Which Chiefs Wide Receiver Should You Draft?

by Shervon Fakhimi · Draft Strategy

We Have Options

Which Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver should fantasy gamers want? Should they want any at all? Though Travis Kelce engulfs a large portion of Kansas City’s pass volume the same way Kirby absorbs powers from his opponents, the answer to the question is yes. One of the options in this offense will produce. While neither JuJu Smith-Schuster nor Mecole Hardman was spectacular last year, both were essentially top-36 receivers on a per-game basis in PPR formats. They and the 135 targets they registered last season are now gone.

And of course, Tyreek Hill was a top-eight receiver as a Chief in all but one season when he played more than 12 games. Not only is there a ceiling here, but there is also a pretty decent floor. We know as long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy that the Chiefs will be one of the most prolific and high-volume offenses in the NFL, especially through the air. Targeting players in such offenses is never a bad strategy. The issue is that there are so many options to choose from. Let’s break down each of these options and see which Chiefs wide receiver should be prioritized. One of them is going to be an immense value and help fantasy gamers win their leagues.

Kadarius Toney

I just wrote about Kadarius Toney in an article covering pass catchers with massive contingent upside here. And then, of course, Toney hurt his knee on the first day of training camp. He underwent knee surgery, and the team believes there’s a chance” he’ll be back by Week 1. Sure. Toney didn’t have the benefit of the doubt before when it came to injuries, but that is especially true now after a second knee procedure in this offseason alone.

Toney goes off the board around pick 105 in FFPC Drafts. He’s being drafted as the WR43 on Underdog (85.7 overall). That was too high to begin with before the injury, particularly since he was primarily utilized as a gadget player in Kansas City’s offense.

That’s been Toney’s game for most of his career. It’s how Hardman was used as a Chief and it took until last season, the fourth in Hardman’s career, for him to be a worthwhile fantasy option. Hardman did that solely off of touchdowns. In eight games played, he scored six touchdowns on 38 total opportunities. No NFL player can consistently score a touchdown on 15.7-percent of their touches. If that is the role Toney is inheriting – even as electric as he is – it’s best to let someone else take the risk on him. He is injured already.

Skyy Moore

To add to the case against Toney, he wasn’t a great analytical prospect entering the NFL. Neither his College Dominator Rating, his College Target Share, nor his Breakout Age cracked the 50th-percentile. You know whose did, though? Skyy Moore, baby! His 44.8-percent College Dominator Rating, 39.5-percent College Target Share, and 20-year-old Breakout Age rank in the 91st-, 99th-, and 62nd-percentiles of wide receiver prospects, respectively. He was a damn good prospect coming out of Western Michigan.

Moore wasn’t damn good in his rookie season, however. That should have been expected to a degree for a three-year player coming from a small school, but was still discouraging to see considering how many recent rookie receivers have hit the ground running in the NFL. It was at least encouraging to see Moore post a Target Rate (22.1-percent) not too far off from what Tee Higgins compiled last year in Cincinnati (22.3-percent), even while Moore ran 349 fewer routes.

The Slot Role

Moore did also register a seven-target game in the AFC Championship Game and caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl. It’s not much, but it’s something, and showed Moore was more involved as the season went on. He’s further built on that momentum this offseason. About two weeks ago, it was reported by Nate Taylor of The Athletic that Moore had the lead to be Kansas City’s new starter from the slot.

Moore played about 40-percent of his snaps from the slot last season and played some in the slot during his time at Western Michigan. With Smith-Schuster and his 282 slot snaps now vacated, it would make sense for Moore to take that role.

That role is a pretty valuable one for fantasy purposes. Despite missing a game and playing only 38-percent of snaps in two others, Smith-Schuster ranked No. 12 in the NFL in Red Zone Targets (16), No. 11 in Yards After the Catch (454), No. 16 in Target Quality Rating (6.38) and No. 19 in Yards Per Target (9.2). Of course, it helped that his Catchable Target Rate and Target Accuracy were both third in the entire NFL.

In other words, Mahomes set Smith-Schuster up to succeed quite well last season. Someone as versatile and talented as Moore could improve upon Smith-Schuster’s numbers from a year ago.

For example, though Smith-Schuster registered 16 red zone targets, he scored on only three of them. Moore will absolutely and undoubtedly take a backseat to Kelce, but with a full year in Kansas City under his belt to go with his pedigree as a prospect, ability as a player, and the role he’s stepping into, it’s hard not to get excited about what Skyy Moore can do in this offense in 2023.

Rashee Rice

If Moore couldn’t get on track as a rookie in this offense in 2022, it would be wise to temper expectations for Rashee Rice in 2023. His numbers as a prospect do look encouraging. Most notable of those is a 96th-percentile college target share. But his game suggests he needs a bit of fine-tuning.

The Chiefs haven’t had a prototypical X receiver – the position Rice will likely play – in the Mahomes era. Part of that is because the receivers they’ve tried in that spot have either been JAGs or field stretchers, but it makes it hard to picture how Rice would fit into this offense as a jump ball threat on the boundary. It will probably work out just fine one day, but there are some concerns regarding separation as well as the propensity for teams to make Mahomes kill them with a thousand paper cuts as opposed to his bazooka arm torching them for 70 yards at a time. Evidenced by Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception of Rice above, the short-to-intermediate part of the field isn’t Rice’s strength at the moment.

In Taylor’s article linked above, Rice wasn’t listed as a starter leading up to Chiefs training camp. Maybe a strong camp performance will force Andy Reid to put Rice on the field, but we just saw the Chiefs slow-play a second-round rookie receiver last season.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

It’s hard to believe that Marquez Valdes-Scantling is now the wily vet in this wide receiver room, but that’s where we are. MVS is a one-trick pony, but it’s a trick the Chiefs need: run fast.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a trick that leads to consistent fantasy production. Including the playoffs, Valdes-Scantling scored at least 10 PPR points in just five of 20 games. That’s probably because 20 of his 81 targets from a year ago were considered Deep Targets. His Average Depth of Target was 14.6 yards in 2022, which ranked No. 7 among wide receivers. That’s how Valdes-Scantling registered a target on just 16.2-percent of his routes. It’s hard to win deep, especially when teams are making sure that’s not where Mahomes beats them. And if he isn’t winning deep, then MVS probably isn’t winning (except if it’s the AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals). MVS is a prime best-ball candidate and a decent desperation option in a pinch in deep leagues or if you have bye week and injury issues. He’s the epitome of a boom-bust receiver.

Richie James

Richie James was sneakily No. 30 in Target Rate (23.8-percent) and No. 35 in Yards Per Route Run (1.91) among wide receivers last season.

James can do a lot of the things Toney can. Heck, we just literally saw him fill in for Toney a year ago and average 11.43 PPR points per game in games he played at least 40-percent of snaps. If Toney isn’t back for Week 1, James seems like the favorite to step into his role. Keep an eye on James in camp because he can ball when given the opportunity. He’s been a last-round pick in Underdog Drafts, but reaching for that contingent upside a couple of rounds earlier is very understandable.

Others Worth Mentioning

I badly want Justyn Ross to be a thing, too. Remember, as a freshman at Clemson in 2019, he caught more passes than Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers. A spinal cord injury derailed his career at Clemson and forced him to go undrafted in 2022. But he’s healthy now and is making noise with his reps at camp. He and Rice are similar types of players; both of their Best Comparables on PlayerProfiler are Terrace Marshall. Both need big camps to find steady playing time. Rice has the draft capital so his odds are greater at earning a role, but Ross might be the more talented player.

Also, is Justin Watson still around? Not that he is going to find his way into stable playing time, but he did register 34 targets a year ago and could be a thorn in the side of Rice or Ross as they fight for playing time. 

Give Me Moore

There are a lot of options in the Chiefs’ wide receiver room. None of the options mentioned above has more than a year of continuity with Mahomes and the Kansas City offense, and almost all of them are less than three years into their NFL careers. So which is the best option?

Moore checks the most boxes. His path to playing time is clear, replacing Smith-Schuster in the slot. He is a versatile player and probably the best wide receiver prospect the Chiefs have invested in since trading away Hill. He also isn’t super expensive with an ADP at the beginning of the 11th in FFPC Drafts and the beginning of the ninth round on Underdog. His case has only been strengthened with the news of another injury to Toney. Moore’s ADP will likely increase in the the weeks to come, but for good reason. He’s the receiver with the most defined role, and who is the most integrated into this highly productive passing offense.