By William Nesbit
As the 2023 NFL draft approaches in just over a month which happens to be held at Union Station here in Kansas City, many fans are wondering what on earth are the chiefs going to do at receiver. After losing 2 of the top weapons for Mahomes on this Super Bowl run in less than a week to free agency in juju smith-schuster and Mecole hardman. The chiefs have been extremely quiet on the receiver market and while future hall of fame TE Travis Kelce is still here as a security blanket, the chiefs simply cannot roll out the current receiver chart next season. The Chiefs are aiming on Kadarius Toney stepping into WR1, and banking on a player’s health who has shown he may not be sustainable over a 17-game + playoff season is risky. Should Veach trade draft capital for D-Hop? Or sign someone like DJ Chark or Kenny Golladay?
While a veteran receiver is plausible and likely; I think the biggest move this off season from Veach comes in the draft. Clark Hunt has made it known that he does not want to trade out of the first round pick with the draft finally in title town. I don’t think the Chiefs pick at 31, and with 10 current picks in April’s draft- that’s more than enough ammo for the Chiefs’ GM to make his mark. The Chiefs don’t have 10 holes, but a glaring one is another playmaker for this offense. I do think Brett Veach ends up pulling a deal to move up in this draft for a receiver who falls slightly that they have their eye on. We saw it last year with shining rookie Trent McDuffie, and I’d argue WR is as needed this year as CB was last- if not more.
There are 3 pretty big names at the top of the WR draft this class. Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State), Jordan Addison (USC) and Quentin Johnson (TCU), while most talking heads are saying this class, is a weaker WR class- I feel all 3 of these receivers can make big splashes in the NFL and be potential pro bowlers quickly. There’s going to be 1 maybe 2 receivers that go in the top 12-15 picks, but which guy falls? I think the most potential to fall and the one with the most upside in my opinion is Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of Ohio State. Njigba busted on the CFB scene in 2021 when most notably he had 347 yards in an MVP effort win over Utah, the same year Njigba had over 1600 yards. The Ohio State receiver was projected to be the best receiver in college football last year and very well could have with potential #1 pick CJ Stroud throwing him the rock. Unfortunately Njigba’s season was cut short due to a nagging hamstring injury. Some of the latest mocks have Njigba going anywhere from 22-26. At this range I don’t think it would be not easy to pull the plug and go for it. Chiefs are loaded with draft picks and to trade up 5-10 spots, you could be looking at swapping the 31 and throwing in the 3rd (95) and a 4th (122; Tyreek hill trade).
Giving up a crapshoot 3rd and 4th round pick to move up to select a receiver who can be an absolute game changer, I think is a no brainer.
Njigba did put on a show in his pro day, running a 4.5 40 yard dash and coming in at 6’1 197lbs. He plays very athletic and has soft hands and does well with leverage and dissecting zone defenses. Though it may be tough to get by his production was mainly in 2021, Njigba was poised to have another ridiculous season before the injury. Njigba drawing comparisons of CeeDee Lamb and Stefon Diggs should have teams looking at him closely. Njigba has the same profile and ran a similar 40 times as both. With his upside, I wouldn’t be mad to swap our first-rounder and give a team the second and maybe 4th to move up into the teens. He has put pressure on all the other receivers to prove themselves in pro days and could be the first receiver taken. If for any reason this guy falls, it has to be a no brainer for the defending champs to jump up and get Mahomes his weapon for the next decade. Veach and co. can make an absolute splash in this year’s draft, and there’s no better place to do it, aside from right here in your own back yard.