The Chiefs came into the 2022 season with a questionable wide receiver room. After trading Tyreek Hill to Miami, Kansas City was looking to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman to help replace the absence of the star receiver and give Patrick Mahomes a room of steady targets.
In the middle of October, the Chiefs decided to add one more name to the mix. Kansas City sent third- and sixth-round picks to the Giants in exchange for Kadarius Toney, the 20th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
There was plenty of uncertainty about what to expect from Toney in the Chiefs’ offense. Toney had come out of Florida with plenty of hype for his explosive play-making ability, his talent gaining yards after the catch and his versatility. However, Toney did not fully realize that potential while in New York, finishing his rookie year with only 420 receiving yards in 10 games after missing several contests on the COVID-19 list. In 2022, Toney dealt with a hamstring injury that cost him Weeks 3 through 7 before he was traded to the Chiefs.
Everyone wondered what Toney could do when he was catching passes from Mahomes. How did his 2022 season look since he was acquired by the Chiefs? The Sporting News dives into his impact.
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Kadarius Toney stats
2022 stats: 21 catches, 207 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 8 carries, 96 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
Toney’s numbers on paper didn’t stand out as much as some might have expected when he arrived in Missouri. Before he was traded to Kansas City, he caught two passes for no yards in two games. Since the trade, he caught 14 passes for 171 yards with two touchdowns.
He had two standout games during the regular season. Against the Jaguars in Week 10, he caught four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, and rushed twice for 33 yards. In Week 17, against the Broncos, he again hauled in four catches for a season-best 71 yards. When the Chiefs played the Jaguars in the playoffs, he caught five passes — the most of the year — for 36 yards.
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Toney didn’t have an explosive game for the Chiefs in 2022. His last major performance came in 2021 with the Giants vs. the Cowboys in Week 5 of the 2021 season. That week, he caught 10 passes for 189 yards, setting a Giants rookie record in receiving yards. Twice that season, he caught more than four passes, registering six for 78 yards in Week 4 and seven for 40 in Week 11.
Part of Toney’s strength coming out of college was his ability to break tackles and gain yards after the catch, with questions about his ability to run deep routes. The Chiefs opted to try and get the ball to him quick and in short yardage situations. In 2021, 20.7 percent of his targets came from 10 yards or beyond. With the Chiefs, that dropped to just 13.6 percent.
Toney saw 45.5 percent of his targets behind the line of scrimmage and 40.9 percent between zero and nine yards past the line, per PFF. On his 10 catches behind the line, he averaged 8.4 yards after catch per reception with two missed tackles forced. His 10 receptions from zero to nine yards ahead of the line saw him average 7.0 yards after catch per reception with three missed tackles forced.
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Why do they want to just get him the ball? Because he can make plays like this when he carries it.
Kadarius Toney has added more than just a shifty presence to KC’s offense. He plays PHYSICALLY. He wants to punish defenders and that feeds into the team. Love the effort here pic.twitter.com/4MHCLLmAfI
— Daniel Harms🏈 (@InHarmsWay19) January 23, 2023
Both his receiving touchdowns came on passes behind the line of scrimmage. Here’s a look at his first career touchdown, which came against the Jaguars in Week 11:
Kadarius Toney in his last game vs Jacksonville
more of this, please 🚀 pic.twitter.com/jf7CL1cg1H
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 19, 2023
And his second touchdown, which came on a jet sweep touch pass against the Seahawks:
Toney time in KC.
📺: #SEAvsKC on FOX
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/qBUT4jhCGQ pic.twitter.com/fxJtvpsBiO
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2022
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Each touchdown came about in a different way. The first touchdown, Toney is essentially a check down route receiver after he cuts across the field on a sweep and the defense loses track of him. The second score is just trying to get the ball in his hands and allow him to fight through the defense.
Kansas City’s desire to allow him to make plays is why he has rushed five times for 59 yards and a score since his trade. This season, he has averaged 6.25 yards after contact per attempt on carries with seven missed tackles forced. All but one of his five carries with the Chiefs have turned into first downs, and three of those five carries have gone for 10-plus yards.
Toney hasn’t been used as much as some might have envisioned when he was traded, but his usage in the offense has almost always been productive. According to PFF, his 83.8 offensive grade ranks fourth on the Chiefs behind only Travis Kelce (91.4), Mahomes (91.2) and Creed Humphrey (89.9). No other wide receiver ranks above Smith-Schuster’s 70.4 grade (10th on the team).
Toney has the potential to be a prolific weapon for Kansas City. And facing the Bengals in the AFC championship and potentially facing either the Eagles or 49ers in the Super Bowl, he’ll have a chance to prove just how big of a weapon he can be in the biggest games of the year.