Heading into the Kansas City Chiefs’ season, I’m continuing my “10 Biggest Questions” series about the team. So far, we’ve covered eight questions:
- What is the Chiefs’ contingency plan at offensive tackle?
- Will Deneric Prince or Clyde Edwards-Helaire crack the running back rotation?
- How far along are George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah as pass rushers?
- Do the Chiefs need to add another defensive tackle?
- Can Joshua Williams or Jaylen Watson expand their roles?
- How much of an offensive load can KaDarius Toney carry?
- What does Year 2 look like for Bryan Cook and Justin Reid?
- What roles will the Chiefs’ linebackers play?
Today, we turn our attention to the Chiefs’ talented second-year wide receiver: Skyy Moore.
How far along is Skyy Moore’s development?
If you polled 1,000 Chiefs fans and asked them their biggest question about the 2023 Chiefs roster, the majority would tell you that the wide receiver room had the most uncertainty heading into the season.
Most of the offseason coverage on the team has been focused on what the wide receiver room would look like since it’s a position the Chiefs didn’t address heavily in the offseason. After letting wide receivers Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster leave, the Chiefs didn’t make any significant free-agent signings at wide receiver. They did bring in former New York Giants wide receiver Richie James on a one-year deal but largely stayed out of a market that included Odell Beckham Jr. and Deandre Hopkins — who the Chiefs reportedly had an interest in, but they weren’t the leading suitors.
Going into the 2023 NFL Draft, the thought was that the Chiefs would take a wide receiver in the first round, but they were content on waiting until the end of the second round to draft SMU’s Rashee Rice. Rice is an uber-talented wide receiver with elite speed, strength and verticality, but he was going to need time to develop his ability to get off the line of scrimmage and run an NFL-level route tree. Combine that with the steep learning curve of head coach Andy Reid’s offense, and the expectation for Rice shouldn’t be to play at a high level as a rookie.
So, instead of the Chiefs getting desperate to add a wide receiver to their roster, they bet on continuity and development from the guys already on the roster. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson returned as steady veterans who know the offense, but the group’s success was going to be determined by the development of two players; Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney.
All offseason, the Chiefs had been touting Toney as a “No. 1 wide receiver talent”. After trading for him at the trade deadline, the hope was that a full offseason to get healthy and learn the playbook would unlock Toney’s complete skill set. Unfortunately, it took one day for that plan to derail.
After taking punts in warmups, Toney injured his meniscus, leaving his status for the start of the season in question. Keeping Toney healthy through training camp was a major priority for the organization, and the plan didn’t take long to derail. Regardless of how talented Toney is, relying on him to be a major factor in this offense will always be challenging with his extensive medical history.
That leads us to Skyy Moore. Moore hasn’t received the same hype as Toney, but the organization has also been quick to praise him. Moore has spoken about how much more comfortable he feels in Year 2 with the playbook and Patrick Mahomes, so he should be in line to have a leap this season.
The question is, however, how much of a leap will that be?
Moore’s rookie season didn’t give us a lot of information on where he is as a player. Reid has always been reluctant to play rookie wide receivers since he doesn’t want to have a limited play sheet with a rookie that might not have a full grasp of the offense. Reid’s offense requires wide receivers to play multiple positions and run a variety of routes from any alignment — which is tough for any rookie to grasp. Reid prefers playing a veteran who can run any play vs. limiting his play sheet to fit a rookie — even if the rookie has more talent than the veteran.
Even with limited reps, we saw Moore’s potential as a rookie. With Smith-Schuster out in a critical divisional game vs. the Chargers, Moore stepped into his role well, catching five passes for 63 yards. He even had a nice rep against Chargers All-Pro safety Derwin James, dusting him at the line of scrimmage on a slant route.
#Chiefs 2nd yr WR Skyy Moore could break out in 2023, potentially filling some of the voids left by Juju's departure— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) June 11, 2023
Like reliable catching over the middle and towards the sideline. Moore doesn't waste his 10 1/4" hands, smoothly catches away from body. Only 1 drop on 42 tgts pic.twitter.com/A6tXb2KkZg
Moore clearly has the potential to be a good wide receiver in the NFL — but can that all come immediately? Moore finished his rookie year with 250 yards, which was respectable, given he didn’t play much. But, even in a more significant role, going from 250 yards to potentially 1000 yards would be an incredible jump for a second-year player. Is it fair to expect Moore to do that?
With Smith-Schuster and Hardman gone, they leave behind 135 targets. James and Rice will eat into some of that, but the bulk of those extra targets are going to funnel through Moore. Can Moore handle that usage bump? Is Moore going to be ready to beat top cornerbacks? With defenses focused on him, how much can he step up his game to overcome that extra attention? Can he be a consistent option for Mahomes every week?
Recently, I wrote about Toney being the key to the Chiefs reaching their ceiling on pass offense, but for Moore, he’s the key for the Chiefs’ pass offense to hit a reasonable floor with Mahomes and Travis Kelce. With Toney being injured, they’re going to need Moore to be able to step in and fill a large void left behind by Smith-Schuster. Even if it’s unfair, the Chiefs need Moore to take a massive leap and be a consistent option in this offense every week. Otherwise, there might be times the offense struggles to move the ball outside of Kelce.
Potentially no player’s development is more important this year than Moore’s. I’m optimistic about his future, but the Chiefs are putting much on his plate this season. I think he showed enough as a rookie to feel optimistic about where he’s heading, but I still have some questions on how much he can reasonably improve in one year?
Despite my concerns, Moore will get as many opportunities as possible to step up — it’s up to him to prove the Chiefs right.