On Thursday, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus tallied up eight NFL wide receivers who are primed for bigger roles this season. Compiled by Sam Monson, this unranked list included players like the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Calvin Ridley, the New York Jets’ Garrett Wilson and the Tennessee Titans’ Treylon Burks.
But it also included a player whose name has recently been on a lot of lips: the Kansas City Chiefs’ second-year wideout, Skyy Moore.
Moore’s rookie season was a disappointment, but it seemed as if much of that was down to his failure as a punt returner rather than his work as a receiver — which was solid; he just lacked opportunities. As a return man, Moore muffed three punts and finished with a 29.9 PFF grade, but he caught 68.8% of passes thrown his way and broke seven tackles on just 22 receptions.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster departing in free agency, all the focus is on how good Kadarius Toney can be within this offense, but Moore has a real chance to show his skills in Year 2, as well.
Within the Chiefs’ offense, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has a solid role carved out, but after that the receiver targets are there to be claimed for anybody who can win favor with Patrick Mahomes and earn the trust of Andy Reid. Moore has the skill set to be a reliable option to move the chains and make plays with the ball in his hands. It may be less flashy than Toney, but he potentially becomes a bigger part of the offense.
Here, Munson begins with a solid point: Moore’s disastrous work as a punt returner overshadowed what he did with the offense in 2022.
While special teams coordinator Dave Toub took a lot of heat for putting the second-round rookie into a role with which he had no experience, a remark he made last August gave a bit of insight into the problem he was facing.
“I’m hoping — we’re hoping — that he can be a guy,” Toub said of the possibility Moore could end up as the primary punt returner.
At the time, my reading of Toub’s words was that in training camp, the Chiefs had become convinced Moore had enough talent to succeed in the offense — but also that he would need more seasoning to be a full contributor. So the coaching staff was hoping that by returning punts, Moore could justify the roster spot he would have to occupy; there was no way Kansas City could sneak a second-round pick onto its practice squad.
It wasn’t that Toub simply decided that Moore was the best guy available for the job. (In fact, he identified rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie as the team’s “best catcher”). But McDuffie (and Mecole Hardman, for that matter) were needed elsewhere. That made it Toub’s job to get Moore ready to play an unfamiliar role.
As we know, that part of the plan didn’t work out very well. However, as the season progressed, the team grew more confident in Moore on offense. By the postseason, he even looked like a decent punt returner. His clutch 29-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship (and his fourth-quarter touchdown catch in Super Bowl LVII) should give us confidence in his ability to take the next step.
To put it another way: all of a sudden, a lot of people are talking about Moore making a big move in 2023. That doesn’t guarantee it will happen, of course. But it’s certainly starting to feel more and more likely.