JuJu Smith-Schuster soaked up 101 targets for the 2022 Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs but will be a member of the New England Patriots in 2023. Kansas City's 2022 Round 2 selection Skyy Moore and midseason acquisition Kadarius Toney are expected to fill larger roles in Smith-Schuster's absence, but the Chiefs appeared eager to add more ammunition to the arsenal of Patrick Mahomes on Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
I created a grading system to evaluate the rookie WR class. The rookies are graded on five aspects of their outlook -- peripherals, route readiness, volume potential, explosiveness, and yardage creation. If you want to learn more about my process and which rookie receivers stood out, an article will be published on SportsLine on Monday that details the 2023 wide receiver class and their fit with the NFL team that selected them.
Rashee Rice, SMU
Predraft prospect grade: 81.2 (9th)
Peripheral grade: 70 (13th)
Route readiness grade: 83 (5th)
Volume potential grade: 90 (5th)
Explosiveness grade: 82 (10th)
Yardage creation grade: 82 (9th)
I did not expect Rice to be selected in Round 2 as the seventh receiver off of the board. Among the 18 rookie receivers that I evaluated, Rashee Rice came out with the ninth-highest grade, but he will likely move up to 7th or 8th after adjusting his NFL Draft capital. After Kansas City's investment, Rice has become a legitimately intriguing Fantasy option for 2023 and beyond. There are definitely things to like about his prospect profile, and this type of draft capital makes those things easier to believe in.
The two areas of Rice's profile that stand out are his volume grade (ranked 5th among 18 receivers) and route readiness grade (also 5th). A lack of route readiness was a major red flag on the draft profile of both Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney, so Kansas City trading up to add a four-year wideout who produced over 3,000 yards while filling a variety of roles is certainly interesting. The Super Bowl champs may very well view Rice as capable of contributing in a significant way as a rookie.
Rice has experience playing from both the slot and perimeter, and while his size would paint him as more likely to work from the outside, he was far more efficient on his slot routes at SMU. This is one of a few red flags that stand out from Rice's profile. His career yard per route run rate dropped from 2.86 in the slot to a rather pedestrian 2.11 mark on the perimeter. In conjunction with uninspiring splits when facing man coverage, the perimeter splits present questions about whether Rice will be able to win against NFL-level perimeter corner backs.
Overall, Rice brings more positive notes than negative ones. His baseline production in 2022 was majestic. His 35.5% target per route run rate was the second-highest single-season mark posted by a receiver in this class, and he was one of only five receivers to record a yard per route run rate above 3 yards in a season. Rice's 2022 rate was better than anything ever posted by Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, or Zay Flowers.
Single-season high yard per route run rate:
4.05 - Jaxon Smith-Njigba
3.28 - Jalin Hyatt
3.26 - Trey Palmer
3.08 - Rashee Rice
3.05 - Quentin Johnston
2.96 - Jordan Addison
2.90 - Josh Downs
I do prefer for receivers prospects entering the NFL to have shown an ability to dominate college-level man coverage, which is a clear weakness of Rice's in comparison to the receivers selected ahead of him (excluding Jonathan Mingo, who has one of the worst collegiate production profiles of any receiver taken in the first two rounds in recent memory). The Chiefs clearly have a role in mind for Rice, though. And unlike Skyy Moore, Rice is not a "project pick."
If we are going to get excited about Rice for 2023 Fantasy purposes, he will need to build momentum this offseason and offer some reason to believe that Kanas City won't just play the recently re-signed Justin Watson over him as they did with Skyy Moore in 2022. If we can project Rice for routes in this offense, he could offer production on par with what JuJu Smith-Schuster gave managers in 2022. The target drawing ability that Rice displayed at the collegiate level is unlike anything that we have seen for any other wideout on Kansas City's roster. With no real idea how to project his playing time currently, I have Rice ranked as the WR55 in the same range as other players (Romeo Doubs, Skyy Moore, Wan'Dale Robinson, Elijah Moore) who bring lots of upside but even more question marks around their roles.
For Dynasty purposes, Rice currently sits as the WR48, one spot behind Skyy Moore. Among the rookie WR class, Rice ranks as the WR8 for Dynasty purposes. His landing spot gives Rice the potential to come out of Year 1 as one of the biggest Dynasty risers, but for now, we really have no clue if he will find the field as a rookie or what type of role he will fill if Kansas City does give him route running opportunities in 2023.