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3 Chiefs’ non-wide receivers who will help catch passes in 2023

Kansas City has plenty of pass-catching options outside of the wide receiver room.

NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The announcement of DeAndre Hopkins signing with the Tennessee Titans on Sunday eliminated any smoke that had started to surface about him and the Kansas City Chiefs possibly having mutual interest.

In an offseason that saw JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman sign free-agent deals with other teams, the Chiefs signed Richie James and drafted Rashee Rice. The wide receiver unit has question marks, and players such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore will be under heavy scrutiny throughout the season if they cannot perform.

Thankfully for the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, head coach Andy Reid is among the league's most creative play-callers at distributing the ball in the passing game to positions other than wide receiver.

Although Travis Kelce is not a receiver, he will not be included on this list. But Kelce’s rise to becoming one of the best pass-catchers in the league is a testament to Reid's ability to develop — and scheme — looks for non-receivers.

Noah Gray

Playing a quietly important role in 2022, Gray was the Chiefs' No. 2 tight end after Jody Fortson suffered an injury. Finishing with 299 receiving yards off of 28 receptions, Gray was fine as a backup, but the Chiefs seemed to have more significant plans for him in 2022.

With no fullback on the roster, Gray was mentioned by Reid as the possible fill-in candidate, which would expand his role to two positions. A return to the "F-Back" position that he played while at Duke University could see him blocking more out of the backfield, but it would also open up what he could do in the passing game.

As successful as the Chiefs were with multi-tight end sets, what Reid could scheme up with Gray could play a larger role than is being let on.

Jerick McKinnon

An easy choice for this list, McKinnon was one of the most productive running backs in the NFL out of the backfield last season, posting nine receiving touchdowns and finishing fourth on the team in receiving yards with 512.

Around midseason, he became the Chiefs' primary third-down back, but once he got the spot, he took off and ran with it... literally. His ability to protect Mahomes got him the job, but he became a mainstay in the screen game, a regular check-down target and a red-zone threat.

A larger emphasis on getting running backs and tight ends the ball would include McKinnon, possibly expanding his route tree from just flat routes and leaks to Texas routes and wheel routes out of the backfield.

Isiah Pacheco

Making little impact in the passing game during the season, Pacheco showed in the AFC Championship game that he can catch passes out of the backfield. In the game, he caught five passes for 59 yards and used his bruising style of running to fight for yards after contact.

Used primarily in the screen game, Pacheco averaged 10 yards per reception in the regular season as he showed off his natural speed and athletic ability.

After a lights-out rookie season, his role in the offense should continue to expand, including his role in the passing game. If Pacheco could develop the ability to line up in the slot and run short routes, it would make him more of a threat and open up areas of the Chiefs’ offense. With a catch rate of 92.9%, he has the natural hand-eye coordination to be a very good receiving back; it will just be a matter of him continuing to gain the coaching staff's trust.

Honorable mentions

Jody Fortson

The fan-favorite missed time with an injury in 2022 and then saw his playing time diminish as Noah Gray emerged as the Chiefs’ No. 2 tight end. The team would welcome a bounce-back year, and Fortson will have plenty of opportunities to contribute.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

It is now or never for the soon-to-be fourth-year running back. A career plagued by injury and inconsistent play has hampered the once promising prospect, who was drafted due to his versatility, including catching the ball. The Chiefs would certainly take a revival season to bolster their offense and help him revive his career.

Nick Allegretti

Why not!?

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