After drafting Skyy Moore in the second round a year ago, Kansas City Chiefs General Manager wanted another young wide receiver to complement his pick from a year ago. What he found instead was the Chiefs offensive MVP.
Regardless of the round, selecting college players in the NFL Draft is a crap shoot. In recent years, Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach has continued to build through the draft. Yes, he sprinkles in free agent signings, but the Chief’s resurgence, especially on defense, directly results from three stellar drafts from 2021-2023.
The trick for Veach is to balance which area of the team he needs to focus on each season. He already has one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. Last year was a rebuilding year, one without Tyreek Hill, and Kansas City won their second Super Bowl under his watch.
This season, the struggles of the receiver group have been unfairly pinned on Veach. He traded for Kadarius Toney and drafted Skyy Moore a year ago, but both have struggled to grasp the offense this season.
However, the emergence of Rashee Rice has changed the trajectory of the offense. So, let’s not forget who moved up in the second round to draft the Chief’s 2023 offensive MVP.
Without Rice, the Chiefs would not be playing in Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice struggled at the onset of training camp; he dropped passes in preseason games, which followed him into the regular season. After all, he is a rookie, but with the other receivers struggling to catch the ball, Rice had to avoid being lumped into the underachievers.
Luckily, Rice found his groove, and his trust in Patrick Mahomes grew each week. As Mahomes has stated, Rice learns from his mistakes and constantly asks questions to improve his game. He’s also been the benefactor of having Travis Kelce to ask about routes, game situations, and expectations to play for a winning organization. Still, the one receiver who has helped him the most is Marquez Valdez-Scantling.
That might surprise Chiefs fans, considering he was the biggest failure of the offense this season. Last weekend in Buffalo, we saw what Rice and MVS could do together. Should that continue Sunday in Baltimore, the Chiefs can expect similar results.
Still, the pressure on Rice was immense. To his credit, he accepted the challenge, and he never hit the rookie wall. He ended the regular season with 79 receptions, 938 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. In his two playoff games this season, he’s already had 12 receptions, 177 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Against a very physical Ravens defense on Sunday, he’ll face his biggest challenge of the season. However, he has the trust of his quarterback to make big plays.
Rice is wired differently. When he saw the other receivers struggling, and knowing Mahomes needed a receiver to step up, he decided to be that guy. Remember, he’s a rookie who spent three years at SMU as a backup before his Senior year. He had to take the mantle of being the Mustangs #1 receiver.
In Kansas City, he made a similar choice and has become receiver option number one for Mahomes. The exciting part about watching Rice rise in confidence and productivity is the humble nature with which he carries himself.
The NFL is much faster than the college game, but as he stated, he was drafted by the Super Bowl Champions, and with that, expectations are elevated. He understood that going into the season and has made the most of his opportunity, ensuring the season ends with another Super Bowl title in Kansas City.
He understands what’s at stake on Sunday in Baltimore and intends to deliver for his team.