KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs’ interest in wide receiver Kadarius Toney dates back to long before they acquired him in a trade with the New York Giants last season. They hoped he would fall for them in the 2021 draft, then tried to trade for him last spring before finally getting him out of New York last fall.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Chiefs believe Toney is first in line to be their next No. 1 wide receiver.
“He was mainly a guy who was slot receiver, returner, runner — a gadget guy, if you will — but I don’t know if there’s a limit to his game because he’s got vertical play,” Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach said. “I do not know if [his collegiate team at Florida was] one who pushed the ball vertically down the field, and his early days in New York, I don’t know if it was a team that really pushed the ball vertically down the field.
“That’s a valid question [ask]: ‘Has he ever played with a quarterback who likes to push the ball around the field?’ We have high hopes for him. He was a first-round pick for a reason. There’s a reason we traded for him and we felt like he was a first-round talent.”
The Chiefs need Veach to be right about Toney. They don’t have anyone who’s ever been the No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, a first for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In his early seasons as a starting quarterback, the Chiefs had Tyreek Hill at wide receiver and JuJu Smith-Schuster last year.
Season picks include Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Richie James and second-round draft pick Rashee Rice. The best single NFL season in terms of number of catches comes from James, who had 57 receptions for the Giants last season.
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Valdes-Scantling is the veteran of the group but last season was his best of five with 42 catches. Watson’s career best is 15 with Tampa Bay in 2019 and again with the Chiefs last season.
The Chiefs expect the biggest growth not only from Toney, but also from Moore. Toney had 14 catches after joining the Chiefs in a midseason trade last year after catching 39 passes for the Giants in 2021 as a rookie. Moore had 22 receptions as a rookie last year.
Trainer Andy Reid says he expects Toney and Moore to continue to improve during camp as they get more reps with Mahomes.
“You could see it especially with Skyy towards the end of the season where he got more and more involved in offense,” Mahomes said. “I think he will continue on those steps and get even better this year when he is more comfortable and can use his talents even better.
“I think you saw what a special talent Kadarius can have over the past year. Having him another year on this offense, having him work with coach Reid and how we train and train, I think it’s going to have his body in the best shape that you can possibly possibly be in to go out there and all Season to be healthy long. And that’s why we’re excited to see these guys taking the next steps in this offensive.”
Rice caught 96 passes at SMU last season. The Chiefs see similarities to Smith-Schuster, who led his wide receivers last season with 78 in catches before signing this year as a free agent with the New England Patriots, particularly in his ability to make and run on controversial catches .
“He goes up and gets the football and as soon as he catches the ball, he gets violent and after the catch he turns into a running back,” said assistant general manager Mike Borgonzi. “That’s a big part of our offense here.”
Rice trained with Mahomes and Chiefs receivers in Texas before the draft, running routes and catching passes. After being drafted by the Chiefs, he compared himself to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
“We both attack the ball [aggressively] and you never know what we can do when the ball is in our hands,” he said.
Regardless of what happens to Moore, Rice and the others, the Chiefs are expecting a great season from Toney. He was able to contribute for the Chiefs after the midseason trade, despite missing three games with a hamstring injury.
He caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LVII to give the Chiefs their first lead and later returned a punt 65 yards for another score.
The Chiefs expect this will be just the beginning.
“We brought him in here in the middle of the season, so there’s not much you can do with him,” Veach said. “He’s extremely smart, so it’s not going to happen [with] Capture ideas or concepts. We were surprised how quickly he picked it up.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
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