group of YMCA flag football players to a win, but that still doesn’t hide the fact that Kansas City is leaning on Kadarius Toney to be its top receiver in 2023. The club lost JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency and Toney is now in line to get a large piece of the target share within this Chiefs offense. Toney popped in spurts for K.C. last season after coming over in a trade with the Giants, but it was hardly a dominant run upon arrival. He and Mahomes will have to develop a strong rapport before Week 1 to help the Chiefs in their attempt to go back-to-back.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs did an excellent job rehabilitating the career of Kadarius Toney after the wide receiver nearly derailed it with the New York Giants. He blossomed in Kansas City last year, emerging as a key return man and wideout for the eventual Super Bowl champions. While Toney’s role for the Chiefs was initially small, it grew throughout the regular season and playoffs.
Toney drew his first Kansas City starts in the final two weeks of the campaign, recording a respectable 89 yards on six receptions in those contests. The 24-year-old had a strong showing in the Divisional round, catching five of his seven targets for 36 yards and adding another 14 yards on a rush. He went on to score a touchdown on his lone Super Bowl reception and had the longest punt return in the game’s history when he took one back 65 yards.
Despite those displays and an increased role in 2023, it’s hard to see Toney becoming a true No. 1 receiver for the Chiefs. The team will obviously give him more opportunities as a pass-catcher this season—he’s penciled in as one of the starters on the outside alongside Marquez Valdes-Scantling—but that role may not be too prolific. JuJu Smith-Schuster was Kansas City’s leading wideout last year, catching 78 balls for 933 yards and three scores out of the slot, but his vacated touches appear headed in Skyy Moore’s direction. Valdes-Scantling should see his targets increase as well after he was third on the team with 81 in 2022 and has another offseason to get in sync with Patrick Mahomes.
Barring an injury or unforeseen circumstance, superstar tight end Travis Kelce will remain the focal point of the passing attack. The 33-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down after he tallied up 110 catches on 152 targets for 1,338 yards and 12 scores last year. With Kelce set to continue dominating the looks, Moore getting more involved and MVS still in the picture, Toney won’t be anything close to the second coming of Tyreek Hill.
Now Kafka could have another coaching prospect in his sights: head coach at his college alma mater, Northwestern University.
According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Kafka is a potential candidate to replace Pat Fitzgerald, who was fired after 30 years on Monday after news of a hazing scandal broke.
The dream candidate for the school probably would be Kafka, a 35-year-old former Wildcat QB who grew up in Chicago and has risen fast up the NFL ranks. Northwestern has been terrible on offense for awhile; Kafka seems like he could fix that pretty quickly, but he’s not far from becoming an NFL head coach at this point. He interviewed for a bunch of jobs last winter, so why jump into the craziness of the college game at a place that just canned someone he learned under?
Around the NFL
Two prospects — former Jackson State wide receiver Malachi Wideman and former Purdue wide receiver Milton Wright — were available to be picked. Any team that had selected a player in the supplemental draft would have to give up the corresponding pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Both Wideman and Wright are now considered free agents and can sign with any club.
Wideman is scheduling workouts with NFL teams for the onset of training camp later in July, Pelissero reported, per Wideman’s agent. The wideout also has offers from the CFL and XFL, per Pelissero.
Wideman was a standout for the Tigers in 2021, catching 34 passes for 540 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he played in just six games in 2022 (three catches, 49 yards, TD). Wideman began his college career at Tennessee in 2020, catching one pass for 24 yards in six appearances, before transferring to Jackson State.
Kamara and three other men were initially facing misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to commit battery and a felony charge of battery with substantial bodily harm. Kamara is no longer facing felony charges after accepting the plea deal, his attorney David Chesnoff confirmed Tuesday.
Kamara will do 30 hours of community service and pay the alleged victim in the fight $105,000 for medical bills.
“Alvin is pleased that this matter is behind him and looks forward to a successful NFL season,” Chesnoff said in a statement.
Kamara and three other men, including free agent cornerback Chris Lammons, were arrested on battery charges after they were accused of injuring a man outside a nightclub on the eve of the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas on Feb. 6, 2022. Kamara played in the Pro Bowl and was taken into custody afterward.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
During the Kelce era, the Chiefs have struggled to find tight ends that can complement their superstar’s usage in the passing game. But in the last two seasons, both Noah Gray and Jody Fortson have become legitimate contributors.
Let’s take a look at what makes them important in Kansas City’s offense:
In 2022, the Chiefs increased the number of formations including two or more tight ends. Gray was on the field for 52% of the offensive snaps. In 2021, Blake Bell had the second-highest snap rate for a tight end: 27%.
That doesn’t mean they passed the ball any less. In 2022, Mahomes had only 10 fewer attempts than in 2021. Tight ends were simply getting a bigger piece of the pie. There were 201 targets to tight ends last season, which was up from 157 the year before.
In 2022, Gray had 28 catches for 299 yards and a touchdown. That’s the most productive season for a secondary tight end in Kansas City since Demetrius Harris had 12 receptions for 164 yards and three scores in 2018. Even Fortson’s 2022 season — nine catches, 108 yards and two touchdowns — represented significantly more production than the team has had behind Kelce during the previous three years.