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Do Chiefs Need To Trade For WR?

  • Justin Melo
  • September 8, 2023
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The Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receivers struggled mightily throughout Thursday’s 2023 NFL regular-season opener in which the Chiefs suffered a 21-20 defeat to the Detroit Lions. A questionable crop of pass-catchers put forth an extremely concerning performance. It’s too early to recommend trading for a wide receiver, but the situation is worth monitoring moving forward. Head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy must make changes to how they’re deploying their eligible pass-catchers.

The Chiefs entered Thursday’s opener without superstar tight end Travis Kelce, who suffered a minor knee injury at practice earlier in the week. It left quarterback Patrick Mahomes without experienced playmakers in the passing game. What ensued was a comical cluster of error after error.

Kadarius Toney was at the center of Kansas City’s pass-catching struggles. Toney, who’s entering his first full season with the Chiefs, has been labeled as a potential breakout candidate. The former Florida standout looked anything but.

With the Chiefs nursing a 14-7 lead in the third quarter, Toney allowed a perfectly placed ball to go right through his grasp into the waiting hands of Lions rookie defender Brian Branch, who returned it for a game-changing pick-six.

Toney later dropped another 3rd-and-short attempt that forced a Chiefs field goal. And finally, Toney completed his holy trinity of drops on a would-be explosive 20-plus-yard gain as the Chiefs attempted to mount a comeback with 2:25 remaining. It put an appropriate bow on Toney’s nightmare-fuel showing.

Sophomore receiver Skyy Moore didn’t fare much better. The No. 54 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft has also been earmarked for a bigger season after struggling to meet his pre-draft expectations as a rookie. Instead, Moore didn’t record a single reception and was limited to four total yards via one rushing attempt.

The duo of Toney and Moore combined for eight targets. They converted those opportunities into one catch for one receiving yard and multiple drops. Neither of them appeared capable of serving as Kansas City’s No. 1 wide receiver.

Kelce’s absence shouldn’t be understated. In truth, Kansas City’s crop of receivers throughout the 2022 campaign wasn’t great either, although JuJu Smith-Schuster was better than what they currently have. Regardless, Kelce makes everything look better. Kelce commands double-team attention from opposing secondaries—which should lead to favorable one-on-one matchups for the likes of Toney and Moore—but they must take actual advantage of their opportunities, something they failed to achieve on Thursday.

While bracing for Kelce’s much-needed return, the Chiefs should consider shaking up their lineup. Moore led all Chiefs receivers with 45 snaps, which accounted for 69% of their offensive plays. Toney earned 16 snaps, which may be too many given his mind-boggling errors. Meanwhile, Chiefs rookie receiver Rashee Rice recorded three receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown despite limited playing time. Rice deserves to eat into Moore’s snap count.

Richie James is another receiver who may deserve more opportunities. James’ 23 snaps were just seven more than Toney’s, and 22 less than Moore’s. The former Middle Tennessee State standout caught just one pass for six receiving yards. In 2022, James totaled career-highs in receptions (57) and receiving yards (569) for the New York Giants. That nearly surpasses Toney’s and Moore’s combined career totals.

For now, general manager Brett Veach doesn’t have to overreact to Thursday’s lackluster showing. The Chiefs shouldn’t immediately consider trading for a wide receiver. They should however monitor potential targets like Kendrick Bourne, Van Jefferson, and Sterling Shepard, who are entering contract seasons and could be expendable at the trade deadline.

Thursday’s upset defeat to a surging Lions squad highlighted the importance Kelce carries in Kansas City’s passing attack—if it wasn’t already painfully obvious even before his teammates dropped passes and bungled opportunity after opportunity. Mahomes and the Chiefs arguably need Kelce now more than ever.

Written By

Justin Melo