Returning Chiefs is an offseason series that focuses on a player that we know will be returning to the Chiefs next season with each entry. A lot of change is expected to come to the roster, so the returning players will be more important than ever in a pursuit of another Super Bowl championship. Many of these returning players will be asked to take on larger roles in production and leadership and Chiefs fans should know who those players are and what we should expect from them.
The first entry into the series feels relevant…
Of course, it could’ve been about the guy whose name he dropped in that clip, but there’s been a lot of buzz around Kadarius Toney’s name this week and, let’s be honest, Mahomes is the easiest and most obvious candidate for this series, so let’s spread the shine around for a while on some other expected (and unexpected) key contributors. Starting with the Chiefs’ newly appointed “number one” receiver according to James Palmer.
The thought in KC right now is Patrick Mahomes is expected to be throwing the same core group of guys he ended the season with.
– Toney (who the #chiefs believe will be WR1 in 2023)
– The plan is to bring Ju Ju back
– Skyy Moore
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) March 7, 2023
Should We Be Excited About Toney As the Number One Receiver for Next Season?
The short answer to this question is yes, but the truth is that the situation is much more complex. When the Chiefs traded a compensatory third-rounder and a sixth-rounder for Toney in October, many fans and analysts weren’t sure what to make of the Giants’ 2021 first-round selection. On one hand, this guy had flashed elite talent and possesses unique gifts that led him to be a first-round selection, but he couldn’t stay healthy in New York and, at times when he was healthy, he couldn’t get on the field.
There’s been speculation about what was going on between Toney and the leadership in New York, but Toney hasn’t given us any reason to believe he’ll be off the field for anything other than health issues. In fact, the coaches have been very complementary of his attitude and ability to pick up on things quickly.
If we could be guaranteed a healthy number 19 all season, Chiefs fans could rejoice at this news. While the Chiefs have a unique situation that doesn’t require their top receiver to be the main offensive option, Kadarius Toney has all the tools to be an NFL number one receiver. Route running, ball winning, after catch ability, explosion, and strength. Whatever you’re looking for out of your top guy, Toney has put it on display. And that leads me to my next point…
What He’s Shown Us On the Field So Far
Matt Nagy back as #Chiefs OC to develop Kadarius Toney in the Tyreek Hill/Tarik Cohen role is going to be fun to watch in 2023 @ChiefsFocus #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/BYaW4ufSyP
— Chiefs Kingdom (@ChiefsFan4Lyfe) March 7, 2023
We’ve seen the Chiefs use the elite athletic ability to their advantage in the past and Kadarius Toney is one of those players that you can just see has it. When he’s healthy and involved, it looks like he’s going to make something happen every time he touches the football. I linked examples in the last section of the various unique abilities he’s exhibited.
What will make many Chiefs fans hesitant about him stepping into the top dog role in the receiver room is the lack of production. In 19 career regular season games, Toney has amassed 55 receptions for 591 yards and two touchdowns. On the surface, those aren’t numbers you want to see from any receiver you’re relying on, let alone your next number one guy. Toney’s appeal comes from what he CAN be if he can put together sustained stretches of health. After all, we’ve even seen him thrive in a number one role for a game before:
Kadarius Toney's 10 catch 189 yard day broken down by catch.
Wow he really dominated Trevon Diggs! Look at all those catches against him!!!
It isn't hard to watch football. pic.twitter.com/I7RCz7QsbJ
— Turnovers by Cowboys (@JaylonNoSwiping) October 11, 2021
Many players have had fluke big games, but there’s nothing flukey about some of the insane things Toney did in that game or down the stretch of last season with the Chiefs.
Honestly, if I had to bet today on the leading receiver for the Chiefs next season, my bet wouldn’t be on Toney. It would most likely be on a player not currently under contract if that was an option. I love Kadarius Toney and I would love nothing more than to see him develop into a leader of the Chiefs’ receiving corps and a staple of the offense, but with the type of injuries he’s continued to accrue, I would really like to see him stay healthy for a while before putting my faith in him to carry the load.
Juju Smith-Schuster led the team with 78 catches and 933 yards last season in 16 registered games (he missed large chunks of a couple of games) last season. It would be unfair to expect that type of production and availability from Toney right now because he just hasn’t shown it at the NFL level yet.
The Chiefs know much more than we do about Toney’s health, but I think fans should just enjoy what production and special moments we get from Toney and let him surprise us with anything more. The number one receiver designation was likely much more about him being the most talented receiver on the roster and having the tools to eventually warrant that distinction once he can put his injury woes in the rearview.
We don’t know what this receiver room will look like by training camp, but it looks like the Chiefs are going to give Kadarius Toney the first crack at leading it.